Nick Clifford

Nick Clifford
Professor of Physical Geography

Department of Geography
King's College London
London WC2R 2LS


Nick Clifford is Professor of Physical Geography at King’s College London, and has over 20 years of research experience in fluvial and estuarine geomorphology. He graduated with first class honours and the Philip Lake Prize for physical geography from the University of Cambridge in 1983, and went on to complete a NERC-funded PhD at Cambridge entitled, The formation, nature and maintenance of riffle-pool sequences in gravel-bedded rivers.

Nick has held appointments at Portsmouth, Hull, University College London and Nottingham (as Professor of River Science). He has produced more than 140 scientific works and conference presentations relating to flow processes, sediment transport and bedforms in rivers and river estuaries, including a monograph, Turbulence: perspectives on flow and sediment transport, as well as major reviews of current river rehabilitation practice and commentaries on geographical methods and philosophy. His most recent scholarly project has been an invited review of the historical development of research into river channel forms and process 1890-1965, in The History of the Study of Landforms.

His work has been funded primarily by the Natural Environment Research Council, and he has also worked collaboratively on applied and strategic projects funded by MAFF/Defra, the Environment Agency, Thames Water, English Nature and the Jackson Environment Institute. Nick speaks regularly to school as well as to university and research audiences, covering both his research areas and addressing the current state and future prospects of Geography as an academic discipline.

Nick has been an invited review contributor in both Progress in Physical Geography and Progress in Human Geography; was a long-serving Editorial Board member of the IBG Transactions; and an Associate Editor of The Journal of Hydrology. He is currently Managing Editor of Progress in Physical Geography, and serves on the editorial boards of River Research and Applications and Catena. In late 2005, he was Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, and he is currently Visiting Professor at University College Dublin.

Research Interests

Nick Clifford's research interests lie in the fields of river processes and management; in sustainable use of natural systems (especially water); and in geographical and environmental methods, techniques and philosophy. His present research foci are:

• improving design and assessment criteria for river rehabilitation and conservation works, and the emerging field of eco-hydraulics and eco-hydraulic modelling: see the River Science network

• effects of signal crayfish on sediment transport and physical habitat in the River Windrush, Oxfordshire, UK (with Dr Gemma Harvey, Queen Mary, University of London, Dr Alex Henshaw (University of Nottingham) and Dr Tom Moorhouse (WILDCRU, University of Oxford)

• the interface of water science, society and policy, directed towards the exploration of novel means of environmental knowledge creation and knowledge transfer.

Current and recent grants

2010 NERC/ESRC/DFID IndES Initiative – Indian Ecosystem Services Initiative to promote sustainable livelihood (with University of Nottingham and partners)

2007 – 2008 US Army Corps of Engineers, lower Mississippi River sediment loads – improving reliability of estimation (with Prof. Colin Thorne, Nottingham and partners)

2003 – 2006 Natural Environmental Research Council LOCAR Award, Vegetation influences on fine sediment and propagule dynamics in groundwater-fed rivers: implications for river management, restoration and riparian bio-diversity. (awarded with Prof A. M. Gurnell, and O. Mountford, CEH Monk’s Wood)

2001 – 2005 Natural Environmental Research Council CONNECT B Award, Formation of a new river channel: flow, sediment and vegetation dynamics. (awarded with Prof A. M. Gurnell, Prof G. E. Petts and Dr J. R. French)

Research impact

Nick was invited as an original member of NERC's Peer Review College; has served on NERC Moderating Panels, the NERC Fellowship Committee, and the NERC Sustainable Use of Natural Resources Strategic Development Panel, and most recently was the NERC Academic Director of the Virtual Observatory five-day sandpit. He currently serves as a member of the International Association of Geomorphologists’ Working Group on Earth Systems Science; as a Programme Committee member for the International Association of Science and Development in the areas of environmental modelling and simulation.

Beyond academic activities, Nick is involved in international initiatives to promote awareness and influence policy with respect to water-related environmental issues. In 2006, Nick was appointed Deputy International Programme Director for the Universitas 21 research initiative, Water Futures for Sustainable Cities. He is currently a Trustee and Director of the Water Education Trust, at Papplewick, Nottinghamshire. In 2011, he is co-convening a major international conference, Advances in River Science 2011, as part of the joint UK Research Council/EA/DEFRA Flood Risk Management Consortium.

For 2010-11, Nick is President of the British Science Association (Geography Section).

From 2011, Nick will be a member of the Advisory Board of IBRAD.

Selected recent publications


Clifford, N. J., Harvey, G., Gurnell, A. M., Harmar, O. P. and Soar, P. J. “Numerical modeling of river flow for eco-hydraulic applications: some experiences with velocity characterization in field and simulated data.” Journal of Hydraulic Engineering. ASCE.

Bradley, C., Clay, A., Clifford, N. J., Gurnell, A. M. and Emery, J. “Trends in saturated and unsaturated water movement through an upland floodplain wetland, mid-Wales, UK.”Journal of Hydrology.

Harvey, G. L. and Clifford, N. J. Experimental field assessment of suspended sediment pathways for characterising hydraulic habitat. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 35: 600-610.


Clifford, N. J. “Globalisation: a physical perspective.” Progress in Physical Geography, 33 , 5-16.

Clifford, N. J. “Physical Geography.” In Gregory, D. J. et al. (eds.) The Dictionary of Human Geography. Wiley- Blackwell. 531-538.

Harvey, G. L., and Clifford, N. J. Microscale hydrodynamics and coherent flow structures in rivers: implications for the characterisation of physical habitat. River Research and Applications 25 (2): 160-180.

Harvey, G. and Clifford, N. J. "River Channel Restoration for Ecological Improvement. " In Pardue, G. H. and Olvera, T. K. (eds.) Ecological Restoration. New York: Nova Publishers. 47-80.


Clifford, N. J. “Models in Geography revisited”, Geoforum, 39, 675-686.

Clifford, N. J., Acreman, M. C. and Booker, B. J.: “Hydrological and hydraulic aspects of river restoration uncertainty for ecological purposes”. In: Darby, S. and Sear, D. (eds.) River restoration: managing the uncertainty in restoring physical habitat. Chichester: J. Wiley. 105-138.

Clifford, N. J. "Channel form and process, c. 1890 - 1965", in Burt, T. P. et al. (eds.) History of the study of landforms, Vol. 4, London: The Geological Society. 217-324.

Harvey, G. L. and Clifford, N. J. “Distribution of biologically functional habitats within a lowland river.” Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management 11, 465-473.

Clifford N. J. and Gurnell, A. M. “Towards an ecologically meaningful classification of the flow biotope for river inventory, rehabilitation, design and appraisal purposes.” Journal of Environmental Management 88, 638-650.

Harvey, G. L., Gurnell, A. M. and Clifford, N. J. “Characterisation of river reaches: the influence of rock type.” Catena 76, 78-88.

Richards, K. S. and Clifford, N. J. “Science, systems and geomorphologies: why LESS may be more”. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 33, 1323-1340.

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