This paper presents a review of the fluvial geomorphology research undertaken on Wales’ rivers. As well as discussing trends seen in these studies, by firstly focussing on the work of geologists of the late nineteenth century, and by progressing through the development of geomorphology as a research field to the present interdisciplinary period, the fields that have received particular attention on Welsh rivers are discussed. These include the evolution of the mega-geomorphology of Wales, innovative process studies, the evolution of alluvial fluvial systems to short- and long-term climatic changes, and the response of Welsh rivers to anthropogenic activity.
This range of studies is a result of the nature of Welsh fluvial systems. Firstly, they display an evolutionary history including glacial periods and rejuvenation. Secondly, contemporary processes have created a wide range of channel types, including bedrock channels, gravel bed rivers, meandering, braided, stable and unstable channels. Thirdly, academic interest and pragmatic concerns regarding river management have led to a large body of work that has, in some cases, led to many reaches on Welsh rivers being classed as international archetypes. Gaps in our knowledge are also discussed. These include the need to increase our understanding of contemporary process and to continue the work done on alluvial response and evolution through using the latest techniques to constrain the chronology of fluvial system development. There is a need to extend the spatial scope of our studies to areas which have not received as much attention in the past such as the bedrock and mixed bedrock-alluvial channels of the north-west and the south Wales valleys.