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Davis Cycle of Erosion Geography UPSC | Geomorphology | Physical Geography

About WM Davis:
  • WM Davis was an American geographer. He gave the concept of a "geographical cycle" known as an "erosion cycle" in 1899.
  • Davis studied the Appalachian Mountains of North America, which is a humid climatic region, and based on the study, he proposed the cycle of erosion.

Davis's view on the "cycle of erosion"
  • Each landform in the world undergoes a series of denudation processes over time.
  • Initially, before the start of erosional activities, the terrain consists of a flat surface.
  • Due to the activation of endogenous forces, there is a sudden uplift of the land.
  • There is no denudation process during the process of land upliftment.
  • After the upliftment of land, the sequence of denudation process or landform development process starts.
  • The uplifted land goes through youth, maturity, and old age, all these changes happen in sequential order over time.
  • In old age, the final landform of the land is the peneplain.
  • Under similar climatic conditions, the development of peneplain is similar.
  • The development of landforms occurs in form of  "slope decline".

According to Davis, there are three major factors ( i.e structure, process, and time) that play important role in the cycle of erosion and landform development.

What is the trio of Davis?

According to Davis, the development of landform is the result of "structure, process and time"; These three factors are also called Davis' trio.

 Landform development =F(structure, process, time)

Trio Means three factors:

Structure of Landmass:
  • The structure of the landmass is the first factor in the Davisian erosion cycle.
  • The cycle of erosion depends on the composition of the terrain.
  • Some terrain is made up of hard rocks which slow down the process of erosion, and formations made of soft rocks have a faster process of erosion. 
  • The structure of rocks such as faults, foldings, and fractures also determines the intensity of the erosion process, the slope replacement process, and the landform development process.
Process Factors:
  • Process means a geomorphic process which refers to the types of geomorphic agents that determine erosion, transport, and deposition activities.
  • Flowing water, winds, glaciers, groundwater, waves, etc. are the major geomorphic agents.
  • Flowing water agents are active in the humid region while winds are active in the desert region.
  • Davis' model is based on the evolution of landforms over time, passing through youth, mature, and old stages.

The following image explains the Davis cycle of erosion:

Davis's Cycle of Erosion
Davis's Cycle of Erosion

The following are the Characteristics of Stages:

Young Stage:

  • In humid regions, running water erodes the valley vertically. Vertical erosion is greater than lateral erosion in the valley.
  • There is no visible erosion of the summit of the valley at this stage.
  • The gap between the summit and the valley widens.
  • For this reason, deep valleys are formed in this phase.
  • In this phase, the valleys have a steep slope.
  • In this stage, a "V" shaped valley is formed.
  • "V" shaped valleys are usually found in the Himalayan region, we can say that the Himalayan region is in the young phase of the erosion cycle.

Mature Stage: 
  • In this stage, there is more lateral erosion than vertical erosion in the valley.
  • There is more erosion of valley summit than lower erosion of valleys.
  • In this phase, the gradient is reduced.
  • In this phase, a "V" shaped valley is transformed into a "U" shaped valley.
  • U-shaped valleys are found in Ladakh, so we can say that Ladakh is in the second phase of the cycle of erosion.

Old stage: 
  • In this stage, vertical erosion of the valley stopped as it reaches the base level of erosion.
  • Open Valley, Meanders, and flood plains are examples in this stage. 
  • Formation of peneplain (base level plain, no further erosion) takes place.
  • Indian Peninsula is an example of an old stage of the cycle of erosion.

Criticism of Davis erosion cycle:

The following are the criticisms of Davis' erosion cycle:

Over-emphasized the role of  the stages or time: 
  • Davis relatively ignored the importance of structure [ role of rock types]  and process [ role of geomorphic agents such as running water, groundwater, winds, wave, glacials, etc ] which are important controlling factors of landform development.
  • The role of stages [ i.s youth, mature, and old) or time are overemphasized.
  • He also ignored the role of climate in landform development.
Regarding the initial phase of the erosion cycle:
  • Davis believed that the upliftment of the landmass is sudden, no erosional activities occur during the process of upliftment of landmass, this is not practical.
  • According to Davis, erosion starts only after the completion of the upliftment process, this is also not practical.

Overemphasized of erosion process:
  • Davis ignored the role of deposition and weathering in landform development and overemphasized the erosion factor.

Regarding completion of the erosion cycle:
  • According to Davis, the erosion cycle is completed after the formation of the peneplain or reaching the old stage, but in reality, landform development is a never-ending process.
Try to solve the following questions:
  • "Landscape is a function of structure, process, and stage." Critique the statement. ( UPSC 2018, 150 words, 10 marks)
  • Differences between the Normal cycle and the Arid cycle of Davis. (UPSC)
  •  "Climate, slope gradient and rock structure influence the avulsion of channels." Explain. (150 words, 15 Marks) ( UPSC 2017)
  •  Discuss the contributions of the American School of Subaerial Denudation in geomorphology. ( UPSC 2015, 250 words, 20 Marks)
  • Discuss the Davisian concept of the cycle of erosion and show how it explains the evolution of landforms. ( UPPSC 1998)

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Click here for comments
1 October 2021 at 20:46 ×

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4 December 2021 at 20:58 ×

Really so interesting, thanks for the good work always you provide with us ..