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Geomorphic systems are inherently complex and are the product of a unique integrative history of surface processes, making it difficult for engineers, scientists, and resource managers to regulate environmental change in order to attain a specific management goal. A powerful means for unpacking geomorphic complexity is hierarchical classification of the dominant process-response elements of a geomorphic system. We apply hierarchical analysis specifically to the evaluation of the probable environmental effects of erosion-abatement projects at drumlin bluffs along the southeastern shore of Lake Ontario, assessing their impact across a variety of spatial and temporal scales. Some of the conclusions about probable impacts of shore-stabilization structures on the Ontario lakeshore are not intuitive, but are logically derived from the systematic hierarchical analysis of the system’s geomorphic complexity.

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