The term “system” has been used for a long time in the physical sciences and in some of the earth sciences. It has only recently penetrated geomorphology. Unfortunately, this has already resulted in misuse and confusion. The concept of “open” and “closed” systems is well established in thermodynamics and owes nothing to the artificial doctrine of “General System Theory,” which as an attempt at scientific synthesis may be laudable, but as a source of definitions is irrelevant.

“General System Theory”—the “new science” invented by L. von Bertalanffy—must be distinguished from the general formulation of systematic concepts. The application of the principles of physical science to geomorphology is always welcome, but there is no need for a confusing and unnecessary intermediary; it is better done directly.

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