Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version



Published in Geomorphology 11:4 (March 1995), pp 347-349.

doi 10.1016/0169-555X(95)90014-K


Copyright © 1995 Elsevier. Used by permission.


Dr. Clapperton is to be commended for having taken on the monumental task of a review of the present state of knowledge of the Quaternary of the entire continent of South America. Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology of South America is a massive, interestingly written, but expensive volume that covers exactly what its title suggests. In spite of the paucity of information on many aspects of the Quaternary geology of this continent, which extends from north of the equator nearly to the Antarctic, the author has succeeded in reviewing and synthesizing most of the material that does exist. To do so he accessed a wide range of published and unpublished material. And although the bulk of his personal research has been in the northern Andes, he visited much of the continent and investigated Quaternary problems in several areas. The book is well organized and well illustrated. Following an introductory chapter, an overview of the physical geography of South America, the author discusses Quaternary tectonics of the continent and the effects of the tectonism on rivers, slopes, glaciers, and coastlines. Seismic activity and intense precipitation generate major debris flows and landslides in the steep slopes of rivers draining the tectonically active Andes. Two chapters cover the volcanic regions and the significance of Andean volcanism to Quaternary geology. The remainder of the book follows both a regional and a thematic approach, using the morphostructural divisions of South America: the Andean region, the alluvial basins, and the highlands of the shield areas. The Andean Chain is further subdivided on structural and tectonic characteristics into the Northern, Central, and Southern Andes. ... [T]his book is one that will serve as a landmark — a readily available source of information and a critical review of most of the research on the Quaternary of South America as of the early 1990’s. It should be in every university library.