IGSO PAS > Department of Geoenvironmental Research

Department of Geoenvironmental Research

About Department

The Department of Geoenvironmental Research was established on 15th November 1953, initially as a Laboratory of Geomorphology and Hydrology. Prof. Mieczysław Klimaszewski was appointed its organizer and first head. The basic task of the Department was to carry out a detailed hydrological and geomorphological mapping for areas of south Poland – among the first research fellows cooperating in that field were  Leszek Starkel, Krystyna Wit-Jóźwik, Sylwia Gilewska and others. In 1955 Tadeusz Gerlach initiated the first studies on the contemporary slope processes. In 1968 Leszek Starkel became the head of the Department. In the 70s of the 20th century physico-geographical  research studies (with site investigation) were carried out in Mongolia under the leadership of Kazimierz Klimek, and later since 1984 that type of research studies have been conducted in India. In the 80s of the last century the Department was in charge of the central research programme “Transformations in geographical environment of Poland”. During the period 2001-2008 Adam Kotarba was the head of the Department. Since 2008 the post of head of the Department has been held by Zofia Rączkowska. The Department of Geoenvironmental Research has its field research stations located at: Szymbark near Gorlice, Frycowa near Nowy Sącz and Hala Gąsienicowa in the Tatras.

Research profile

The following are the research topics pursued by the Department of Geoenvironmental Research:

  • evolution of mountain and upland areas’ relief as well as their forelands in Poland, comparative studies in other European countries and areas located within the Asian monsoon zone,
  • monitoring of contemporary hydrological and geomorphological process, carried out in the field research stations located in the Carpathians (for example, a research station at Szymbark takes part in the programme Integrated Monitoring of Natural Environment),
  • determining the role of extreme meteorological phenomena (comprising various climatic zones),
  • comprehensive studies on relief and hydrological conditions as seen from the aspect of natural resources that are found in the mountain and upland areas,
  • transformations in the natural environment of mountains and uplands induced by anthropogenic factors (agricultural activities, water storage reservoirs).

Application research studies deal with the following issues: assessment of land relief and water resources with a view to rational farming, impact of agricultural activity in the mountains on natural environment, keeping records of geomorphological and economic effects of extreme hydro-meteorological events, drawing up maps of earthslides and hazardous areas, assessment of mass wasting hazard, hydro-morphological evaluation of streams by means of RHS (River Habitat Survey).


Among the most important achievements of the Department of Geoenvironmental Research can be listed as follows:

  • preparing the conception and method of a detailed geomorphological and hydrological mapping at a national and international scale (1950-1960),
  • synthesis of Poland’s relief features (a monography and a map 1972-1990),
  • synthesis of geographical environment of Poland (a monography 1990),
  • evolution of the Carpathian river valleys as well as the Vistula river valley in the late Glacial and Holocene (1981-1997),
  • diagnosis and correlation of phases with a high frequency for extreme events of moderate zones in the Holocene (1983-19950),
  • zonation of relief-forming processes in the Tatras and postglacial evolution of the Tatras (1976-2009),
  • mechanism of water circulation and rock debris transport on the slopes and within small catchments (1972-1982),
  • determining the role of extreme precipitations in the relief evolution of mountains for moderate and monsoon zones (1972-2002),
  • contemporary synthesis of changes in the relief features of Poland (2008).