The Earth’s sediments, crust, and mantle are in constant interaction with the world’s oceans. This interaction drives a global bioreactor, where animal and microbial life thrive in close association with geological substrates that include sediments, seeps, vents, and the crust itself.
Deep Earth and tectonic processes shape ocean structure and material transfer at the largest of scales. On one hand, these processes may pose geological hazards, yet on the other, they dote the ocean floor with abundant conventional, mineral, and even biotechnological resources. Due to the grand scales of these processes, as well as the technical challenge of their study in the marine realm, our understanding of Ocean-Earth Interactions remains in its infancy.
By pushing technological, observational, and conceptual boundaries, at sea, on land, and in the laboratory, Theme 2 will expand current knowledge on these interactions, at the same time providing society with the necessary framework to manage ocean floor resources – and risks – going forward.
Theme 2 deliverables center on fundamental and applied science of deep ocean mineral, conventional, and biotechnological resources; volcanic, seismic, tectonic, and landform evolution, and their associated risks; sedimentary archives and models of Earth’s past tectonism, climate, ocean circulation, and sealevel change; ocean-lithosphere exchange, and the ecology, physiology, and anthropogenic sensitivity of the unique biota that thrive via this exchange.
The effective training of a future generation of marine geologists, biologists, and engineers depends on the ability of oceanographic institutes to provide hands-on experience in the sophisticated techniques of sampling, observing, and modeling the Ocean-Earth system from multiple facets.
The theme Ocean-Earth interactions is broadly divided into three overarching yet highly complementary sub-themes:
a) The dynamic lithosphere: crustal processes from shallow to deep
b) The sedimentary cycle: linking past records of climate, tectonics, and geohazards
c) The living ocean floor: where fluids, minerals, and extreme life interact
As the aim of Theme 2 is to “provide society with the necessary framework to manage ocean floor resources – and risks – going forward”, the research carried out will have to include the social and human dimensions.