The topographic configuration (continental relief and bathimetry) and the changes that may happen in our geographic environment have a marked societal impact, as they control the location, the living conditions and development of human activity. The relief changes may happen at very different time rates, and have widespread origins, either natural or anthropogenic. In any case, they must be seriously considered in aspects such as resources and natural hazard assessments, climate changes, etc.
Continental topography have been studied traditionally just in relation with a series of processes happening on the Earth surface and the atmosphere. Nevertheless, recent studies though, have revealed the importance and influence on the topography of deep geological processes, at lithospheric and mantle levels. The impact degree of such processes, and the relationship between all of them are still poorly understood and are currently topics of intense research such is the case of the Tibet and Hispañola Island.
To constrain them, innovative multidisciplinary and integrated studies on the solid Earth field are required. The structural and evolutionary models should rely on data ensembles with much higher resolution than currently achieved and therefore, new high density acquisition experiments using multidisciplinary platforms should be designed.
The Topo-Iberia project
The "Geosciences in Iberia: Integrated studies of topography and 4D evolution. Topo-Iberia" project is a proposal that involves more than 100 PhD researchers from 10 different groups. It corresponds to the willingness and interest of the spanish scientific community to establish an integrated framework to develop multidisciplinary geoscientific studies in our country.
The ‘micro-continent’ formed by the iberian peninsula and its margins constitutes a most suitable natural laboratory, well identified by the international scientific community, to develop innovative, frontier research on its topography and 4D evolution.
The objective of Topo-Iberia is to understand the interaction between deep, surficial and atmospheric processes, by integrating research on geology, geophysics, geodesy and geotechnology. The knowledge on the relief changes and its causes is of great social impact concerning the climate change and the evaluation of natural resources and hazards.
Three major domains of research have been identified:
- The northern border of the iberian plate (Pyrenean-Cantabrian system)
This region includes the Pyrenees and the elongation to the west to the Cantabrian chain and the north Iberian continental margin, and it is related to the geodynamic interaction between Iberia and Europe plates. The Cantabrian-pyrenean relief is connected to the south with the northern ending of the Iberian chain and gradually terminates to the west with the Leon Mountains and the Galice massif.
- The central core (Meseta and Central-Iberian sytems)
The geodynamic setting of the central Iberian microcontinent includes deformed regions in the plate interior such as the Central System and the Iberian Chain, together with their associated sedimentary basins.
- The southern border of the iberian plate (Betic-Rif system)
This includes the Betic-Rif orogen, with a so called accretionary prism of the Gulf of Cadiz and the basins and margins of the Alboran Sea and southern Argelian-Balearic basins.
It is intended to build up a comprehensive, multidisciplinary base of data and results to tackle the key existing questions by developing novel interpretation strategies.
A major aim of this programme is to significantly increase the high-quality information available, by deploying a technological observatory platform, "IberArray", of high resolution multisampling.
This reseach will provide an important geological and geophysical database not only for basic research into orogenic processes, but also for climate and hydrosphere reserch as well as the preparation, prevention, and mitigation of geological risk in tectonically active and highly populated areas.
With this programme, our community could join the leading edge of international research, marked by similar initiatives, such as TopoEurope/EuroArray in Europe or the ongoing US programme Earthscope.