Topo-Iberia 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 4-D 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 southern and northern borders of the Iberian plate (the Betic-Rif system and the Pyrenean-Cantabrian system) and its central core (Meseta and Central-Iberian systems). 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. 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.
Topo-Iberia is an initiative that results from the willingness and interest of many Spanish research groups in geosciences to establish a scientific-technological framework within which to develop in an integrated way multidisciplinary studies on the solid Earth system in our country. The ‘Iberian micro-continent’ constitutes a most suitable natural laboratory, well identified by the international scientific community to develop innovative, frontier research on its topography and 4-D evolution.
In the coming years, the research on Earth structure and dynamics will be marked by megaprograms like EARTHSCOPE already ongoing in USA, with a scheduled duration of 10 years and a total funding of ~400M$. The different components of this programme (USArray, SAFOD, PBO) will provide the features and evolution of our planet at different scales and with an unprecedented resolution scale. At the same time, they constitute a serious challenge for European research. Analoge research programmes should be developed within Europe in order to keep a conpetititve scientific level and ensure the apropriate incoming of young researchers, avoiding their ‘delocalisation’ or moving towards environments with better opportunities and attractions.
In this context the TOPO-EUROPE initiative is emerging, focused on understanding the interaction between deep, surficial and atmospheric processes that control the topography of the continental Europe and their margins. This initiative forces the integration and promotes multidisciplinary research on geomorphology, geology, geophysics, geodesy, remote sensing and geotechnology. Extensive data bases and structural models are available but the must be enlarged and completed by acquiring a greater spatial density of observables, controling their evolution in time and designing novel strategies of joint interpretation. A first proposal has been elaborated, to establish an EUROCORES-ESF involving 12 relevant european institutions of Netherlands, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Denmark, Norway Hungary and Switzerland, which has been evaluated and recommended for the 2006 open call. In parallel, Topo-Europe initiatives are being pursued on a national level, some already funded, that is the case of the Netherlands, Norway and Ireland. This should provide the appropriate synergy to achieve the common objectives foreseen. Moreover a direct conection with the industry is promoted as well as education programs for young researches through top master or integrated basin studies BASINMASTER, currently under development with support of the European Commission and the energy industry. Topo-Europe has identified up to 6 highly relevant natural laboratories in which the future research in the European domain should be focused, one of them being the ‘Iberian microcontinent’. The complex evolutionary history of Iberia, with a central craton rimmed by alpine orogens holding succesive processes of intraplate compression and extension, with recent seismic activity, provides a unique opportunity to analyze the response of a cratonic lithosphere to plate boundary and thermal forces. The lithospheric deformation controls also the drainage pattern in the Peninsula, the topography and the intracontinental basins, as it has been shown by recent studies of structure, thermogeochronology and numerical modeling of superficial and lithospheric processes (see resume of institutions). The research in the Topo- Europe framework should address the configuration of Iberian lithosphere and underlying mantle, to be able to discriminate between deformations induced by plate convergence and the effects of deep-seated thermal anomalies related to mantle plumes and detachments and rollback of the Alpine-Thetys subduction slab. Moreover, it should develop a new generation of dynamic models on the neotectonic deformation and topographic evolution.
The scientific research of Topo-Europe is supported by a fundamental technological component, a multidisciplinary observation platform EUROARRAY, that is a multi-sensor pool of instrumentation ‘Terrascope’ of seismics, GPS, magnetotellurics, etc. EuroArray has decided to promote a first thematic initiative, named PICASSO, in the interaction area between the Iberian and African plates. Multidisciplinary research is foreseen based on experimental networks that sample in a dense, homogeneous way the region of South-Iberia and North-Africa including the marine domain in between, the Alboran Sea and Gulf of Cadix. The aim is to establish the 3-D structure, geodynamics and neotectonics of a highly complex area where very different evolutionary models have been proposed, and which rises the interest of a widespread international scientific community.
The scientific potential and the research profile of the different Spanish groups active on geodynamics and geophysics allows them to take a leadership and coordination role in the TopoEurope activities in Iberia, in the thematic initiative Picaso, as well as to have a relevant participation in other international research projects in the next future. However in order for the Spanish Earth science research community to be able to play this role an intrument is needed. This instrument shoule:
The topographic configuration (sedimentary basins, rivers, ...) 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 Hispaņola 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.