StRATEGy: Surface processes, Tectonics and Georesources: The Andean foreland basin of Argentina

Profile. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flooding, landslides, water shortages or exploitation of natural resources are just a few of the many manifestations of natural or anthropogenic processes that are increasingly compromising society’s goal of sustainability. The resulting high death tolls and staggering financial losses from natural disasters are leading to a growing awareness of our vulnerability, while the quest for energy resources has resulted in many armed confrontations and geopolitical conflicts. Globalization and the rapid population and economic growth of many nations exacerbate these problems, and are fuelling interest in topics including resource generation and the tectonically and climate-driven processes that impact the Earth’s surface. As a consequence, Earth Science today stands at the vanguard of our attempt to cope with an ever-increasing demand for georesources and changes to the natural environment on a global scale.

Added value. Most of the resource, tectonic, and climatic issues we are confronted with are multi-temporal (i.e., they involve different timescales and processes that occur at different rates), multi-disciplinary (i.e. the complexity of data and feedback mechanisms requires multidisciplinary approaches), and multi-spatial (i.e. they involve extensive regions including a variety of different climatic and geologic settings). Consequently, as emphasized by IUGS (2010): “Industry and governmental organizations active in the fields of geothermal energy, seismic hazards, hydrocarbon exploration, radioactive waste management, re-insurance, and software and instrumentation developers have a strong demand for internationally trained graduates with a broad base in geosciences. Desirable skills typically include knowledge in geospatial analysis, remote sensing methodologies, and effective knowledge transfer”. Geoscientists must meet these demands as the increasing amounts of data require a broader skill set compared with what has been traditionally included in geoscience education.

Program objective. StRATEGy’s goal is to establish an international virtual campus devoted to source-to-sink studies in the NW and central Argentine Andes and foreland basin, fostering an exchange and mobility program that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries. We have chosen foreland basins and their adjacent orogenic interiors as the main focus of our study, because these regions potentially record the links between deep-Earth and surface processes, including volcanism and tectonics, climate and erosion/sedimentation, as well as their impact on metallogenesis, hydrocarbon resource generation, and fluid migration. We will follow an integrative approach in research and teaching that spans the study of geological archives, present-day monitoring, modeling, and communication. The hallmark of this holistic geoscientific approach is to rectify the deficit in transdisciplinary graduate education of tectonically and climatically driven processes in the source-to-sink system of the coupled orogen-foreland basin realm and their relevance for georesource formation. We aim to accomplish these goals by (1) pursuing cutting-edge research targets, (2) employing transdisciplinary research methods, (3) applying state-of-the-art technology, and (4) fostering international collaboration and networking. Our overarching research objectives will follow multidisciplinary, closely meshed work packages (see below). They involve a process-based approach to tectono-magmatic-sedimentary systems and resource formation, addressing different spatiotemporal scales, quantifying critical process thresholds, and deciphering the manifestations of past processes in geological archives and landscapes. To our knowledge, StRATEGy is the first international initiative to decipher, measure, and assess the mechanisms of societally relevant geoprocesses focused on foreland regions, combined with fostering transdisciplinary team efforts and communication. As such, this initiative will help to better evaluate geological, geomorphic and geophysical aspects of other, densely populated foreland regions (e.g., Himalaya).