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The Evolving Surface of the ‘Stable’ African Continent (TESSAC)

Research project BL/34/SA4 (Research action BL)

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Description :


The African continent is often perceived as a stable region, undergoing modification only in the East African Rift and North African margin. Despite this perception, widespread and dramatic landscape change occurred during the late Mesozoic and continues to the present day. This modification occurs at length scales of 100s to 1000s km due to processes such as thermal erosion of cratonic lithosphere, as well as dynamic uplift (or subsidence) driven by asthenospheric convection (e.g. Walker et al. 2016). These processes have led to kmscale topographic uplift playing a first-order effect on the climatic and ecological evolution of the African continent. Tthese processes lead to the uplift and exposure of mineral deposits& their supergene enrichment products (e.g. the Copperbelt of SE-DRC and Zambia).

Both groups involved in this proposed exchange are researching landscape evolution in Africa focused on S- and C- Africa. Some regions, such as Angola, the Congo Basin and its rim are of interest to both. This networking allows the teams to share approaches, results & to explore regional comparisons.

The UCT project involves calculating paleogeotherms from mantle xenolith data and comparing these to estimates of modern geotherms from seismic tomography. UCT holds a world-renowned collection of southern African xenoliths. RMCA focuses on: (1) the dating of vertical movements, through Ar-Ar dating of manganese ore, and (2) investigation of associated paleo-stress regimes. It also holds an internationally significant collection of central African mantle material. Teams show complementarity between deep lithospheric dynamics (UCT) and surface evolution (RMCA). Networking activities will give mutually access to loans from research collections and analytical facilities could be accessed at reduced rates.

The UCT group is interested in experiments related to seismic deployment in the Congo Basin and detailed studies of the ages of marine terraces and ages of denudation in the Bié Dome region of Angola. The RMCA has an extensive network of local partners with expertise and field experience in these regions. A long-term collaboration could transform the ability of the UCT team to access these understudied regions, complement the surface approaches of vertical movements at RMCA, and bring capacity-building too at DRC's Université de Lubumbashi. The project will generate publications in international scientific journals

The UCT team includes Prof. Phil Janney (mantle petrology) and 5 postgraduate students who could benefit from this project.. By sharing current approaches, results and research plans the aim is to identify fruitful areas of mutual benefit for long-term collaboration among partners. The project will contribute to scientific results (publications), manuscripts, future collaboration plans and research proposals.

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