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Basement dykes in Panafrican crust, Sinai Peninsula

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Paper on Neuquen Basin

lead by my colleague Daniel Minisini, we have just published a paper on the “Sedimentology, Depositional Model, and Implications for Reservoir Quality” of the Vaca Muerta Unconventional Play in the Neuquen Basin in Argentina. The paper is a chapter in AAPG Memoir 121 "Integrated geology of unconventionals: The case of the Vaca Muerta play, Argentina", edited by Daniel Minisini, Manuel Fantín, Iván Lanusse Noguera, and Héctor A. Leanza,

2020/12/10 18:31 · christian · 0 Comments

South Atlantic Keynote at AAPG

I was honoured to present an opening keynote talk at AAPG's South Atlantic Basins Virtual Research Symposium: Offshore Basins of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay: the Next Exploration Frontier on South Atlantic Rift dynamics: Insights from plate models, observations and numerical models.

2020/12/05 18:55 · christian · 0 Comments

Subduction volume paper published

Madison East's paper on subduction volume fluxes over the past 230 Ma is finally published in Gondwana Research.

The supplementary material is available on The plate reconstruction model and related digital age grids which were used for the calculations are available for download at the EarthByte FTP site.

2020/03/30 20:40 · christian · 0 Comments

New paper on plate tectonics and ecology

Led by Giulia Donati, we have published a new paper which investigates the link between plate tectonics and habitat dynamics. The paper “A process‐based model supports an association between dispersal and the prevalence of species traits in tropical reef fish assemblages” is now available in early view as open access in Ecography.


Habitat dynamics interacting with species dispersal abilities could generate gradients in species diversity and prevalence of species traits when the latter are associated with species dispersal potential. Using a process‐based model of diversification constrained by a dispersal parameter, we simulated the interplay between reef habitat dynamics during the past 140 million years and dispersal, shaping lineage diversification history and assemblage composition globally. The emerging patterns from the simulations were compared to current prevalence of species traits related to dispersal for 6315 tropical reef fish species. We found a significant spatial congruence between the prevalence of simulated low dispersal values and areas with a large proportion of species characterized by small adult body size, narrow home range mobility behaviour, pelagic larval duration shorter than 21 days and diurnal activity. Species characterized by such traits were found predominantly in the Indo‐Australian Archipelago and the Caribbean Sea. Furthermore, the frequency distribution of the dispersal parameter was found to match empirical distributions for body size, PLD and home range mobility behaviour. Also, the dispersal parameter in the simulations was associated to diversification rates and resulted in trait frequency matching empirical distributions. Overall, our findings suggest that past habitat dynamics, in conjunction with dispersal processes, influenced diversification in tropical reef fishes, which may explain the present‐day geography of species traits.

2019/09/26 14:26 · christian · 0 Comments

Subduction volume flux paper pre-print!

Our paper on subduction volume flux “Subduction history reveals Cretaceous slab superflux as a possible cause for the mid-Cretaceous plume pulse and superswell events”, lead by Madison East is submitted and available in the EarthArXiv pre-print repository. The final paper is to appear in Gondwana Research.


Subduction is a fundamental mechanism of material exchange between the planetary interior and the surface. Despite its significance, our current understanding of fluctuating subducting plate area and slab volume flux has been limited to a range of proxy estimates. Here we present a new detailed quantification of subduction zone parameters from the Late Triassic to present day (230 – 0 Ma). We use a community plate motion model with evolving plate topologies to extract trench-normal convergence rates through time to compute subducting plate areas, and we use seafloor paleo-age grids to estimate the thickness of subducting lithosphere to derive the slab flux through time. Our results imply that slab flux doubled to values greater than 500 km3/yr from 180 Ma in the Jurassic to 130 Ma in the mid-Cretaceous, subsequently halving again towards the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary, largely driven by subduction zones rimming the Pacific ocean basin. The 130 Ma spike can be attributed to a two-fold increase in mid-ocean ridge lengths following the break-up of Pangea, and a coincident increase in convergence rates, with average speeds exceeding 10 cm/yr. With one third of the total 230 - 0 Ma subducted volume entering the mantle during this short ~ 50 Myr period, we suggest this slab superflux drove a surge in slab penetration into the lower mantle and an associated increase in the vigour of mantle return flow. This mid-Cretaceous event may have triggered, or at least contributed to, the formation of the Darwin Rise mantle superswell, dynamic elevation of the South African Plateau and the plume pulse that produced the Ontong-Java-Hikurangi-Manihiki and Kerguelen plateaus, among others.

The models presented here contribute to an improved understanding of the time-evolving flux of material consumed by subduction, and suggest that slab superflux may be a general feature of continental dispersal following supercontinent breakup. These insights may be useful for better understanding how supercontinent cycles are related to transient episodes of large igneous province and superswell formation, and the associated deep cycling of minerals and volatiles, as well as leading to a better understanding of tectonic drivers of long-term climate and icehouse-to-greenhouse transitions.

2019/09/04 07:58 · christian · 0 Comments

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