Building peace in the minds of men and women

Nine new projects of societal relevance join the International Geoscience Programme

21 February 2019

The geological record holds key answers to current global challenges such as climate change, reducing risks from natural hazards or better understanding our natural resources. Each year, the Council of the International Geoscience Programme (IGCP) selects research projects of societal relevance that will be supported by the programme.  

By making connections between events throughout the Earth's history, the research projects supported by IGCP aim to address the challenges we must overcome to preserve our environment and develop sustainably. Each project has an average lifespan of five years. Progress is assessed annually through a rigorous peer review process conducted by the IGCP Council of the evaluation reports submitted my members of the Scientific Board during the first half of February.

This year’s IGCP Council Meeting took place on 18-21 February 2019 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France. The Council reviewed 21 new project proposals and assessed the progress of the 27 ongoing IGCP projects. Of these, nine new projects were approved for 2019. There are now 31 active IGCP projects.

The IGCP, a joint initiative of UNESCO and the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), has supported over 650 projects in 150 countries since its creation in 1972, to mobilize global cooperation in the Earth Sciences in the service of society.
The following new IGCP projects will integrate the programme:

Earth Resources Theme

IGCP 682: Mine Tailing Revalorization
Mine tailings are the mud-like ore waste of mineral extraction from mines. Mine tailings can be highly toxic and their long-term containment is critical to the safety of surrounding communities, which may be at risk of landslides caused by residue, toxic dust and chemical leaching into the groundwater. The reuse and revalorization of tailings not only provides a source of raw materials, but also reduces their potential impact on the environment and public health. The reuse and revalorization of mine tailings should, thus, be considered a priority “green” alternative to current waste treatment methods. In order to lay the groundwork for this “green alternative”, this international project aims to improve understanding of the geological processes behind metals’ mobility, improve bioleaching efficiency and recover Raw Earth Elements (REE) and other Critical Raw Materials (CRM) from mine tailings

Leaders: Manuel A. Caraballo Monge (Chile), Lola Yesares (Ireland), Julio César Castillo Hernandez (South Africa), Anita Parbhakar-Fox (Australia), Guillermo Javier Copello (Argentina), Mercedes Becerra (Chile), Roberto Fernandez de Luis (Spain), Annika Parviainen (Spain), Alba Gomez Arias (South Africa), Erika Gonzalez Diaz (Chile), Byron Riquelme Rivas (Chile), Sebastian Garcia (Chile).


IGCP 675: Sandstone-Type Uranium Deposits
This project aims to develop the responsible extraction and production of uranium for nuclear energy. Uranium occurs in deposits of the Mesozoic-Cenozoic sandstone basins within 20~50° North and South of the equator. The project will focus on training young geologists from developing countries, in particular, through an analysis of mineralization and global sandstone-type uranium deposits, and on developing new mining technologies for ore exploration.

Leaders:   Ruoshi Jin (China), Michel Cuney (France), Vladislav A. Petrov (Russia), Mark John Mihalasky (USA), Gary Delaney (Canada), Guoxiang Chi (Canada), Baohong Hou (Australia), Osbert N. Sikazwe


Global Change Theme

IGCP 679: Cretaceous Earth Dynamics and Climate in Asia
Understanding the effects of elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is vital to mitigating the negative impact of today’s rapidly changing climate. The Cretaceous was the most recent, warmest period in the Phanerozoic Era, characterized by more elevated atmospheric CO2 levels and significantly higher global sea levels than today. This project examines both the oceanic and terrestrial climate of this Cretaceous ‘Greenhouse’ Earth, in order to understand how these environmental conditions affected the evolutionary responses of biodiversity during this period. The project will play an important role in promoting geoscience communication among the participating countries, most of which are in Asia.

Leaders: Gang Li (PR China), Takashi Hasegawa (Japan), Daekyo Cheong (Korea), Petr Schnabl (Czech Republic), Vandana Prasad (India), Xin Li (China).


IGCP 681: History of Toxic Phytoplankton in Patagonia
This project examines the effect of hydroclimatic variations on microalgae, a type of phytoplankton which are the base of the food web in the ocean and are responsible for converting carbon dioxide to oxygen via photosynthesis. When these colonies of algae grow out of control and cause toxic or harmful effects to human health, wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture production, we speak of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) In order to understand their causes, predict their occurrences and mitigate their effects, this project is conducting research along the Patagonian coast, which is known for its pristine ecosystems that constitute important fishing sites for local communities. In 2016, nearly 12% of Chilean salmon production was killed by microalgae (Pseudochattonella cf. verruculosa) in Western Patagonia. The study will track hydroclimatic variabilities in the sediments of these ecosystems, such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and its influence on HABs over the past 1,000 years, in order to assess the feasibility of aquaculture for the region.

Leaders: Claudia Mileni Aracena Perez (Chile), Claudia Marcela Borel (Argentina)


IGCP 673: The End of a Supereon - Winners and Losers at the Precambrian-Phanerozoic Transition
This project will be exploring the beginnings of Earth’s earliest complex life forms in Southern Namibia, which is one of the most accessible regions for finding fossils of large, multicellular organisms. The minute zircons preserved in some of these sediments make it possible to date environmental changes and regional events with precision. This project will integrate more than a century of findings from Namibia, in order to piece together the Precambrian Eon biota that gave rise to all animal life and hard skeletons. Beyond the research output, other assets will be generated that can service the wider community, supporting the region’s education and geo-tourism capacities.

Leaders: Patricia Vickers Rich, Mike Hall (Australia), Alan Jay Kaufman (USA), Ulf Linnemann (Germany), Gabi Schneider Helke Moeke, Kombada Mhopjeni, Charlie Hoffmann (Namibia)


Hydrogeology Theme

IGCP 689: A Better Management of the Ali-Sabieh Aquifer
Securing access to potable freshwater sources is critical in the dry tropical climate of the Republic of Djibouti. In this project, researchers from Canada, Comoros and Djibouti will focus on charaterizing the main geochemical processes that explain the water geochemistry of the volcanic aquifer system. Sulphate and nitrate concentrations of the aquifer groundwater are well above the maximum permissible values prescribed by the World Health Organization and therefore the research aims to understand the aquifers’ geochemical evolution in order to support the drinking water sources for Djibouti’s major cities.*

Leaders: Mohamed Osman Awaleh (Rep of Djibouti), Youssouf Djibril Soubaneh (Canada), Mohamed Chamassi (Comoros), Faiza Hassan Djama (Rep. Of Djibouti).


IGCP 684: The Water-Energy-Food and Groundwater Sustainability Nexus (WEF-GW Nexus)
Water, energy and food are the most critically important resources for society, and their security is central to meeting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The demand for these resources is expected to increase in future decades due to climate change, population growth and socioeconomic forces. Effective management of water resources, with consideration to water’s role in food and energy production (a relationship also known as the Water, Energy and Food Nexus), is vital for areas where water resources are limited or polluted. The overall aim of this project is to leverage concepts from the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus and guide research, networking, and training activities that help to advance knowledge transfer and practical tools to support management decisions and policy choices toward sustainable groundwater resources in both developed and developing countries.

Leaders: Joanna Doummar (Lebanon), Viviana Re (Italy), Piet Kenabatho (Botswana), Kawawa Banda (Zambia), Jason J. Gurdak (USA).


Special topics for 2019

IGCP 685: Geology for Sustainable Development
Geosciences knowledge, experience and guidance are critical for addressing many of society’s most acute resource needs and environmental challenges. The Geology for Sustainable Development project will integrate the experience of geoscience practitioners across a range of fields and explore how geoscience and geoscientists are directly confronting and overcoming societal challenges. The project brings together an international, interdisciplinary network of researchers, industry professionals and partners from associations of geoscientists, including scientists from developing countries.

Leaders: Iain Stewart (UK), Joel C. Gill (UK), Kombada Mhopjeni (Namibia), Rualdo Menegat (Brasil), Linda Stalker (AUSTRALIA), Ligia Perez-Cruz (Mexico)


IGCP 692: Geoheritage for Geohazard Resilience
The term ‘geoheritage’ refers to the knowledge, communication and protection of the Earth’s value to society. Geoheritage sites are areas with unique geological, scientific, aesthetic, cultural or educational value. This geoheritage project focuses on helping people understand their landscape and exposure to various natural hazards by identifying the geological elements, such as river courses, faults, volcanic rocks, etc., and placing them in a wider societal context. This project aims to support a local community's ability to react to and absorb changes from one or multiple hazards and develop a grassroots type of resilience.

Leaders: Benjamin van Wyk de Vries (France), Karoly Nemeth (New Zealand), Julie Morin (France), Gloria Patricia Cortez (Colombia), Paola Naomi Irrapta (Philippines), Nelida Manrique (Peru), Amleset Gebreegzabher Gebrewahd (Ethiopia), Marie-Noelle Guilbaud (Mexico)