MEDSALT aims to create a new flexible scientific network that will address the causes, timing, emplacement mechanisms, and consequences at local and planetary scale of the largest and most recent ‘salt giant’ on Earth: The late Miocene (Messinian) salt layer in the Mediterranean basin. It is a 1.5 km-thick salt layer that covered the bottom of the deep Mediterranean basins about 5.5 million years ago and is preserved beneath the deep ocean floor today. The origin of the Mediterranean salt giant is linked to an extraordinary event in the geological history of the Mediterranean region, commonly referred to as the Messinian Salinity Crisis.
This inter-sectorial and multinational cooperation network will comprise a critical mass of both experienced and early-career researchers from Europe and beyond. The goal will be achieved through capacity building, researchers’ mobility, skills development, knowledge exchange and scientific networking.
The study of the unique salt giant is inherently cross-disciplinary, embracing geology, geophysics, geochemistry, microbiology, and paleoclimatology. It is an opportunity for the scientific community to share objectives, data, expertise and tools with industry since there is considerable interest in oil and gas exploration, and consequent hazards, targeting the Mediterranean’s deep salt deposits.
The MEDSALT Action proposal has been conceived as a joint initiative coordinating scientific targets from existing research efforts including the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD), the Japanese and US branches of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), the EU- FP7 ITN MEDGATE, TOPO-EUROPE, and other national and international research programmes focussing on the Mediterranean salt giant.
The expected scientific impact of this COST Action will go beyond the mere understanding of the Mediterranean Salinity Crisis:
- this COST Action will provide an opportunity to develop further our knowledge of salt rock formation, deformation and its associated hydrocarbon systems. The project will enable the sharing of knowledge, technology and expertise among the various research groups/communities and with the industry, now rapidly moving towards deep, sub-salt exploration in the Mediterranean Basin;
- sampling and analysing samples of the salt giant will allow the investigation of the potential of this geological environment to promote deep-dwelling communities of microbes and viruses. This first order research has a potential to yield results relevant to industrial applications like understanding the microbial processes that lead to the formation of sour gas (H2S), a major hazard for the drilling industry;
- the study of salt deformation will contribute to the understanding of submarine geohazards in the Mediterranean region (earthquakes, submarine landslides, tsunamis, gas emissions).