Fennoscandia Arctic Russia - Drilling Early Earth Project
Europe, Russia, NW Russia, Kola Peninsula, Imandra-Varzuga Greenstone Belt
New Full-proposal: ICDP-2006/01
For the funding-period starting 2006-01-15
For the funding-period starting 2006-01-15
by Aivo Lepland
The development of new analytical techniques, and improved models for planetary evolution, has intensified research into the evolution of the Earth System and targeted several critical time intervals in Earth history when the biosphere and geosphere were experiencing global-scale changes. Two scientific drilling projects initiated recently by NASA and partners (Archean Biosphere Drilling Project and Deep Time Drilling Project) focus on the earliest of those, the early evolution of life in the Archaean. This drilling project addresses the next hallmark period in Earth history, a 500 million year interval defining the Archaean – Palaeoproterozoic transition (APT; 2500–2000 Ma), characterised by a series of unprecedented environmental upheavals out of which the nascent aerobic Earth System emerged. It complements a privately funded drilling operation in South Africa, the Agouron Griqualand Paleoproterozoic Drilling Project. During this interval of Earth history, global intracontinental rifting and associated mafic volcanism accompanied by widespread deposition of banded iron formation was followed by the oldest known world-wide glaciation(s), rise of atmospheric oxygen, the greatest ever perturbation in the global carbon cycle (Lomagundi – Jatulian Event), abundant marine Ca-sulphates, the first phosphorites and, finally, the extraordinary deposition of anomalously organic-carbon-rich sediments (Shunga Event). Subsequently, the Earth operated much as it does today as an aerobic system, although extensive anoxic environments existed during particular intervals of the Proterozoic. Existing data are inadequate to develop robust models to explain Earth System evolution through the APT and new data are sorely needed. This proposed drilling project aims to obtain those data in order to resolve the major outstanding problems which include: (i) the nature and timescales of the carbon, sulphur, phosphorous and nitrogen cycles; (ii) change in the redox state of the mantle; (iii) the causes and timing of the rise of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere and oceans; and (iv) biological evolution. The project is to core 14 drillholes (totalling 3740 m) to obtain fresh samples through the key intervals present in the APT rocks of Russian Fennoscandia. This region was chosen because it contains one of the most complete records on Earth of the APT, eleven of the twelve known global-scale environmental perturbations heralding the emergence of the aerobic Earth System are recorded there. These cores will establish an archive through this unique period of Earth history and enable obtaining the data required to fully comprehend this exceptional stage of Earth System evolution. This will be accomplished by an international, multidisciplinary research group comprising 60 earth scientists from thirteen countries.
- The main scientific goals of the project are:
- (i) to establish a well characterised, well dated, well archived section for the period 2500-2000 Ma; (ii) to document the changes in the biosphere and the geosphere associated with the rise in atmospheric oxygen; and (iii) to develop a self consistent model to explain the genesis and timing of the establishment of the modern aerobic Earth System. This will be achieved utilising a multidisciplinary, international research team to study fresh drill core obtained from Palaeoproterozoic volcano-sedimentary rocks in Russian Fennoscandia. The cores will provide complete coverage of key intervals and hence the most comprehensive archive and reference database to date for the APT from which to construct and test models for Earth System development through this unique time period. Applied objectives of the research having potential significant economic implications include (i) the search for natural fullerenes (otherwise a synthetically produced and expensive superconductor), and (ii) to obtain new data on the Shunga Event rocks, in essence a 2000 Myr old fossilised hydrocarbon reservoir, that can provide the petroleum industry with reliable information on the mechanisms and characteristics involved in the physical, chemical and isotopic transformation between in situ, migrated and seeped petroleum. Scientific and practical knowledge through this exciting period in Earth history will be made available for dissemination for educational purposes.
Climate Change, Early Life, Earth Evolution, FAR-DEEP, Fennoscandia, Global Environment, Global Events, ICDP-2006/01, Paleoproterozoic, Russia