Perpectives on Integrated Solid Earth Sciences

  • S.A.P.L. CloetinghEmail author
  • J.F.W. Negendank
Part of the International Year of Planet Earth book series (IYPE)


During the last decades the Earth sciences are rapidly changing from largely descriptive to process-oriented disciplines that aim at quantitative models for the reconstruction and forecasting of the complex processes in the solid Earth. This includes prediction in the sense of forecasting the future behaviour of geologic systems, but also the prediction of geologic patterns that exist now in the subsurface as frozen evidence of the past. Both ways of prediction are highly relevant for the basic needs of humanity: supply of water and resources, protection against natural hazards and control on the environmental degradation of the Earth.

Intensive utilization of the human habitat carries largely unknown risks of and makes us increasingly vulnerable. Human use of the outermost solid Earth intensifies at a rapid pace. There is an urgent need for scientifically advanced “geo-prediction systems” that can accurately locate subsurface resources and forecast timing and magnitude of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and land subsidence (some of those being man induced). The design of such systems is a major multidisciplinary scientific challenge. Prediction of solid-Earth processes also provides important constraints for predictions in oceanographic and atmospheric sciences and climate variability.

The quantitative understanding of the Earth has made significant progress in the last few decades. Important ingredients in this process have been the advances made in seismological methods to obtain information on the 3D structure of the mantle and the lithosphere, in the quantitative understanding of the lithospheric scale processes as well as the recognition of the key role of quantitative sedimentary basin analysis in connecting temporal and spatial evolution of the system Earth recorded in their sedimentary fill. Similar breakthroughs have been made in the spatial resolution of the structural controls on lithosphere and (de)formation processes and its architecture by 3D seismic imaging. Earth-oriented space research is increasingly directed towards obtaining a higher resolution in monitoring vertical motions at the Earth’s surface. Modelling of dynamic topography and landform evolution is reaching the phase where a full coupling can be made with studies of sediment supply and erosion in the sedimentary basins for different spatial and temporal scales.

Quantitative understanding of the transfer of mass at the surface by erosion and deposition as well as their feed back with crustal and subcrustal dynamics presents a new frontier in modern Earth sciences. This research bridges current approaches separately addressing high resolution time scales for a limited near surface record and the long term and large scale approaches characteristic so far for the lithosphere and basin-wide studies. The essential step towards a 4D approach (in space and time) is a direct response to the need for a full incorporation of geological and geophysical constraints, provided by both the quality of modern seismic imaging as well as the need to incorporate smaller scales in the modelling of solid Earth processes.


Solid earth dynamics Earth monitoring Reconstruction of the past Solid earth process modelling 



François Roure is acknowledged for a constructive review of this paper. We thank all the reviewers for their rigorous and constructive criticism of the chapters presented in this book. Financial support and scientific input from ILP, GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam and the Netherlands Research Centre for Integrated Solid Earth Science is greatly acknowledged. Mrs. Christine Gerschke is thanked for dedicated support to ILP reports and for her effort in organising the Potsdam conference. All ILP Task Force and Regional Committee chairs are thanked for contributing to this review paper. We thank Thomas Kruijer for his valuable editorial assistance.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ISES, Faculty of Earth and Life SciencesVU University AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam, Deutsches GeoforschungsZentrum (GFZ)PotsdamGermany

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