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Project Reference


Title Parana-Etendeka Regional Lithospheric Analysis

Thematic Area Solid Earth


Action Line The Changing Earth Science Network

Status In Progress

Missions GOCE

Project Description


The lithosphere, from Greek: lithos=rock and sphaira=sphere, is the rigid outermost shell of the planet Earth, and it is defined on the basis of the mechanical properties. It includes the crust and the uppermost mantle and it is broken into tectonic plates. The lithosphere is underlain by the asthenosphere, the weaker and hotter part of the upper mantle. The tectonic plates reflect the complete geologic history, and the study of its layers can contribute to better understanding of the complex geodynamic phenomena that lead to the nowadays geology.

The PERLA studied area is the Parana-Etendeka province. This province today is separated by the South Atlantic Ocean and it is located in the South American and African Plates, respectively. Before the opening of the South Atlantic Ocean it belonged to Gondwana, the south-western part of the supercontinent Pangea. Paraná-Etendeka province is an example of a Large Igneous Province (LIP). LIPs are characterized by a large and fast magmatic effusion (volume >0.1 Mkm3 in less than 1 Myr). Many other provinces are known all over the world (e.g. Deccan traps) but the formation is not yet well understood.

The lithosphere is composed of rocks and one of the most important property of rocks is density. Gravity anomaly shows the density variation inside the lithosphere with respect to a reference stratified Earth model. To detect and assess the density details to be integrated into the model in order to improve the knowledge of the lithosphere under the Parana-Etendeka, PERLA adopts an integrated approach of geophysical information using gravity and gradient fields from GOCE and seismic tomography (global models and local models).

The GOCE satellite mission allows the observation of Earth’s gravity field with a resolution unknown before in spatial geodesy, and the use of a gradiometer inside the spacecraft provides the measure of the gradient field that is very valuable for highlighting superficial structures, as deep structures are attenuated naturally by the potential field law of gravity. GOCE satellite mission enables the analysis of remote areas where the quality control of newly acquired gravity data presents a significant problem for exploration geophysics, and unveils bodies, sometime unknown because trapped by quaternary cover. But gravity information has to be integrated by seismological analyses to take into account deep Earth layers, shallow data and relative sediment effect. Seismic tomography improvements contribute to the study of mechanical information about deep layers of Earth’s interior, whereas the understanding of geophysical real sediments is adopted for the shallow layers.

In the light of the considerable progress made by gravimetric technology, GOCE gravimetric data and the integration of seismic tomographic data will contribute to a deeper knowledge of much neglected areas like Africa and South America, and may provide new data and a better investigation of the complex lithosphere under the Parana-Etendeka conjugate margins and the petrogenetic activity.

Project Consortium

Project Partners

Contact Points

Project Manager Dott.ssa Patrizia Mariani,
Dipartimento di Matematica e Geoscienze,
Università degli Studi di Trieste,
Via Weiss 1,
34128 Trieste,

Technical Officer


Useful Information

Brochure: STSE | Support to Science Element
STSE Report 2008-2012
STSE Conferences