“SALTGIANT” Understanding the Mediterranean Salt Giant

Progetto: Research project


The Mediterranean Salt Giant (MSG) is one of the largest salt deposits on Earth (Warren, 2010). It exceeds a thickness of 3 km in the deep Mediterranean basins and contains more than one million cubic kilometres of evaporite salts (mainly halite and gypsum; Figure 1) (Blanc, 2006; Ryan, 2009). The MSG was formed about 6 million years ago during the Messinian stage of the Miocene epoch when the restriction of water exchanges between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea turned the Mediterranean into an enormous saline basin (Hsü et al., 1973; Ryan, 2009; Roveri et al., 2014). This exceptional oceanographic event extracted 5% of the salts dissolved in the global ocean and had a permanent impact on both the terrestrial and marine ecosystems of a huge area surrounding the Mediterranean (Ryan, 2009). Extensive research has been carried out on the MSG since its discovery with deep-sea scientific drilling in 1970 (Hsu et al., 1973). The timing of evaporite deposition is known (5.97 – 5.33 million years ago; Krijgsman et al., 1999; Manzi et al., 2013), and large portions of the MSG have been mapped on land and at sea (Lofi et al., 2011; Roveri et al., 2014). However, we lack a mechanistic understanding of how crustal tectonics, global sea-level and climate forced the Mediterranean into a hypersaline mode, leading to the deposition of evaporite salts on such a huge scale. After 45 years of intense yet disunited research efforts, SALTGIANT will gather a broad consortium of researchers to investigate what remains one of Earth Science’s most fascinating enigmas.

Key findings

Data di inizio/fine effettiva2/2/182/1/22