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CRC 1211 @ the EGU 2019

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Earth - Evolution at the dry limit (co-organized)

Convener: Tibor J. Dunai
Co-conveners: Eduardo Campos , Cristina Dorador , Claudia Knief , Laura Evensta



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Water is the defining feature of the habitable Earth; it is essential for all life as we know it. Evolution and maintenance of life in extremely water limited environments, which cover significant portions of the Earth, is not well understood. Akin to life, water-driven processes leave unique marks on the Earth’s surface. Mars is the only other planet currently known to bear the marks of water-driven surface processes, albeit fossil and of great age. The slow biotic and abiotic surface processes that may operate even in the virtual absence of liquid water are still essentially unknown. What is evident is that transient episodes of increased water availability can leave long lasting traces in extremely water limited environments. Intriguingly, those traces of bursts in Earth surface evolution have rarely been related to bursts in biological colonization/evolution, and vice versa, although both relate to the same trigger: water.

The objective of this session is to showcase research on the mutual evolutionary relationships between Earth surface processes and biota in arid to hyper-arid systems, where both biota and Earth surface process are severely and predominantly limited by the availability of water (rather than by extreme temperatures).


Solicited topics include (not exhaustive):

  • fingerprints of biological activity at the (water) limit of the habitable Earth
  • surface processes operating in the (virtual) absence of liquid water on Earth or extraterrestrial analogues (e.g. Mars)
  • thresholds for biological colonization and concurrent fluvial transformation of landscapes
  • tipping point(s) of biotically and abiotically controlled Earth surface systems
  • chronometric and spatial information on the colonization and radiation of biota terrestrial climatic records of (hyper-) arid regions on Earth


10 Jan 2019, 13:00 CET is the deadline for receipt of abstracts



B01 – field work completed

During this year’s late summer, B01 undertook the fourth field trip to the Atacama Desert, which at the same time completed the overall field campaign of phase 1. During these field trips Tim Böhnert, Agathe Kozok, Federico Luebert, Felix Merklinger, Dietmar Quandt and Alexandra Stoll finalized the sampling of eight transects along the coastal and Andean ranges of the northern Atacama Desert. These transects were located in the central and northern CRC core areas to assess floristic composition and vegetation turnovers at the dry limit. In order to understand the origin, the colonization and the diversification of the Atacama Desert flora, the genera Atriplex (Amaranthaceae), Cristaria (Malvaceae) and Cryptantha (Boraginaceae) were extensively sampled for downstream phylogenetic studies. Furthermore, to reconstruct the biogeography and to quantify gene flow and its directionality within broadly distributed species/species complexes, 2,195 individuals of four plant groups (Tillandsia landbeckii (Bromeliaceae), Huidobria fruticosa (Loasaceae), Ophryosporus spp. (Asteraceae), Eulychnia spp. (Cactaceae)), originating from 136 populations, were collected. In total, nearly 1,000 plant specimens were vouchered for identification and further floristic, phylogenetic and population genetic analyses.


IMG 7334 1 350pxPhoto: Tim Böhnert


Pressen Eulychnia TBoehnert TB011954 1 350pxPhoto: Tim Böhnert



Master Excursion to the Atacama Desert and high Andes

A Master-Student excursion for the students from the University of Cologne was conducted during end of September till mid of October to the Atacama Desert and the high Andes. In total up to 16 students and some scientist of the CRC travelled to Chile. The excursion was subdivided into several different geological and geomorphological aspects to introduce the students the broad variety and characteristics of the Atacama Desert and Andes of northern Chile. Topics varied from Coastal Neotectonics at Mejillones Peninsula, to copper formation and mining at Baja Blancas and Chuquiqamata, followed by the tectonic evolution of the Andes and Cordillera Domeyko, Salar evolution, Andean magmatism, hydrothermal alteration and ignimbrite flare-ups, to high altitude lake and paleo-lake systems, large-scale tectonic features at the Huayalas anticline and Oxaya block rotation, to the main research area of the CRC, the hyperarid Atacama Desert. During the last days the students experienced the indescribable feeling of being in a hyperarid desert with its barren landscape. Several smaller field projects were conducted to show and teach the student our recent scientific work in the respective study areas of the CRC, how to interpret certain kind of landscapes, how to get samples and how to discuss in the field different processes and interactions of climate variability and landscape processes. Many thanks go to Gabriele Gonzalez for his lovely excursion day at Mejillones Peninsula and Eduardo Campos for his effort organizing visits in the local copper mines and many explanations and teaching about ore forming processes.

Excursion supervision: B.Ritter, Prof. T.Dunai


Fig1 350pxOur visit of the largest open-pit copper mine on Earth “Chuquiqamata” included also the visit to the core storage. The complete rock sequence of the copper body was presented for on-site identification of alteration zones and mineral assemblages.
Photo: Benedikt Ritter


Fig2 350pxGroup picture in the Chuquiqamata open-pit mine.
Photo: Benedikt Ritter


Fig3 350pxView from the small town of Parinacota to the eponymous volcano “Parinacota”. In the background to left rises the Pomerape volcano.
Photo: Benedikt Ritter


Fig4 350pxTectonic and geomorphological lecture in the field about the Oxaya anticline and landslide structures on our way down from Putre to Arica.
Photo: Christian Tiede


Scientific Guest from Chile

PhD student Sebastian Munoz - July to October 2018

Due to the new scientific collaboration between the Universidad Catolica del Norte (Antofagasta, Chile) and the Collaborative Research Centre 1211 (SFB1211) a first scientific exchange program was established. Sebastian Munoz, PhD student from Antofagasta, was invited for scientific stay in Cologne. The internship at the Institute of Geology and Mineralogy in the University of Cologne as Ph.D student was from the 13th of July until the 3rd to October. During his stay he was trained in handling and preparing samples for cosmogenic nuclide exposure and burial dating at our labs in Cologne. The measurement of cosmogenic concentration of 21Ne will be carried out in April the next year. His samples were gathered during a joined field campaign of Chilenean (Rodrigo Riquelme and Eduardo Campos) and German researcher (Tibor Dunai and Benedikt Ritter) in September 2017 in the area around El Salvador (Chile).


Fig 1 350pxSebastian Munoz
Photo: Sebastian Munoz


Fig 2 350pxDiscussion in the field about potential sampling spots and the local geology.
Photo: Benedikt Ritter


Fig 3 350pxSampling and discussion for cosmogenic nuclide exposure dating of ancient surfaces in the El Salvador areas.
Photo: Benedikt Ritter


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Prof. Dr. Tibor J. Dunai
Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | University of Cologne
Zülpicher Str. 49b | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-3229 | tdunai@uni-koeln.de
  Managing Director:
Christian Tiede
Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | University of Cologne

Zülpicher Str. 49b | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-89833 | christian.tiede@uni-koeln.de
  Deputy Speaker:
Prof. Dr. Martin Melles
Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | University of Cologne

Zülpicher Str. 49a | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-2262 | mmelles@uni-koeln.de
Tim Schlüter
Institute of Geography | University of Cologne

Otto-Fischer-Str. 4 | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-3735 | webmaster@sfb1211.de

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