Our planet represents a dynamic system in which the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere are constantly interacting and where natural cycles that involve water, rocks, and atmospheric gases play their part in supporting and sustaining life. Natural Earth processes shape landscapes and maintain the planet’s environments by constantly reworking, conserving, and renewing its materials. An understanding of our Earth, its processes, and its geological history, is the key to an ecologically sustainable development of the planet’s resources.
The East African Rift System (EARS), being the most spectacular continental rift in the world, has long been a classic area for investigating continental rifting and break-up. The study of continental rifts is of particular interest because they are believed to represent the initial stages of continental breakup and passive margin development where oil-bearing as well as climate-sensitive sediments accumulate, and whose architecture and tectonics might have controlled human evolution in the past and localization of geologic hazards at present. The EARS cuts through the Afar and East African plateaus and extends 3000 km from the Afar depression in the north to Okavango Delta in the south. Along with the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea oceanic rifts, it forms the third arm of the triple junction at Afar depression. The EARS overlies one of the largest thermal anomalies in the Earth’s mantle and comprises fault systems of different ages as well as nascent seafloor spreading centers in Afar.
The desire to investigate and fully understand the evolution of EARS and its environments at different scales invites the synergy of several Earth science disciplines. Following this philosophy, we have edited this volume entitled “The East African Rift System: Dynamics, Evolution and Environment” with the objective of providing an integrated approach in the study of the rift system. Most of the papers in this issue are extracted from an international conference entitled ‘The East African Rift System: Development, Evolution and Resources’ that was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in June 2004. A subset of the papers presented at this conference has been published in a special volume of the Geological Society of London (SP 259, 2006). In this meeting organized by the Ethiopian Geoscience and Mineral Engineering Association (EGMEA), more than 100 geoscientists attended and were treated to 66 presentations on a broad range of topics, including rift geodynamics, geophysics, tectonics, magmatism, sedimentation, environment, geohazards and resources. We feel that producing this special volume in its present form is convenient for readers to get a glimpse on the current developments of the EARS.
A. Ayele et al., "Preface," Journal of African Earth Sciences, vol. 48, no. 2-3, pp. ix-xiv, Elsevier, Jun 2007.
The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jafrearsci.2007.02.004
Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering
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