Six years and 12,000 holes: Cyprus mapped

October 11, 2011 By Bob Beale
Six years and 12,000 holes: Cyprus mapped
David Cohen on Cyprus

It was a marathon project that took six years and the collection and analysis of some 12,000 soil samples, but an international team of geologists has managed to create the Geochemical Atlas of Cyprus.

"This is the most detailed geochemical map ever undertaken at a national scale," says Associate Professor David Cohen, who led the project in collaboration with the Cyprus .

The $1.25 million project forms part of a more general geochemical mapping of Europe that was prompted, in part, by the need to assess the impact of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster on the soils of countries in the region.

Professor Cohen, who heads the UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, has just returned from an international symposium held in Nicosia to mark the atlas’s completion.

The symposium included a visit to Skouriotissa, the only operating copper mine in a country with about 4,000 years of mining history.

"The geological core of Cyprus contains a complex slice of oceanic crust - an ophiolite - that was thrust up in the late Miocene as Africa rammed into Europe," notes Professor Cohen.

"The human history of Cyprus is also complex, with the island first settled in the Neolithic period and subsequently exploited for its copper and timber resources over the last 3,000 years or so.

“The Atlas will have a wide range of applications in mineral exploration, environmental assessments and landuse planning.

“Although initial analysis of the data indicates substantial meta-contamination of soils in urban areas and around the many abandoned copper mines, the main control on the geochemistry of the soils is the underlying geology.”

The most prominent physical feature of Cyprus is the Troodos Mountains, which have been logged and mined for copper sporadically since the Phoenecians sailed the Mediteranean Sea. There is debate as to whether the island gave its name to the metal or the reverse. Some areas of surface metal contamination can be traced to Roman mine workings.

The final sample was collected in 2009 by the President of Cyprus, Dimitris Christofias, in the Presidential Palace Gardens.

Metal contamination of the environment is of general concern, especially in industrialised areas, notes Professor Cohen.

The study forms part of an international program of geochemical mapping which will eventually generate a global baseline against which both local and global anthropogenic contributions of metals can be measured.

Such measurements can be repeated at suitable time intervals to assist long-term monitoring of global environmental change.

Explore further: Briefs: Rare ancient coffin found in Cyprus

Related Stories

Archaeologists uncover early Neolithic activity on Cyprus

October 20, 2010

Cornell archaeologists are helping to rewrite the early prehistory of human civilization on Cyprus, with evidence that hunter-gatherers began to form agricultural settlements on the island half a millennium earlier than previously ...

Rare falcons shot in Cyprus

October 12, 2007

Hunters in Cyprus have shot about 50 endangered red-footed falcons, which migrate through the island in the spring and fall.

Study: Olive oil fed 2,000 B.C. foundries

March 7, 2006

Italian scientists have reportedly discovered the Mediterranean's first foundries were fueled by olive oil and not, as previously believed, by charcoal.

Recommended for you

Hot spot at Hawaii? Not so fast

August 18, 2017

Through analysis of volcanic tracks, Rice University geophysicists have concluded that hot spots like those that formed the Hawaiian Islands aren't moving as fast as recently thought.

Supervolcanoes: A key to America's electric future?

August 16, 2017

Most of the lithium used to make the lithium-ion batteries that power modern electronics comes from Australia and Chile. But Stanford scientists say there are large deposits in sources right here in America: supervolcanoes.

Greenland ice flow likely to speed up

August 16, 2017

Flow of the Greenland Ice Sheet is likely to speed up in the future, despite a recent slowdown, because its outlet glaciers slide over wet sediment, not hard rock, new research based on seismic surveys has confirmed. This ...

Climate change will cut crop yields: study

August 15, 2017

Climate change will have a negative effect on key crops such as wheat, rice, and maize, according to a major scientific report out Tuesday that reviewed 70 prior studies on global warming and agriculture.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.