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VIRTUAL GSL Public Lecture: Breaking African Lithosphere: A story of Plateaux, Rifts, Methane and Mammals

15 February 2022
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Breaking African Lithosphere: A story of Plateaux, Rifts, Methane and Mammals

As with many continental interiors, Central Africa is characterised by a large, flat plateau. The plateau is relatively aseismic and non-volcanic when compared to its noisy East African Rift neighbour. It is the source of two of Africa’s great rivers, the Zambezi and the Congo, and cradles Lake Bangweulu, one of Africa’s largest wetland regions south of the equator. The plateau is deformed by major rifts and regional flexures of lithospheric scale that result in several mountain ranges and deep, persistent, but relatively aseismic rift valleys. These lithospheric scale features, result in a distinctive landscape, that reveals much about the breakup of the African continent, not highlighted by seismicity and volcanoes, but subtly reflecting an ancient basement palimpsest and a very active process of continental break-up.

Mike will discuss the evolution of this classic African landscape, its major tectonic features and their development and how they appear to define a relatively silent plate boundary that is breaking the Nubian plate of Africa. I will also highlight how this tectonic activity has influenced the regional ecosystems, the distribution of mammals and the development of a remarkable biogenic methane plume that opens up significant uncertainty in the worlds’ natural flux of greenhouse gases from tropical wetlands areas.


Mike Daly is a Visiting Professor in Earth Sciences at The University of Oxford where he researches in Continental Tectonics and Resources. He is a Principle investigator in the UKRI/NERC research project, Copper Basin Exploration Science (CuBES) that is focused on the Central African Katangan Copper basin. 
Mike is a graduate of The University College of Wales, Leeds University (PhD) and Harvard Business School (PMD). He joined the Geological Survey of Zambia in 1976, mapping the remote Muchinga Mountains of northeastern Zambia. He subsequently joined BP in 1986 as a research structural geologist. After a period of strategy work and exploration and production positions in Venezuela, the North Sea and London, he became BP’s President for the Middle East and S. Asia. He was appointed BP’s Exploration Chief in 2006 and later, Executive Vice President. He retired from BP in 2014. As well as his Oxford position he serves as a Non-Executive Director with CGG Technology Company and Tullow Oil. In 2020 he became President of the Geological Society.


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