South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3AN, UK

44-(0) 1865-272032

44-(0) 1865-272067

Prof. Anthony B. Watts

Professor of Marine Geology and Geophysics

Ocean Margins


an ESF Scientific Network

Ocean margins are features on a global scale that mark the transition between continental and oceanic crust. They are the product of both vertical (i.e. subsidence and uplift) and horizontal movements. They include sites of some of the largest accumulations of sediments on the Earth's surface and are among the best indicators that we have of climatic, sediment flux and sea-level changes in the past. Ocean margins are prone to large-scale slope failures and some are seismically active.

This ESF network has been set up to develop a new European-led inter-disciplinary and multi-national programme in ocean margins. Such a network is timely. The international scientific community has already identified the deep structure and the processes of rifting processes, sedimentation and fluid flow at ocean margins as high priority tragets that need to be addressed in the immediate future. Furthermore, the hydrocarbons industry regards deep-water rifted margins as one of the few remaining exploration frontiers for the production of oil and gas.

The challenge for the Network will be first to identify common research objectives, discuss the sharing of facilities within Europe, collaborate with industry and national programmes such as the USA "MARGINS" programme, and then to develop a European-led programme to study ocean margins.

Rifted margins are created by one of the fundamental Earth processes; namely the extension and break-up of continental crust to form new ocean basins. The sediments that accumulate there are among the best recorders that we have of the way that lithosphere responds to extensional, compressional and strike-slip tectonic forces, sea-level changes, and the transport of sediments from the continental interiors, to the coastal zone and into the deep sea.

During the past few years, there has been renewed interest by the scientific community in the processes that are occurring at ocean margins. The interactive nature and complexity of these processes has been recognised as has the need for interdisciplinary and multi-national collaborative studies to address them. Furthermore, societal interest in ocean margins has increased. Some margins are the habitat for major reserves of oil and gas. Others have been the site of earthquakes which in some cases have ruptured the entire crust and triggered large-scale failures on the continental shelf and slope. Since a large percentage of the world's population lives within a short distance of the coastal zone, ocean margins are prone to major natural hazards.


This network was approved by the ESF Executive Council in June 1999 for a two-year period.

EUROMARGINS was approved by the Core Group of the Standing Committee for the Life, Environmental and Earth Sciences committee of ESF as a EUROCORES (European Science Foundation Co-operative Research Programme) in July 2000.


  • EUROCORES in Life, Environmental and Earth Sciences: EUROMARGINS - Deadline for submission of full proposals, Mar. 01, 2002

Last modified: May 25th, 2000