IGCP 521 - INQUA 501

Project Outline

The Black Sea-Mediterranean Corridor (“Corridor”) is an integrated oceanographic system defined here as the large geographical area covering the Manych-Kerch Gateway (Manych Valley, the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait) that lies to the east of the Black Sea, the Black Sea, the Marmara Gateway (the Bosphorus Strait, the Sea of Marmara and the Dardanelles), the Aegean Sea, the Eastern Mediterranean and their coasts. At the Late Pleistocene the “Corridor” was connected to the Caspian Sea via Manych Gateway.

Today, the “Corridor” is of strategic importance not only for all coastal countries but also for at least 17 other countries sharing a drainage basin that is one-third the size of the European continent. The “Corridor” acts as a paleoenvironmental amplifier and as a sensitive recorder for climatic events where sea level variations and coastline migration are especially pronounced due to its geographical location and semi-isolation from the open ocean. It also provides a linkage between the marine and continental realms.

Over the past 30 ky, the “Corridor” underwent a complicated history, which remains hotly debated. Lately, this region has spurred a tremendous international interest as a possible place where the biblical story of the Great Flood originated, encouraging a new round of controversial research on the hydrological regime in connecting straits, transition from a lacustrine to a marine environment, an influence of the Black Sea outflow on deposition of the Eastern Mediterranean sapropels as well as past/present/future adaptation of humans to environmental change.

Although thirty years have passed after the first IGCP coastal project of this region, there was no subsequent study of the 30 ky timespan and evolution of the “Corridor” as a single entity despite the vast amount of geological and archaeological data that have been collected. Today these data remain a pile of individual pieces of a large puzzle awaiting to be assembled by joint efforts of the global sea-level community that is well-equipped to develop local, regional and global records of sea level change, and to discover linkages between sea level change and coastline evolution through the application of new techniques of sediment finger-printing, dating, as well as quantitative models of sea-level dynamics and coastal change. However, scientists have so far been less successful in determining the driving mechanisms of the human settlement in the “Corridor” that we observe and reconstruct.

The main goal of the project was to cover this gap by bringing the relevant but diverse research groups together to provide cross-disciplinary and cross-regional correlation of geological, geochemical, geophysical, palaeontological, archaeological and historical records for the entire “Corridor” in order to evaluate an influence of sea level change and coastline migration on human adaptation during last 30 ky. The research is focused on evolution of the coastal zone where a rich sedimentary, landform and archaeological archive provides a superb opportunity for studying spatial and temporal interactions between human adaptation and environmental change.

This work resulted in fundamental new knowledge regarding the driving mechanisms that influence human adaptation in the region that became known as the “cradle of civilisation”, a subject of great interest to the Quaternary, earth, marine, environmental and social sciences. Its strong applied component will be directly relevant to coastal managers in regard to the environmental risk assessment and sustainable development of the “Corridor” under Global Climate Change anticipated to take full effect in this century.

The work was arranged in three dimensions: geological, archaeological and mathematical modelling. The project was strongly interdisciplinary.  It involved collaboration between marine and terrestrial geologists, palaeoceangraphers, archaeologists, and applied mathematicians.

An important outcome of the project was the Practical Recommendations on Environmental Protection and Management of the Coastal Areas based on quantitative modelling of environmental processes.