Planning for the Lake Izabal Basin Research Endeavor (LIBRE) continental scientific drilling project in eastern Guatemala

Jonathan Obrist-Farner, Andreas Eckert, Peter M.J. Douglas, Liseth Perez, Alex Correa-Metrio, Bronwen L. Konecky, Thorsten Bauersachs, Susan Zimmerman, Stephanie Scheidt, Mark Brenner, Steffen Kutterolf, Jeremy Maurer, Omar Flores, Caroline M. Burberry, Anders J Noren, Amy E Myrbo, Matthew Lachniet, Nigel Wattrus, Derek Gibson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As Earth's atmospheric temperatures and human populations increase, more people are becoming vulnerable to natural and human-induced disasters. This is particularly true in Central America, where the growing human population is experiencing climate extremes (droughts and floods), and the region is susceptible to geological hazards, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and environmental deterioration in many forms (soil erosion, lake eutrophication, heavy metal contamination, etc.). Instrumental and historical data from the region are insufficient to understand and document past hazards, a necessary first step for mitigating future risks. Long, continuous, well-resolved geological records can, however, provide a window into past climate and environmental changes that can be used to better predict future conditions in the region. The Lake Izabal Basin (LIB), in eastern Guatemala, contains the longest known continental records of tectonics, climate, and environmental change in the northern Neotropics. The basin is a pull-Apart depression that developed along the North American and Caribbean plate boundary gMyr ago and contains >ĝ€¯4ĝ€¯km of sediment. The sedimentological archive in the LIB records the interplay among several Earth System processes. Consequently, exploration of sediments in the basin can provide key information concerning: (1) tectonic deformation and earthquake history along the plate boundary; (2) the timing and causes of volcanism from the Central American Volcanic Arc; and (3) hydroclimatic, ecologic, and geomicrobiological responses to different climate and environmental states. To evaluate the LIB as a potential site for scientific drilling, 65 scientists from 13 countries and 33 institutions met in Antigua, Guatemala, in August 2022 under the auspices of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) and the US National Science Foundation (NSF). Several working groups developed scientific questions and overarching hypotheses that could be addressed by drilling the LIB and identified optimal coring sites and instrumentation needed to achieve the project goals. The group also discussed logistical challenges and outreach opportunities. The project is not only an outstanding opportunity to improve our scientific understanding of seismotectonic, volcanic, paleoclimatic, paleoecologic, and paleobiologic processes that operate in the tropics of Central America, but it is also an opportunity to improve understanding of multiple geological hazards and communicate that knowledge to help increase the resilience of at-risk Central American communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-100
Number of pages16
JournalScientific Drilling
StatePublished - Oct 26 2023

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