The SPP is structured into the following core themes:
1. Mantle dynamics and magmatic processes
The overall objective of this theme is to understand the dynamic behaviour of the mantle and its consequences for magmatic processes (melt generation, migration and emplacement), plate stresses and lithospheric strength, which are key factors involved in the breakup of Gondwana and development of the South Atlantic margins. A central issue is to test and improve existing models for the role of mantle processes, including the plume theory, in lithospheric extension and in producing the extreme magmatism associated with the Tristan hotspot track and the Paraná-Etendeka flood basalt province.
2. Lithospheric structure, deformation and breakup processes
The goals of this theme are to achieve a quantitative lithologic, stratigraphic and structural description of the present-day state of the South Atlantic margins in 3D, to reconstruct the history of deformation of the margins back to the time of continental rifting and breakup beginning 200 my ago, and to identify the processes and controlling factors involved in that evolution. An emphasis will be placed on comparative studies of contrasting margin segments along-strike issues of symmetry/asymmetry of conjugate margin segments.
3. Post-rift topographic evolution and links to climate and tectonics
This core theme is concerned with quantifying denudation rates and their variations in time and space along the margins and at selected conjugate segments. The ultimate aim will be to integrate these quantitative data with long-term numerical models of erosion and landscape evolution in order to reveal the interaction of tectonic movements - uplift or subsidence - with climatic influence. The research will also generate sediment erosion budgets that will provide key input to offshore sedimentation and subsidence models.
4. Sedimentary processes and fluid systems
The research in this core theme concerns the interplay of processes that affect the deposition and modification of sediments in marginal basins and the evolution of fluid systems related to them. One objective is to examine links between sediment supply and deposition with climatic or tectonic factors, both present-day and in the past (e.g., gateways and barriers to ocean currents, onshore uplift and erosion). The other main goal is to understand the physico-chemical processes affecting generation and migration of fluids in and out of the sedimentary section, including an assessment of the scale hydrocarbon seepage and its consequences.