Updated 08/09/20

Understanding global changes, quantifying hazards and mitigating risks, prospecting for new resources: These are the main goals of the research teams studying continental environments.



Researchers investigate the physical and biogeochemical functioning of continents in the context of global changes, looking at how they evolve and how human societies in the Global South interact with their environments.

  • Understanding global changes
    • the multi-scale and temporal variability of the water cycle as it interacts with the climate and human activities
    • continental surfaces as carbon sinks
    • the water-soil-vegetation nexus and physics/biogeochemistry interactions
    • extreme events
    • the impact on soil erosion and sediment transport
    • contributing to national and international efforts to model the planetary system


  • Quantifying hazards and mitigating risks
    • understanding the physical processes that precede extreme phenomena: earthquake rupture, landslide triggers, erosion process, sediment transport, floods, droughts, etc.
    • quantifying hazards related to the earth's surface or internal dynamics through the joint study of current situations and geological archives
    • pollution and quality of environments
    • vulnerability of socio-ecosystems to quantify risks and resilience
    • sharing scientific knowledge to develop appropriate regulations


  • Prospecting for new resources
    • evaluating water resources, transfers between the different environmental compartments and the impact of global changes;
    • optimising non-renewable resources and minimising their environmental impacts (solar, hydroelectric power);
    • mineral concentration processes in the continental or oceanic crust, and the search for "non-conventional" reserves;
    • exploitation and management of resources and resilience of ecosystems.


    Research focuses on two main seminal areas. The first is based on the observation and modelling of the continents’ physical environments, while the second explores the interactions between changes to the physical environments and socio-economic dynamics.




Challenges specific to countries of the Global South and their societies

  • Fostering a global vision that combines societal issues with research questions, to link up with the sustainable development goals;
  • Designing systems for observation and data-sharing that address the lack of access to on-site infrastructures, which is a common problem in Global South countries;
  • Committing to international scientific strategies such as the IPCC, the Convention to Combat Desertification or the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030), and help ensure that countries in the intertropical zone are better represented and more active in these international committees;
  • Contributing to identifying potential trajectories for development, given the constraints set by physical and human dynamics.