Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 43 | 21. Mai 2024

Priority Programme “Plate Deformation and Geohazards: The Eastern Margin of the Adriatic Plate (DEFORM)” (SPP 2497)

In 2024, the Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) established the Priority Programme “Plate Deformation and Geohazards: The Eastern Margin of the Adriatic Plate (DEFORM)” (SPP 2497). The programme is designed to run for six years. The present call invites proposals for the first three-year funding period.

The densely populated area around the Adriatic Sea is prone to a multitude of geohazards including earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, flooding and volcanic activity as the Adriatic Plate is presently consumed in a tectonically active belt spanning from Sicily, over the Apennines to the Alps, the Dinarides and Hellenides. Especially the eastern margin of the Adriatic Plate, which regularly generates earthquakes with a magnitude of up to 7, is well suited to identify geodynamic causes of geohazards. The main overarching goal of DEFORM is to demonstrate, using an interdisciplinary transformative approach, that quantitative geohazard assessment requires knowledge of the geodynamic and seismotectonic setting of the region. Proposals are invited for three research themes related to quantifying physical drivers of plate deformation and geohazards.

Theme 1: Dynamics of plate deformation – from oceanic subduction to continental collision (plate-scale processes)

Based on geophysical imaging and geological field observations, three-dimensional, multi-scale numerical and analogue models will be developed to unravel the geodynamic causes and kinematic consequences of plate deformation. Particularly the transition from oceanic subduction to continental collision on the eastern margin of the Adriatic Plate, as well as its connection with the oppositely dipping subduction zone on its western margin beneath the Apennines, offers the possibility to investigate how mantle processes interact with the surface. Data of the AdriaArray mission will allow resolving properties of the involved plates, slabs and plate interfaces to study the significance of external boundary conditions, mantle flow and internal forces.

Theme 2: Active faults at plate boundary zones (fault-scale processes)

The eastern margin of the Adriatic Plate is characterised by seismically active fault systems as well as by diffuse deformation zones. Conditions controlling the distribution of localised vs. diffuse deformation, and of seismic vs. aseismic frictional behaviour, will be revealed by geological, geophysical and geodetic studies in two key areas – the Dinarides-Hellenides Transition and the Kefalonia Transform Fault System. Fault-scale geological and geomorphic studies integrating geological data with high resolution geophysical imaging and seismicity studies will provide insight into surface-plate-mantle interactions and the evolution of active fault systems through time.

Theme 3: Physical rupture models for seismic and tsunami hazard assessment

Geodynamic processes (Research Theme 1) will be linked quantitatively to high-resolution local analysis of individual fault systems (Research Theme 2) to develop data-driven and physics-based numerical geohazard scenarios in key areas. Earth’s lithosphere deformations are simulated across various time scales from millions of years to thousands of years, covering entire seismic cycles to seconds during earthquake rupture and seismic and tsunami wave propagation.

Research related to these research themes will entail six activity fields (A–F), focusing on fields A to C in the first phase. ‘Geophysical Imaging’ (activity field A) and ‘Seismotectonics’ (activity field B) will provide the observational basis for understanding deformation at plate and fault scales.

  • Activity field A: Using data of the regional passive seismic AdriaArray experiment, the gap between global studies and local studies will be closed by plate-scale, high-resolution passive seismic imaging. Structural properties of active faults in key areas will be resolved by innovative local on-shore and off-shore high-resolution experiments.
  • Activity field B: Based on the analysis of the geological and structural record, geomorphological analysis, ongoing seismic activity and geodetic measurements, the timing and magnitude of plate-scale deformation, the seismic and aseismic deformation of faults systems, their driving stress fields and their rheological state will be quantified. 
  • ‘Advanced modelling tools to simulate plate deformation and geohazards’ (activity field C) aims at developing tools to couple geodynamic and geohazard modelling incorporating fault geometries and stress fields at crustal and lithospheric scales. To ensure efficient creation of input models for numerical simulations, we call for open-source software frameworks capable to import, visualise and interpret geophysical and geological observables.  
  • ‘Integrating observations: from plate to fault scales’ (activity field D) is devoted to the integration of obtained observations and to physically consistent interpretations. 
  • Activity field E (‘Geodynamic scenarios’) and activity field F (‘Geohazard scenarios’) will develop geohazard scenarios constrained by geodynamic modelling, explaining the observed complexities of faults systems. The hazard assessment will be informed and validated by multi-scale observations. 

DEFORM does not support earthquake prediction or engineering studies.

Study area

DEFORM focuses at the plate scale on the Adriatic Plate, in particular on its eastern margin, and at the local scale on active fault systems in two key areas: (i) the transition from the Dinarides to the Hellenides and (ii) the Kefalonia Fault System. Adria represents a striking example of an actively deforming plate as it is consumed by subduction on both sides and is a key component in a complex continental collision system, giving rise to considerable geohazards. The area is therefore ideally suited to link geodynamic processes to lithospheric deformation and associated geohazards. Despite the presence of seismically highly active structures, the eastern margin of the Adriatic Plate has hitherto been much less studied than its western counterpart in the Apennines, and represents the missing piece in the puzzle to detangle the geodynamics of the central Mediterranean. The development of hazard scenarios will focus on two key areas that were repeatedly struck by devastating earthquakes. They include Europe’s most active strike-slip fault – the Kefalonia Transform Fault System – that has developed above the northern edge of the oceanic Hellenic Subduction Zone, where the transition from oceanic to continental subduction can be studied in situ. Causes for the change in tectonic styles will be deciphered in the Dinarides-Hellenides transition, for example at the Scutari-Pec Fault System located at the transition from the retreating subduction in the Hellenides to the advancing Dinaridic collisional system.

For the first phase, we seek integrated interdisciplinary studies with direct relevance to one or more of the research themes outlined above. It is further expected that project proposals will show how their realisation is intimately tied to data acquired in activity fields A and B. Proposals can be submitted individually (single proposal with several investigators) or in groups (several proposals with clear links to each other). In the latter case, positively evaluated proposals can be funded independently even if other proposals of the group proposal are rejected.

A roundtable meeting to present, discuss and coordinate research proposals will be held at the Bildungsforum Potsdam on 1 July 2024 (details will be announced soon). Potential applicants are expected to give a concise (5 minutes, 3 slides) presentation of their proposal and to submit a short summary (1 page maximum) of their proposals. Please register for the workshop by 15 June 2024 by sending an email to Miriam Schwede (see contact under “Further Information”) with a copy to Karolin Schaechter (see contact under “Further Information”). Please also submit proposal summaries for the roundtable meeting to the same email addresses by 15 June 2024. A template for project summaries can be downloaded from the link mentioned under “Further Information”.

Proposals must be written in English and submitted to the DFG by 16 October 2024. Please note that proposals can only be submitted via elan, the DFG’s electronic proposal processing system. To enter a new project within the existing Priority Programme, go to Proposal Submission – New Project/Draft Proposal – Priority Programmes and select “SPP 2497” from the current list of calls. 

In preparing your proposal, please review the programme guidelines (DFG form 50.05, section B) and follow the proposal preparation instructions (DFG form 54.01). These forms can either be downloaded from our website or accessed through the elan portal.

Applicants must be registered in elan prior to submitting a proposal to the DFG. If you have not yet registered, please note that you must do so by 1 October 2024 to submit a proposal under this call; registration requests received after this time cannot be considered. You will normally receive confirmation of your registration by the next working day. Note that you will be asked to select the appropriate Priority Programme call during both the registration and the proposal process.

The DFG strongly welcomes proposals from researchers of all genders and sexual identities, from different ethnic, cultural, religious, ideological or social backgrounds, from different career stages, types of universities and research institutions, and with disabilities or chronic illness. With regard to the subject-specific focus of this call, the DFG encourages female researchers in particular to submit proposals.

Further Information 

The elan system can be accessed at:

DFG forms 50.05 and 54.01 can be downloaded at:

Link to Data of the AdriaArray mission:

Contact to register for the workshop:

Link to download the template for project summaries:

For scientific enquiries, please contact the Priority Programme coordinator:

  • Professor Dr. Thomas Meier
    Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
    Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
    Institut für Geowissenschaften
    Otto-Hahn-Platz 1
    24118 Kiel
    phone +49 431 8802833

Questions on the DFG proposal process can be directed to:

Programme contact: 

Administrative contact: