Renato Funiciello, an inspiration for modern geology in Italy

The Tethyan Belt is an area of ​​tectonic activity and mountain ranges stretching from northwest Africa and western Europe through Turkey, the Caucasus and Iran to southwestern Africa. the Pacific Ocean. It is the longest continuous orogenic belt on Earth. One of the sections of particular interest to geoscientists is the Mediterranean section due to its ongoing active tectonic activity.

A special collection published in Tectonics, Geodynamics, crustal and lithospheric tectonics and active deformation in Mediterranean regions, presents new and updated research on this section of the Tethyan Belt. Over two dozen research papers explore mantle subduction and convection, volcanism and fluid circulation, structural geology and active tectonics, dynamic topography and geomorphology. The volume is dedicated to Professor Renato Funiciello (1939-2009), who contributed to the development of modern geological studies in Italy.

Geological science has the powerful ability to bridge the gaps between different countries and cultures. Renato Funiciello played a decisive role in the creation of these bridges.

Born in Libya, he was a true Mediterranean geologist, passionate about both the sea and the science of rocks.

The life and work of Renato is part of a long tradition of travels and activities across the Mediterranean, from Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, a North African from Leptis Magna (a Roman city in Libya) with a subsequent career in Rome and responsible for The Roman Empire at its greatest extent to date, to Enrico Mattei, the post-war Italian industrialist who ran Agip (the Italian national oil and gas company), has negotiated agreements on the extraction of oil from Tunisia and Morocco, and after which the trans- Mediterranean gas pipeline between Algeria and Italy is now named.

In the fall of 1980, two serious and fatal earthquakes hit the Mediterranean region. The El Asnam event happened in Algeria in October. This event was a magnitude 7.1 earthquake followed by a magnitude 6.2 aftershock, the largest of the Tell Atlas chains for nearly two centuries. The Irpinia earthquake occurred in Italy in November. It was a magnitude 6.9 earthquake, with three main shocks and up to 90 aftershocks. These two events left thousands dead, injured and displaced. For Renato, then a new lecturer in structural geology at the University of Rome, it was a unique opportunity to explore the importance of seismic surface faults. In the following period, it generated many lively discussions on this subject at various seminars and meetings across Europe.

Renato generated a new spirit of research, exposing the fundamentals of crustal and lithospheric deformation in structural geology in collaboration with geophysicists. You could say that modern geology was born in Italy among a new group of young (then) and dashing geologists who now lead the fields of structural and seismic geology. In fact, several contributions to this collection are from his former students.

Renato Funiciello, professor of geology at the Università degli Studi Roma Tre (1993-2009). Photo courtesy of Francesca Funiciello

Renato had a wide range of interests and contributed to many subfields of geology, ranging from lunar and planetary sciences and seismic tomography to spatial geodesy, geo-archeology, and urban geology.

He also adopted the use of modern technologies in earth sciences and applied them to the study of the Adria microplate (see Kiraly et al., 2018), magmatism in southwestern Turkey (see Asti et al., 2019), seismic damage in the Colosseum area in Rome, recent volcanic activity at Lake Albano near Castelgandolfo (the Pope’s residence), and a geological tour of the Seven Hills of Rome.

His professional contributions to our field have been far reaching. He is the author and co-author of more than 100 published scientific articles and is particularly committed to raising public awareness about geosciences and geo-risks.

In addition, he was project manager of a NASA project on lunar geology, chairman of the scientific council of the Italian National Research Council (CN), Director of the Institute of Technologies Applied to Cultural Heritage (ITABC), Director of the International Geothermal Research Institute (IIRG) and Vice-President of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV Rome).

This collection is a modest dedication to one of the greatest geologists and to a dear colleague whom we remember with great fondness.

—Mustapha Meghraoui ([email protected]; ORCIDE logo 0000-0002-3479-465X), Earth & Environment Institute of Strasbourg, France


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