Cyprus is an island where geology has been a key factor in shaping its natural environment, its historical, cultural and socio-economic development, both in antiquity and in modern times. The genesis of the island was the result of a series of unique and complex geological processes, which established Cyprus as a geological model for geoscientists around the world and contributed to the understanding of the evolution of the oceans and planet Earth in general. At the top of Troodos, are outcropping rocks of the deepest layer of a fragment of oceanic crust and the Earth's upper mantle, an ophiolite complex, which was formed 92 million years ago, several kilometers below sea level.

The complex geological processes in the region of Cyprus formed unique geodiversity rich in mineral resources, especially copper and contributed significantly to the creation of the unique natural environment of the island, which includes impressive landscapes, fertile soils, densely forested areas and rich biodiversity. All this, combined with the geographical location of the island which is situated at the crossroad of three continents, constituted the base of its nine thousand-year-old historical, artistic and cultural heritage.

Cyprus is divided into four geological zones - Troodos, Mamonia, Pentadaktylos and autochthonous sedimentary rocks – which give rise to four major geomorphologic regions:

(a) The Troodos Mountain Range,

(b) The Mesaoria plain,

(c) The Pentadaktylos Mountain Range, and

(d) The Mamonia Terrane.

(a) The Troodos Mountain Range

The Troodos Ophiolite Complex that covers an area of 3.200 square kilometers dominates the central part of the island and its highest peak, Olympus Mountain, has an altitude of 1.951 meters. It was formed during the Upper Cretaceous (about 92 million years ago), along a segment of seafloor spreading of the Neotethys Ocean, which at that time extended from the Pyrenees through the Alps, Pindos, Zagros to the Himalayas. After its creation, the Troodos emerged, forming the present island, through complex tectonic processes which are defined by the converging lithospheric plates (Eurasian in the north and African in the south).

These geological processes resulted in the creation of the most complete and studied ophiolite complex in the world, which is similar with recent oceanic crust. In ascending order, it consists of harzburgite, which is considered to be the residual material after the partial melting of the upper mantle, cumulate ultramafic and basic rocks such as dunite, wehrlite, pyroxenite, gabbro, and plagiogranite that were formed by fractional crystallization and concentration of the crystals at the floor of the magma chamber beneath the zones of sea floor spreading, the diabase sheeted dykes that represent the channels, from which lava from the magma chamber intruded neighboring rocks, feeding at the same time the submarine extrusion of lava on the ocean sea floor forming the submarine pillow lavas. Finally, at the top of the sequence umbers (chemical sediments) with radiolarites were deposited as a result of hydrothermal activity (hot solutions rich in Fe and Mn) and sedimentation on the sea floor.

Nature has richly endowed the Troodos Ophiolite Complex with mineral resources, mainly copper and natural beauty with significant biodiversity. It is among the five richest regions in the world in copper, has the largest chrysotile asbestos deposit in Europe, deposits of exceptional quality of metallurgical and refractory chromite as well as earth pigments, such as umbers, ochre, sienna and terra verde (green earth). The exploitation of the natural resources of Troodos in ancient and modern times, contributed significantly to the historical and cultural development of the island.

The impressive landscape created by the differential uplift and erosion of the Troodos Mountain Range influences the environment and life on the island. Primarily, it affects the climate of the island, especially the rainfall, which in turn affects the development of forests, the agricultural production and the biodiversity, thus making Cyprus an exceptional habitat.

Despite the fact that Cyprus is in a semi-arid region, the presence of Troodos increases the rainfall up to 1.000 mm per year, while during winter time it is covered with snow. The highest area of Troodos can be characterized as almost semi-alpine, with special soil conditions, resulting in the development of rare plant communities. Of the 142 endemic species in Cyprus, more than a third is found in Troodos at an altitude of more than a thousand meters.

The differential uplift of Troodos, caused the intense fracturing of its rocks increasing their permeability. This resulted in the percolation of large amounts of water at great depths, along joints and faults, creating significant aquifers, which locally discharge to natural springs at various altitudes. These springs were the most decisive factor in the development of settlements, both in antiquity and in modern times.

The intense tectonism and fracturing of the Troodos rocks, which was the result of its differential uplift, facilitated their extensive erosion, resulting in a smooth and easily accessible landscape covering the various rocks with soils of various chemical composition. The fertile soils, in combination with the high rainfall and warm climate, favored the rapid renewal of forests and the rich biodiversity.

The fertility of the Troodos soils and the ability of quick reforestation, has been one of the key factors for the large-scale and long-lasting copper mining activities in antiquity. Ancient scripts and shipwrecks with copper ingots, galleries and tools of ancient miners and enormous quantities of more than 100 ancient slag heaps are the most convincing evidence that Cyprus was a major copper production and trading center worldwide for more than 3.000 years, and rightly became synonymous with copper. Due to its location, Cyprus became a meeting hub for ancient civilizations. The Cyprus copper attracted the Mycenaean merchants, who later, after the destruction of their cities by the Dorians, flooded and Hellenized the island.

The forests of Cyprus provided with timber the long-lasting energy-consuming ancient mining, ceramics and lime industries as well as for the creation of the largest trading and war fleets in antiquity and Middle Ages. Thus, for more than 3.000 years a devastating impact on the environment took place. The magnitude of this effect was enormous, considering that the primary production of copper, required energy equivalent to 150.000 square kilometers of pine forest, which is 16 times the area of​​ the island. However, the environment of Cyprus withstood this intense deforestation and perhaps consists a worldwide example. Troodos and the island in general, in addition to copper, became synonymous with Aphrodite, ancient Greek goddess associated with love, beauty, pleasure, passion and procreation.

(b) The Mesaoria plain

The Mesaoria plain extends between the Troodos and Pentadaktylos Mountain Ranges. It consists mainly of autochthonous sediments deposited on the lavas of the Troodos Ophiolite Complex, while northward these sediments are in tectonic contact with the allochthonous rocks of the Pentadaktylos Mountain Range. The first sediments deposited in the Mesaoria plain were the umbers and the radiolarites of the Perapedhi Formation, followed by extensive deposition of the bentonitic clays of the Kannaviou Formation and the pelagic sedimentation of marls, chalks and cherts of the Lefkara Formation (67-22 million years ago). The uplift of Troodos contributed to the gradual shallowing of the marine depositional environment, resulting in the deposition of chalks, marls, sandstones and limestones of the Pakhna Formation (22 to 7 million years ago). Subsequently, a significant geological event took place between 6-5.3 million years ago, known as Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC), which resulted from the closure of the Gibraltar Strait and the isolation of the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean. During the MSC gypsum and halite were deposited. The re-opening of the Gibraltar Strait and the re-flooding of the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean, resulted in a subsequent sea level rise and the deposition of sediments represented by marls and calcarenites of the Nicosia Formation (5.33 to approximately 2 million years ago). Finally, an abrupt uplift of the Troodos and Pentadaktylos Ranges took place about 2 million years ago.

The abrupt uplift, combined with heavy rainfall, resulted in extensive erosion of the ranges, particularly that of Troodos, with the transportation of large quantities of sands and gravels that were deposited initially in a shallow marine environment, forming the Mesaoria clastic buried channels and at a second stage, along river valleys and in the Mesaoria plain, forming the Pleistocene clastic sediments of the Apalos Formation and Fanglomerates. These clastic sediments exhibit their thickest layers towards the eastern and western limits of the plain, which created the largest underground aquifers on the island. The discovery of these aquifers after World War II and their exploitation from drilling-wells, significantly changed the landscape of the area creating extensive citrus and other irrigated crops, especially in Morfou and Famagusta areas.

(c) The Pentadaktylos Mountain Range

The Pentadaktylos Mountain Range is located along the northern coast of the island, forming a characteristic topography consisting of a narrow, steep-sided chain of mountains varying in altitude from 200-1.024 meters. The limestones of the Pentadaktylos Mountain Range were thrust onto younger rocks of the Lapithos Formation (marls, chalks and cherts) and Kythrea flysch (alternating layers of clays, marls and sandstones with a total thickness of approximately 3.000 meters), due to complex tectonic processes. The hard limestones protected the underlying soft sediments from erosion, creating an impressive landscape which positively effects the rainfall, resulting in the excellent vegetation on the northern slopes.

The limestones of the Pentadaktylos Mountain Range are intensively broken and fractured due to tectonism. The percolated rainwater locally dissolved the limestone at great depth, forming large underground drainage systems with caves (Karst), thus creating significant aquifers. The percolated water is laterally retained by the impermeable sediments of the flysch and only the surplus water of the annual enrichment overflows from natural springs created at the limestone and flysch contacts, springs such as those of Kythrea, Karava, Lapithos, Dikomo, Larnaka tis Lapithou and Akanthοu. These springs are characterized by high levels of biodiversity and have helped in the development of settlements since antiquity. A typical example is the transfer of water from the Kythrea spring to Salamis, during the Roman era.

North of the mountain range, the narrow coastal zone has an impressive amphitheatrical topography with characteristic terraces, which formed due to episodes of periodic uplift of the island during the Pleistocene. Typical terraces are located at Keryneia, Agios Epiktitos, Klepini, and Belapais with an exceptional natural environment.

(d) The Mamonia Terrane

Extensive areas of the Paphos region are covered by a series of allochthonous rocks of Triassic to Upper Cretaceous age, that formed in areas south of Cyprus and were later emplaced to their present position, due to the collision of the African with Eurasian tectonic plates during the Maastrichtian, approximately 70 million years ago. This series of rocks, known as the Mamonia Complex, consists of sedimentary rocks such as sandstones, mudstones, siltstones, limestones and radiolarites, volcanic rocks (pillow lavas) and recrystallized limestones, as well as metamorphic rocks, which include amphibolites, phyllites, schist and marbles. The colored grits, used by the mosaic’s creators at Kourion and Paphos, are mainly derived from the variegated rocks of the Mamonia Complex.

The large number of landslides occurring in Paphos district, are observed within the sediments of the Mamonia Complex and the bentonitic clays of the Kannaviou Formation.

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