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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences

Academic Staff

Publication details for Prof Colin Macpherson

Bezard, R., Davidson, J.P., Turner, S., Macpherson, C.G., Lindsay, J.M. & Boyce, A.J. (2014). Assimilation of sediments embedded in the oceanic arc crust: myth or reality? Earth and Planetary Science Letters 395: 51-60.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Arc magmas are commonly assumed to form by melting of sub-arc mantle that has been variably enriched by a component from the subducted slab. Although most magmas that reach the surface are not primitive, the impact of assimilation of the arc crust is often ignored with the consequence that trace element and isotopic compositions are commonly attributed only to varying contributions from different components present in the mantle. This jeopardises the integrity of mass balance recycling calculations. Here we use Sr and O isotope data in minerals from a suite of volcanic rocks from St Lucia, Lesser Antilles arc, to show that assimilation of oceanic arc basement can be significant. Analysis of 87Sr/86Sr in single plagioclase phenocrysts from four Soufrière Volcanic Complex (SVC; St Lucia) hand samples with similar composition (87Sr/86Sr = 0.7089–0.7091) reveals crystal isotopic heterogeneity among hand samples ranging from 0.7083 to 0.7094 with up to 0.0008 difference within a single hand sample. δO18 measurements in the SVC crystals show extreme variation beyond the mantle range with +7.5 to +11.1‰+11.1‰ for plagioclase (n=19n=19), +10.6 to +11.8‰+11.8‰ for quartz (n=10n=10), +9.4 to +9.8‰+9.8‰ for amphibole (n=2n=2) and +9 to +9.5‰+9.5‰ for pyroxene (n=3n=3) while older lavas (Pre-Soufriere Volcanic Complex), with less radiogenic whole rock Sr composition (87Sr/86Sr = 0.7041–0.7062) display values closer to mantle range: +6.4 to +7.9‰+7.9‰ for plagioclase (n=4n=4) and +6 to +6.8‰+6.8‰ for pyroxene (n=5n=5). We argue that the 87Sr/86Sr isotope disequilibrium and extreme δO18 values provide compelling evidence for assimilation of material located within the arc crust. Positive correlations between mineral δO18 and whole rock 87Sr/86Sr, 143Nd/144Nd and 206,207,208Pb/204Pb shows that assimilation seems to be responsible not only for the isotopic heterogeneity observed in St Lucia but also in the whole Lesser Antilles since St Lucia encompasses almost the whole-arc range of isotopic compositions. This highlights the need for detailed mineral-scale investigation of oceanic arc suites to quantify assimilation that could otherwise lead to misinterpretation of source composition and subduction processes.