Exhumation rates in the Gran Paradiso Massif (Western Alps) constrained by in situ U–Th–Pb dating of accessory phases (monazite, allanite and xenotime)

  • Paola Manzotti
  • Valérie Bosse
  • Pavel Pitra
  • Martin Robyr
  • Federica Schiavi
  • Michel Ballèvre
Original Paper


Exhumation rates for high-pressure metamorphic rocks need to be carefully estimated to decipher tectonic processes in subduction/collision belts. In the Gran Paradiso Massif (Western Alps), the Money Unit crops out as a tectonic window below the Gran Paradiso Unit. According to previous studies, the Gran Paradiso and Money Units reached peak pressure conditions at ~ 18 to 20 kbar, 480–520 °C and ~ 17 to 18 kbar, 500–550 °C, respectively. This yields a maximum difference of ~ 9 to 10 km in the subduction depth reached by these two units during the Alpine history. Thrusting of the Gran Paradiso Unit over the Money Unit led to the simultaneous development of the main foliation under the same metamorphic conditions (~ 12.5 to 14.5 kbar and 530–560 °C) in both units. The thrust contact was subsequently folded and then both units were exhumed together. The relative timing of the growth and dissolution of the accessory phases was assessed by combining thermodynamic modelling with inclusion, textural and chemical (major and trace element) data from both major and accessory phases. The age of monazite constrained the high-pressure metamorphism in both the Gran Paradiso Unit and the Money Unit at 41.5 ± 0.3 and 42.0 ± 0.6 Ma, respectively. Allanite replacing monazite in the matrix has been dated at 32.7 ± 4.2 Ma. The late growth of xenotime associated with the crystallization of biotite pseudomorphs at the expense of garnet (at about 10 kbar) was dated at 32.3 ± 1.0 Ma. Our petrochronological data indicate about 10 m.y. between the peak pressure conditions and the crystallization of xenotime leading to an exhumation rate of the order of 2.2–5 mm/year. The new ages allow to better constrain the timing of the displacement of the thrust defining the lower boundary of the extruding wedge of eclogite-facies rocks.


Monazite Allanite Xenotime Exhumation rates High pressure Alps 



This work was financially supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Project PZ00P2_161202). ‘Ente Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso’ is thanked for allowing fieldwork and rock sampling in the Valnontey valley. ‘Villaggio Alpino Don Bosco’ is thanked for providing accommodation at the Alpe Money hut. X. Le Coz and L. Nicod are acknowledged for making the numerous thin sections required for our study on the Gran Paradiso Massif. We thank P. Vonlanthen for help in using the SEM and J.-L. Devidal for help with the EMPA analyses on the accessory phases. We are grateful to D. Tinkham for making available the conversion of the Thermocalc mixing models for the Theriak-Domino software. We have much appreciated discussions and exchanges with L.P. Baumgartner, S. Schmalholz and J.P. Brun. We thank also Dr. Sara Mullin for revising our English language. Finally, K. Mottram and an anonymous reviewer are thanked for their constructive and helpful reviews which significantly improved this paper. The careful editorial work of S. Reddy is gratefully acknowledged.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 5894 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Earth SciencesUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Université Clermont Auvergne, CNRS, IRD, OPGC, Laboratoire Magmas et VolcansClermont-FerrandFrance
  3. 3.University of Rennes, CNRS, Géosciences Rennes, UMR 6118RennesFrance
  4. 4.Česká geologická službaPrague 1Czech Republic

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