Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 61, Issue 7, pp 853–868 | Cite as

Formation time of the big mantle wedge beneath eastern China and a new lithospheric thinning mechanism of the North China craton—Geodynamic effects of deep recycled carbon

  • Shuguang Li
  • Yang Wang


High-resolution P wave tomography shows that the subducting Pacific slab is stagnant in the mantle transition zone and forms a big mantle wedge beneath eastern China. The Mg isotopic investigation of large numbers of mantle-derived volcanic rocks from eastern China has revealed that carbonates carried by the subducted slab have been recycled into the upper mantle and formed carbonated peridotite overlying the mantle transition zone, which becomes the sources of various basalts. These basalts display light Mg isotopic compositions (δ26Mg =–0.60‰ to –0.30‰) and relatively low 87Sr/86Sr ratios (0.70314–0.70564) with ages ranging from 106 Ma to Quaternary, suggesting that their mantle source had been hybridized by recycled magnesite with minor dolomite and their initial melting occurred at 300−360 km in depth. Therefore, the carbonate metasomatism of their mantle source should have occurred at the depth larger than 360 km, which means that the subducted slab should be stagnant in the mantle transition zone forming the big mantle wedge before 106 Ma. This timing supports the rollback model of subducting slab to form the big mantle wedge. Based on high P-T experiment results, when carbonated silicate melts produced by partial melting of carbonated peridotite was raising and reached the bottom (180–120 km in depth) of cratonic lithosphere in North China, the carbonated silicate melts should have 25–18 wt% CO2 contents, with lower SiO2 and Al2O3 contents, and higher CaO/Al2O3 values, similar to those of nephelinites and basanites, and have higher εNd values (2 to 6). The carbonatited silicate melts migrated upward and metasomatized the overlying lithospheric mantle, resulting in carbonated peridotite in the bottom of continental lithosphere beneath eastern China. As the craton lithospheric geotherm intersects the solidus of carbonated peridotite at 130 km in depth, the carbonated peridotite in the bottom of cratonic lithosphere should be partially melted, thus its physical characters are similar to the asthenosphere and it could be easily replaced by convective mantle. The newly formed carbonated silicate melts will migrate upward and metasomatize the overlying lithospheric mantle. Similarly, such metasomatism and partial melting processes repeat, and as a result the cratonic lithosphere in North China would be thinning and the carbonated silicate partial melts will be transformed to high-SiO2 alkali basalts with lower εNd values (to −2). As the lithospheric thinning goes on, initial melting depth of carbonated peridotite must decrease from 130 km to close 70 km, because the craton geotherm changed to approach oceanic lithosphere geotherm along with lithospheric thinning of the North China craton. Consequently, the interaction between carbonated silicate melt and cratonic lithosphere is a possible mechanism for lithosphere thinning of the North China craton during the late Cretaceous and Cenozoic. Based on the age statistics of low δ26Mg basalts in eastern China, the lithospheric thinning processes caused by carbonated metasomatism and partial melting in eastern China are limited in a timespan from 106 to 25 Ma, but increased quickly after 25 Ma. Therefore, there are two peak times for the lithospheric thinning of the North China craton: the first peak in 135−115 Ma simultaneously with the cratonic destruction, and the second peak caused by interaction between carbonated silicate melt and lithosphere mainly after 25 Ma. The later decreased the lithospheric thickness to about 70 km in the eastern part of North China craton.


Big mantle wedge North China craton Lithospheric thinning Deep carbon recycling Alkaline basalts 


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We thank Prof. Rixiang Zhu for inviting Shuguang Li to write this paper. We sincerely thank Prof. Jingao Liu for constructive comments and English editing. We are also grateful to Prof. Jinshui Huang for providing geophysical references and Dr. Lijuan Xu and anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41730214, 41473036, 91014007, 41230209) and the Strategic Priority Research Program (B) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. XDB 18000000).


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© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Geological Processes and Mineral ResourcesChina University of GeosciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.CAS Key Laboratory of Crust-Mantle Materials and Environments; School of Earth and Space SciencesUniversity of Science and Technology of ChinaHefeiChina

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