Metamorphism, fluid behavior and magmatism in oceanic subduction zones

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Based on the updated results of experimental petrology and phase equilibria modelling and combined with the available thermal structure models of subduction zones, this paper presents an overview on the dehydration and melting of basic, sedimentary and ultrabasic rocks that occur in the different stages during oceanic subduction processes and their influences on magmatism above subduction zones. During the subduction at the forearc depth of <90–100 km, the basic and ultrabasic rocks from most oceanic slabs can release very small amounts of water, and significant dehydration may occur in the slab superficial sediments. Strong dehydration occurs in both basic and ultrabasic rocks during subduction at the subarc depth of 90–200 km. For example, more than 90% water in basic rocks is released by the successive dehydration of chlorite, glaucophane, talc and lawsonite in the subarc depths. This is diversely in contrast to the previous results from synthetic experiments. Ultrabasic rocks may undergo strong dehydration through antigorite, chlorite and phase 10 Å at the subarc depth of 120–220 km. However, sediments can contribute minor fluids at the subarc depth, one main hydrous mineral in which is phengite (muscovite). It can stabilize to ∼300 km depth and transform into K-hollandite. After phengite breaks down, there will be no significant fluid release from oceanic slab until it is subducted to the mantle transition zone. In a few hot subduction zones, partial melting (especially flux melting) can occur in both sediments and basic rocks, generating hydrous granitic melts or supercritical fluids, and in carbonates-bearing sediments potassic carbonatite melts can be generated. In a few cold subduction zones, phase A occurs in ultrabasic rocks, which can bring water deep into the transition zone. The subducted rocks, especially the sediments, contain large quantities of incompatible minor and trace elements carried through fluids to greatly influence the geochemical compositions of the magma in subduction zones. As the geothermal gradients of subduction zones cannot cross the solidi of carbonated eclogite and peridotite during the subarc subduction stage, the carbonate minerals in them can be carried into the deep mantle. Carbonated eclogite can melt to generate alkali-rich carbonatite melts at >400 km depth, while carbonated peridotite will not melt in the mantle transition zone below a subduction zone.


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This work was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (Grant No. 2015CB856105) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41872057).

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Correspondence to Chunjing Wei.

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Wei, C., Zheng, Y. Metamorphism, fluid behavior and magmatism in oceanic subduction zones. Sci. China Earth Sci. 63, 52–77 (2020).

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  • Oceanic subduction
  • Metamorphism
  • Phase equilibria
  • Fluid activity
  • Subduction zone magmatism
  • Carbon cycle