Accretionary processes and metallogenesis of the Central Asian Orogenic Belt: Advances and perspectives

  • Wenjiao XiaoEmail author
  • Dongfang Song
  • Brian F. Windley
  • Jiliang Li
  • Chunming Han
  • Bo Wan
  • Ji’En Zhang
  • Songjian Ao
  • Zhiyong Zhang


As one of the largest Phanerozoic orogens in the world, the Central Asian Orogenic Belt (CAOB) is a natural laboratory for studies of continental dynamics and metallogenesis. This paper summarizes the research progresses of the accretionary processes and metallogenesis of the CAOB since the People’s Republic of China was founded, and puts forward the prospect for future research. During the early period (1950s–1970s), several geological theories were applied to explain the geological evolution of Central Asia. In the early period of China’s reform and opening-up, the plate tectonics theory was applied to explain the evolution of the northern Xinjiang and Xingmeng regions, and the opinion of subduction-collision between Siberian, Kazakhstan, and China-North Korea-Tarim plates was proposed. The idea of the Solonker-Yanbian suture zone was established. In the 1990s, the study of the CAOB entered a period of rapid development. One school of scholars including geologists from the former Soviet Union proposed a multi-block collision model for the assemblage of the CAOB. In contrast, another school of scholars, led by a Turkish geologist, Celal Şengör, proposed that the Altaids was formed through the growth and strike-slip duplicates of a single island arc, and pointed out that the Altaids is a special type of collisional orogen. During this period, Chinese geologists carried out a lot of pioneering researches on ophiolites and high-pressure metamorphic rocks in northern China, and confirmed the main suture zones accordingly. In 1999, the concept of “Central Asian metallogenic domain” was proposed, and it became one of the three major metallogenic domains in the world. Since the 21st century, given the importance for understanding continental accretion and metallogenic mechanism, the CAOB has become the international academic forefront. China has laid out a series of scientific research projects in Central Asia. A large number of important scientific research achievements have been spawned, including the tectonic attribution of micro-continents, timing and tectonic settings of ophiolites, magmatic arcs, identification and anatomy of accretionary wedges, regional metamorphism-deformation, (ultra)high-pressure metamorphism, ridge subduction, plume-plate interaction, archipelagic paleogeography and spatio-temporal framework of multiple accretionary orogeny, continental growth, accretionary metallogenesis, structural superposition and transformation, etc. These achievements have made important international influences. There still exist the following aspects that need further study: (1) Early evolution history and subduction initiation of the Paleo-Asian Ocean; (2) The accretionary mechanism of the extroversion Paleo-Asian Ocean; (3) The properties of the mantle of the Paleo-Asian Ocean and their spatiotemporal distribution; (4) The interaction between the Paleo-Asian Ocean and the Tethys Ocean; (5) Phanerozoic continental growth mechanism and its global comparison; (6) Accretionary metallogenic mechanism of the Central Asian metallogenic domain; and (7) Continental transformation mechanism.


CAOB Accretionary orogenic processes Metallogenesis Research progress Research frontier 


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The tectonic evolution of the CAOB is very complex, and it is impossible to give a detailed review of all the research advances of the accretionary process and metallogenesis in Central Asia. This paper is only a preliminary summary based on a large number of research results from domestic and international research groups. We apologize for inevitably missing references due to space limitation. Sun S gave careful instructions to the study of the accretionary process in Central Asia. Xiao X C, Li T D, Zhang G W, Xu Z Q, Jin Z M, Wang C S, Zheng Y F, Wu F Y, Ge X H, Xu W L, Xu J F, Liu Y J, Zhang J J, Zhou J B, Liu W, A M C Şengör, K Schulmann, T Kusky, and R Seltmann offered great guidance and help to the authors in accretionary tectonic research, which is greatly acknowledged. The Editor-in-Chief and two reviewers gave detailed and constructive suggestions on the manuscript. This work was supported by the National Key R & D Program of China (Grant No. 2017YFC0601201), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41888101, 41730210, 41672219), and the IGCP662 Project.


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wenjiao Xiao
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Dongfang Song
    • 2
    • 3
  • Brian F. Windley
    • 4
  • Jiliang Li
    • 2
  • Chunming Han
    • 2
    • 3
  • Bo Wan
    • 2
    • 3
  • Ji’En Zhang
    • 2
    • 3
  • Songjian Ao
    • 2
    • 3
  • Zhiyong Zhang
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Research Centre for Mineral Resources, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and GeographyChinese Academy of SciencesUrumqiChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Lithospheric Evolution, Institute of Geology and GeophysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.College of Earth and Planetary SciencesUniversity of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.Department of GeologyUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK

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