Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 60, Issue 11, pp 1976–2000 | Cite as

Mantle geochemistry: Insights from ocean island basalts

  • ShiChun HuangEmail author
  • YongFei Zheng


The geochemical study of the Earth’s mantle provides important constraints on our understanding of the formation and evolution of Earth, its internal structure, and the mantle dynamics. The bulk Earth composition is inferred by comparing terrestrial mantle rocks with chondrites, which leads to the chondritic Earth model. That is, Earth has the same relative proportions of refractory elements as that in chondrites, but it is depleted in volatiles. Ocean island basalts (OIB) may be produced by mantle plumes with possible deep origins; consequently, they provide unique opportunity to study the deep Earth. Isotopic variations within OIB can be described using a limited number of mantle endmembers, such as EM1, EM2 and HIMU, and they have been used to decipher important mantle processes. Introduction of crustal material into the deep mantle via subduction and delamination is important in generating mantle heterogeneity; however, there is active debate on how they were sampled by mantle melting, i.e., the role of olivine-poor lithologies in the OIB petrogenesis. The origin and location of high 3He/4He mantle remain controversial, ranging from unprocessed (or less processed) primitive material in the lower mantle to highly processed materials with shallow origins, including ancient melting residues, mafic cumulates under arcs, and recycled hydrous minerals. Possible core-mantle interaction was hypothesized to introduce distinctive geochemical signatures such as radiogenic 186Os and Fe and Ni enrichment in the OIB. Small but important variations in some short-lived nuclides, including 142Nd, 182W and several Xe isotopes, have been reported in ancient and modern terrestrial rocks, implying that the Earth’s mantle must have been differentiated within the first 100 Myr of its formation, and the mantle is not efficiently homogenized by mantle convection.


Mantle structure Mantle composition Crustal components Crust-mantle interaction Crustal recycling 


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This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant No. NSF EAR-1524387) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41590620).


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeoscienceUniversity of NevadaLas VegasUSA
  2. 2.CAS Key Laboratory of Crust-Mantle Material and Environment, School of Earth and Space SciencesUniversity of Science and Technology of ChinaHefeiChina

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