Chinese Science Bulletin

, Volume 58, Issue 35, pp 4371–4377 | Cite as

Continental subduction channel processes: Plate interface interaction during continental collision

  • YongFei ZhengEmail author
  • ZiFu Zhao
  • YiXiang Chen
Open Access
Progress Special Topic Tectonics of Continental Collision Orogens


The study of subduction-zone processes is a key to development of the plate tectonic theory. Plate interface interaction is a basic mechanism for the mass and energy exchange between Earth’s surface and interior. By developing the subduction channel model into continental collision orogens, insights are provided into tectonic processes during continental subduction and its products. The continental crust, composed of felsic to mafic rocks, is detached at different depths from subducting continental lithosphere and then migrates into continental subduction channel. Part of the subcontinental lithospheric mantle wedge, composed of peridotite, is offscrapped from its bottom. The crustal and mantle fragments of different sizes are transported downwards and upwards inside subduction channels by the corner flow, resulting in varying extents of metamorphism, with heterogeneous deformation and local anatexis. All these metamorphic rocks can be viewed as tectonic melanges due to mechanical mixing of crust- and mantle-derived rocks in the subduction channels, resulting in different types of metamorphic rocks now exposed in the same orogens. The crust-mantle interaction in the continental subduction channel is realized by reaction of the overlying ancient subcontinental lithospheric mantle wedge peridotite with aqueous fluid and hydrous melt derived from partial melting of subducted continental basement granite and cover sediment. The nature of premetamorphic protoliths dictates the type of collisional orogens, the size of ultrahigh-pressure metamorphic terranes and the duration of ultrahigh-pressure metamorphism.


continental collision subduction channel ultrahigh-pressure metamorphism differential exhumation tectonic melange 


  1. 1.
    Chopin C. Ultrahigh-pressure metamorphism; tracing continental crust into the mantle. Earth Planet Sci Lett, 2003, 212: 1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Liou J G, Ernst W G, Song S G, et al. Tectonics and HP-UHP metamorphism of northern Tibet-Preface. J Asian Earth Sci, 2009, 35: 191–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Zheng Y-F, Zhang L F, McClelland W C, et al. Processes in continental collision zones: Preface. Lithos, 2012, 136–139: 1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Shreve R L, Cloos M. Dynamics of sediment subduction, mélange formation, and prism accretion. J Geophys Res, 1986, 91B: 10229–10245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Cloos M, Shreve R L. Subduction-channel model of prism accretion, mélange formation, sediment subduction, and subduction erosion at convergent plate margins, 1, Background and description. Pure Appl Geophys, 1988, 128: 456–500Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cloos M, Shreve R L. Subduction-channel model of prism accretion, mélange formation, sediment subduction, and subduction erosion at convergent plate margins, 2, Implications and discussion. Pure Appl Geophys, 1988, 128: 501–505CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Zheng Y-F. Metamorphic chemical geodynamics in continental subduction zones. Chem Geol, 2012, 328: 5–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Beaumont C, Ellis S, Pfiffner A. Dynamics of sediment subduction-accretion at convergent margins: Short-term modes, long-term deformation, and tectonic implications. J Geophys Res, 1999, B104: 17573–17601CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Gerya T V, Stöckhert B, Perchuk A L. Exhumation of high-pressure metamorphic rocks in a subduction channel: A numerical simulation. Tectonics, 2002, 21: 1056CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Guillot S, Hattori K, Agard P, et al. Exhumation processes in oceanic and continental subduction contexts: A review. In: Lallemand S, Funiciello F, eds. Subduction Zone Geodynamics. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2009. 175–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Zheng Y-F, Fu B, Gong B, et al. Stable isotope geochemistry of ultrahigh pressure metamorphic rocks from the Dabie-Sulu orogen in China: implications for geodynamics and fluid regime. Earth Sci Rev, 2003, 62: 105–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Zheng Y-F, Zhou J-B, Wu Y-B, et al. Low-grade metamorphic rocks in the Dabie-Sulu orogenic belt: A passive-margin accretionary wedge deformed during continent subduction. Intern Geol Rev, 2005, 47: 851–871CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Rubatto D, Regis D, Hermann J, et al. Yo-yo subduction recorded by accessory minerals in the Italian Western Alps. Nat Geosci, 2011, 4: 338–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Zheng Y-F. Fluid regime in continental subduction zones: Petrological insights from ultrahigh-pressure metamorphic rocks. J Geol Soc Lond, 2009, 166: 763–782CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Zheng Y-F, Xia Q-X, Chen R-X, et al. Partial melting, fluid supercriticality and element mobility in ultrahigh-pressure metamorphic rocks during continental collision. Earth Sci Rev, 2011, 107: 342–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Zhao Z-F, Zheng Y-F, Chen R-X, et al. Element mobility in mafic and felsic ultrahigh-pressure metamorphic rocks during continental collision. Geochim Cosmochim Acta, 2007, 71: 5244–5266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Xia Q-X, Zheng Y-F, Zhou L-G. Dehydration and melting during continental collision: Constraints from element and isotope geochemistry of low-T/UHP granitic gneiss in the Dabie orogen. Chem Geol, 2008, 247: 36–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Gao X-Y, Zheng Y-F, Chen Y-X. Dehydration melting of ultrahigh-pressure eclogite in the Dabie orogen: Evidence from multiphase solid inclusions in garnet. J Metamorph Geol, 2012, 30: 193–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Chen Y-X, Zheng Y-F, Hu, Z. Synexhumation anatexis of ultrahigh-pressure metamorphic rocks: Petrological evidence from granitic gneiss in the Sulu orogen. Lithos, 2013, 156–159: 69–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Zhao Z-F, Zheng Y-F, Zhang J, et al. Syn-exhumation magmatism during continental collision: Evidence from alkaline intrusives of Triassic age in the Sulu orogen, Chem Geol, 2012, 328: 70–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Zhao Z-F, Zheng Y-F, Wei C-S, et al. Origin of postcollisional magmatic rocks in the Dabie orogen: Implications for crust-mantle interaction and crustal architecture. Lithos, 2011, 126: 99–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Dai L-Q, Zhao Z-F, Zheng Y-F, et al. Zircon Hf-O isotope evidence for crust-mantle interaction during continental deep subduction. Earth Planet Sci Lett, 2011, 308: 224–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Dai L-Q, Zhao Z-F, Zheng Y-F, et al. The nature of orogenic lithospheric mantle: Geochemical constraints from postcollisional mafic-ultramafic rocks in the Dabie orogen. Chem Geol, 2012, 334: 99–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Yang Q-L, Zhao Z-F, Zheng Y-F. Modification of subcontinental lithospheric mantle above continental subduction zone: Constraints from geochemistry of Mesozoic gabbroic rocks in southeastern North China. Lithos, 2012, 146–147: 164–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Yang Q-L, Zhao Z-F, Zheng Y-F. Slab-mantle interaction in continental subduction channel: Geochemical evidence from Mesozoic gabbroic intrusives in southeastern North China. Lithos, 2012, 155: 442–460CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Zhang J, Zhao Z-F, Zheng Y-F, et al. Zircon Hf-O isotope and whole-rock geochemical constraints on origin of postcollisional mafic to felsic dykes in the Sulu orogen. Lithos, 2012, 136–139: 225–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Dong S-W, Li Q-S, Gao R, et al. Moho-mapping in the Dabie ultrahigh-pressure collisional orogen, Central China. Am J Sci, 2008, 308: 517–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Luo Y H, Xu Y X, Yang Y J. Crustal structure beneath the Dabie orogenic belt from ambient noise tomography. Earth Planet Sci Lett, 2012, 313–314: 12–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Zhao Z-F, Zheng Y-F, Wei C S, et al. Zircon U-Pb ages, Hf and O isotopes constrain the crustal architecture of the ultrahigh-pressure Dabie orogen in China. Chem Geol, 2008, 253: 222–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Sizova E, Gerya T V, Brown M. Exhumation mechanisms of melt-bearing ultrahigh pressure crustal rocks during collision of spontaneously moving plates. J Metamorph Geol, 2012, 30: 927–955CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Warren C. Exhumation of (ultra-)high-pressure terranes: Concepts and mechanisms. Solid Earth, 2013, 4: 75–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Davies J H, von Blanckenburg F. Slab break off: A model of lithosphere detachment and its test in the magmatism and deformation of collisional orogens. Earth Planet Sci Lett, 1995, 129: 85–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    von Blanckenburg F, Davies J H. Slab breakoff: A model for syncollisional magmatism and tectonics in the Alps. Tectonics, 1995, 14: 120–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Lardeaux J M, Ledru P, Daniel I, et al. The Variscan French Massif Central—A new addition to the ultrahigh pressure metamorphic ‘club’: Exhumation processes and geodynamic consequences. Tectonophysics, 2001, 332: 143–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Beaumont C, Jamieson R A, Butler J P, et al. Crustal structure: A key constraint on the mechanism of ultra-high-pressure rock exhumation. Earth Planet Sci Lett, 2009, 287: 116–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Li Z H, Gerya T V. Polyphase formation and exhumation of high-to ultrahigh pressure rocks in continental subduction zone; numerical modeling and application to the Sulu ultrahigh-pressure terrane in eastern China. J Geophys Res, 2009, 114: B09406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Zheng Y-F, Xiao W-J, Zhao G C. Introduction to tectonics of China. Gondwana Res, 2013, 23: 1189–1306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Brun J-P, Faccenna C. Exhumation of high-pressure rocks driven by slab rollback. Earth Planet Sci Lett, 2008, 272: 1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Husson L, Brun J-P, Yamoto P, et al. Episodic slab rollback fosters exhumation of HP-UHP rocks. Geophys J Intern, 2009, 179: 1292–1300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Zheng Y-F, Chen R-X, Zhao Z-F. Chemical geodynamics of continental subduction-zone metamorphism: Insights from studies of the Chinese Continental Scientific Drilling (CCSD) core samples. Tectonophysics, 2009, 475: 327–358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Kylander-Clark A R C, Hacker B R, Mattinson C G. Size and exhumation rate of ultrahigh-pressure terranes linked to orogenic stage. Earth Planet Sci Lett, 2012, 321–322: 115–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2013

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CAS Key Laboratory of Crust-Mantle Materials and Environments, School of Earth and Space SciencesUniversity of Science and Technology of ChinaHefeiChina

Personalised recommendations