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Widespread refertilization of cratonic and circum-cratonic lithospheric mantle

Tang, Yan-Jie, Zhang, Hong-Fu, Ying, Ji-Feng, Su, Ben-Xun
Earth-science reviews 2013 v.118 pp. 45-68
aluminum, aluminum oxide, calcium, calcium oxide, elemental composition, geochemistry, magnesium oxide, melting, sodium, strontium, sulfides, Africa, Australia, China, Europe
Studies of mantle xenoliths have confirmed that Archean subcontinental lithospheric mantle (SCLM) is highly depleted in basaltic components (such as Al, Ca and Na) due to high-degree extraction of mafic and ultramafic melts and thus is refractory and buoyant, which made it chronically stable as tectonically independent units. However, increasing studies show that ancient SCLM can be refertilized by episodic rejuvenation events like infiltration of upwelling fertile material. The North China Craton is one of the most typical cases for relatively complete destruction of its Archean keel since the eruption of Paleozoic kimberlites, as is evidenced by a dramatic change in the compositions of mantle xenoliths sampled by Paleozoic to Cenozoic magmas, reflecting significant lithospheric thinning and the change in the character of the SCLM. The compositional change has been interpreted as the result of refertilization of Archean SCLM via multiple-stage peridotite-melt reactions, suggested by linear correlations between MgO and indices of fertility, covariations of Al₂O₃ with CaO, La/Yb, ⁸⁷Sr/⁸⁶Sr, ¹⁴³Nd/¹⁴⁴Nd, ¹⁸⁷Os/¹⁸⁸Os and Re-depletion ages (TRD), high Re abundances, scatter in Re–Os isotopic plot, variable in situ TRD ages of sulfides, and correlation between TRD ages and olivine Fo of peridotite xenoliths in Paleozoic kimberlites and Cenozoic basalts on the craton. By integrating major and trace element, Sr, Nd and Os isotopic compositions of peridotite xenoliths and orogenic massif peridotites from the continents of Europe, Asia, America, Africa and Australia, together with previous studies of petrology and geochemistry of global peridotites, we suggest that (1) refertilization of cratonic and circum-cratonic lithospheric mantle is widespread; (2) Archean SCLM worldwide has experienced a multi-stage history of melt depletion and refertilization since segregation from the convecting mantle; (3) cratonic SCLM may be more susceptible to compositional change caused by refertilization than is generally assumed; (4) the original character of much Archean cratonic mantle has been partly overprinted, or even erased by varying degrees of refertilization, which may play a key role in the rejuvenation and erosion of the SCLM beneath the Archean cratons. Due to the refertilization of ancient SCLM, (1) many published whole-rock Re-depletion ages cannot represent the formation ages of peridotites, but the mixtures of different generations of sulfides. Thus, the chronological significance of the Re–Os isotopic composition in individual peridotite should be cautiously interpreted; (2) many kimberlite- and intraplate basalt-borne lherzolite xenoliths, with major element compositions close to primitive mantle, may be the fragments of the ancient SCLM, strongly refertilized by infiltration of asthenosphere-derived melts, rather than newly-accreted SCLM. Consequently, new accretion of SCLM beneath ancient cratons such as the North China Craton may be less than was previously assumed.