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Boninite and Harzburgite from Leg 125 (Bonin-Mariana Forearc): A Case Study of Magma Genesis during the Initial Stages of Subduction

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  • Earth Science
  • Geography


Holes drilled into the volcanic and ultrabasic basement of the Izu-Ogasawara and Mariana forearc terranes during Leg 125 provide data on some of the earliest lithosphere created after the start of Eocene subduction in the Western Pacific. The volcanic basement contains three boninite series and one tholeiite series. (1) Eocene low-Ca boninite and low-Ca bronzite andesite pillow lavas and dikes dominate the lowermost part of the deep crustal section through the outer-arc high at Site 786. (2) Eocene intermediate-Ca boninite and its fractionation products (bronzite andesite, andesite, dacite, and rhyolite) make up the main part of the boninitic edifice at Site 786. (3) Early Oligocene intermediate-Ca to high-Ca boninite sills or dikes intrude the edifice and perhaps feed an uppermost breccia unit at Site 786. (4) Eocene or Early Oligocene tholeiitic andesite, dacite, and rhyolite form the uppermost part of the outer-arc high at Site 782. All four groups can be explained by remelting above a subduction zone of oceanic mantle lithosphere that has been depleted by its previous episode of partial melting at an ocean ridge. We estimate that the average boninite source had lost 10-15 wt% of melt at the ridge before undergoing further melting (5-10%) shortly after subduction started. The composition of the harzburgite (<2% clinopyroxene, Fo content of about 92%) indicates that it underwent a total of about 25% melting with respect to a fertile MORB mantle. The low concentration of Nb in the boninite indicates that the oceanic lithosphere prior to subduction was not enriched by any asthenospheric (OIB) component. The subduction component is characterized by (1) high Zr and Hf contents relative to Sm, Ti, Y, and middle-heavy REE, (2) light REE-enrichment, (3) low contents of Nb and Ta relative to Th, Rb, or La, (4) high contents of Na and Al, and (5) Pb isotopes on the Northern Hemisphere Reference Line. This component is unlike any subduction component from active arc volcanoes in the Izu-Mariana region or elsewhere. Modeling suggests that these characteristics fit a trondhjemitic melt from slab fusion in amphibolite facies. The resulting metasomatized mantle may have contained about 0.15 wt% water. The overall melting regime is constrained by experimental data to shallow depths and high temperatures (1250°C and 1.5 kb for an average boninite) of boninite segregation. We thus envisage that boninites were generated by decompression melting of a diapir of metasomatized residual MORB mantle leaving the harzburgites as the uppermost, most depleted residue from this second stage of melting. Thermal constraints require that both subducted lithosphere and overlying oceanic lithosphere of the mantle wedge be very young at the time of boninite genesis. This conclusion is consistent with models in which an active transform fault offsetting two ridge axes is placed under compression or transpression following the Eocene plate reorganization in the Pacific. Comparison between Leg 125 boninites and boninites and related rocks elsewhere in the Western Pacific highlights large regional differences in petrogenesis in terms of mantle mineralogy, degree of partial melting, composition of subduction components, and the nature of pre-subduction lithosphere. It is likely that, on a regional scale, the initiation of subduction involved subducted crust and lithospheric mantle wedge of a range of ages and compositions, as might be expected in this type of tectonic setting.

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