Trace element discrimination diagrams for the tectonic interpretation of granitic rocks

Pearce, Julian A.; Harris, Nigel B. W. and Tindle, Andrew G. (1984). Trace element discrimination diagrams for the tectonic interpretation of granitic rocks. Journal of Petrology, 25 pp. 956–983.




Granites may be subdivided according to their intrusive settings into four main groups—ocean ridge granites (ORG), volcanic arc granites (VAG), within plate granites (WPG) and collision granites (COLG)—and the granites within each group may be further subdivided according to their precise settings and petrological characteristics. Using a data bank containing over 600 high quality trace element analyses of granites from known settings, it can be demonstrated using ORG-normalized geochemical patterns and element-SiO2 plots that most of these granite groups exhibit distinctive trace element characteristics. Discrimination of ORG, VAG, WPG and syn-COLG is most effective in Rb–Y–Nb and Rb–Yb–Ta space, particularly on projections of Y–Nb, Yb–Ta, Rb–(Y + Nb) and Rb–(Yb + Ta). Discrimination boundaries, though drawn empirically, can be shown by geochemical modelling to have a theoretical basis in the different petrogenetic histories of the various granite groups. Post-collision granites present the main problem of tectonic classification, since their characteristics depend on the thickness and composition of the lithosphere involved in the collision event and on the precise timing and location of magmatism. Provided they are coupled with a consideration of geological constraints, however, studies of trace element compositions in granites can clearly help in the elucidation of post-Archaean tectonic settings.

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