Pervasive Eclogitization Due to Brittle Deformation and Rehydration of Subducted Basement: Effects on Continental Recycling?

Engi, Martin; Giuntoli, Francesco; Lanari, Pierre; Burn, Marco; Kunz, Barbara and Bouvier, Anne-Sophie (2018). Pervasive Eclogitization Due to Brittle Deformation and Rehydration of Subducted Basement: Effects on Continental Recycling? Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 19(3) pp. 865–881.



The buoyancy of continental crust opposes its subduction to mantle depths, except where mineral reactions substantially increase rock density. Sluggish kinetics limit such densification, especially in dry rocks, unless deformation and hydrous fluids intervene. Here we document how hydrous fluids in the subduction channel invaded lower crustal granulites at 50–60 km depth through a dense network of probably seismically induced fractures. We combine analyses of textures and mineral composition with thermodynamic modeling to reconstruct repeated stages of interaction, with pulses of high‐pressure (HP) fluid at 650–670°C, rehydrating the initially dry rocks to micaschists. SIMS oxygen isotopic data of quartz indicate fluids of crustal composition. HP growth rims in allanite and zircon show uniform U‐Th‐Pb ages of ∼65 Ma and indicate that hydration occurred during subduction, at eclogite facies conditions. Based on this case study in the Sesia Zone (Western Italian Alps), we conclude that continental crust, and in particular deep basement fragments, during subduction can behave as substantial fluid sinks, not sources. Density modeling indicates a bifurcation in continental recycling: Chiefly mafic crust, once it is eclogitized to >60%, are prone to end up in a subduction graveyard, such as is tomographically evident beneath the Alps at ∼550 km depth. By contrast, dominantly felsic HP fragments and mafic granulites remain positively buoyant and tend be incorporated into an orogen and be exhumed with it. Felsic and intermediate lithotypes remain positively buoyant even where deformation and fluid percolation allowed them to equilibrate at HP.

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  • Item ORO ID
  • 54802
  • Item Type
  • Journal Item
  • ISSN
  • 1525-2027
  • Project Funding Details
  • Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
    Not Set200020-146175Swiss National Science Foundation
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
  • Copyright Holders
  • © 2018 American Geophysical Union
  • Depositing User
  • Barbara Kunz