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Trace element signature of subduction-zone fluids, melts and supercritical liquids at 120–180 km depth


Fluids and melts liberated from subducting oceanic crust recycle lithophile elements back into the mantle wedge, facilitate melting and ultimately lead to prolific subduction-zone arc volcanism1,2. The nature and composition of the mobile phases generated in the subducting slab at high pressures have, however, remained largely unknown3,4,5,6,7. Here we report direct LA-ICPMS measurements of the composition of fluids and melts equilibrated with a basaltic eclogite at pressures equivalent to depths in the Earth of 120–180 km and temperatures of 700–1,200 °C. The resultant liquid/mineral partition coefficients constrain the recycling rates of key elements. The dichotomy of dehydration versus melting at 120 km depth is expressed through contrasting behaviour of many trace elements (U/Th, Sr, Ba, Be and the light rare-earth elements). At pressures equivalent to 180 km depth, however, a supercritical liquid with melt-like solubilities for the investigated trace elements is observed, even at low temperatures. This mobilizes most of the key trace elements (except the heavy rare-earth elements, Y and Sc) and thus limits fluid-phase transfer of geochemical signatures in subduction zones to pressures less than 6 GPa.

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Figure 1: Experimental fluid–solid partition coefficients for average MORB.
Figure 2: Key trace element distribution coefficients characterizing the geochemical signature of the mobile phase during subduction processes.


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Correspondence to Ronit Kessel.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Tables S1–S6

These six Supplementary Tables provide the concentrations of all phases (garnet, clinopyroxene, liquid) in each experiment, as well as their abundance. Also provided are the bulk partition coefficients of each element and its mobility. (XLS 93 kb)

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Kessel, R., Schmidt, M., Ulmer, P. et al. Trace element signature of subduction-zone fluids, melts and supercritical liquids at 120–180 km depth. Nature 437, 724–727 (2005).

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