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The redox state of arc mantle using Zn/Fe systematics



Many arc lavas are more oxidized than mid-ocean-ridge basalts and subduction introduces oxidized components into the mantle1,2,3,4. As a consequence, the sub-arc mantle wedge is widely believed to be oxidized3,5. The Fe oxidation state of sub-arc mantle is, however, difficult to determine directly, and debate persists as to whether this oxidation is intrinsic to the mantle source6,7. Here we show that Zn/FeT (where FeT = Fe2+ + Fe3+) is redox-sensitive and retains a memory of the valence state of Fe in primary arc basalts and their mantle sources. During melting of mantle peridotite, Fe2+ and Zn behave similarly, but because Fe3+ is more incompatible than Fe2+, melts generated in oxidized environments have low Zn/FeT. Primitive arc magmas have identical Zn/FeT to mid-ocean-ridge basalts, suggesting that primary mantle melts in arcs and ridges have similar Fe oxidation states. The constancy of Zn/FeT during early differentiation involving olivine requires that Fe3+/FeT remains low in the magma. Only after progressive fractionation does Fe3+/FeT increase and stabilize magnetite as a fractionating phase. These results suggest that subduction of oxidized crustal material may not significantly alter the redox state of the mantle wedge. Thus, the higher oxidation states of arc lavas must be in part a consequence of shallow-level differentiation processes, though such processes remain poorly understood.

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Figure 1: Literature-compiled MORBs for different ridge systems.
Figure 2: Calculated Fe 3+ /Fe T versus Zn/Fe T in primary basalts.
Figure 3: Internally consistent data for a subset of primitive basalts from the Cascades arc and plutonic rocks from the Cretaceous Peninsular Ranges Batholith.
Figure 4: Literature-compiled Zn/Fe T , FeO T and wet chemistry whole-rock Fe 3+ /Fe T versus MgO in arc lavas from the Marianas, Cascades and Aleutians.


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Discussions and debates with D. Canil, R. Lange, E. Cottrell and K. Kelley are appreciated. We especially thank H. O’Neill for insights. This work was facilitated by a Geological Society of America award (to C.-T.A.L.) F.A. was supported by the Keith-Weiss Visiting Professorship at Rice University.

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Authors and Affiliations



C.-T.A.L. designed the project and wrote the paper, P.L. compiled the ferric iron contents of arc lavas, measurements were done by C.-T.A.L. and V.L.R., and all authors contributed to discussions and data analysis.

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Correspondence to Cin-Ty A. Lee.

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Lee, CT., Luffi, P., Le Roux, V. et al. The redox state of arc mantle using Zn/Fe systematics. Nature 468, 681–685 (2010).

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