Mantle plumes are key drivers of volcanism within tectonic plates. Variations in plume flux and the resulting magma flux are expected within a plume’s lifetime, but their impact on volcanic architecture and eruption products and styles remains poorly constrained. Here we combine mineralogy, petrology and geochronology of Earth’s longest continental hotspot chain to assess the effects of waning plume strength on magma flux and pre-eruptive magma transport and storage. We focus on Cenozoic age-progressive volcanoes across eastern Australia, divided by a change in plate motion and voluminous volcanism. Northern volcanoes are older and ‘long-lived’ (3.5–7 million years (Ma)) and erupted high volumes (>800 km³) of bimodal magmas (basalts and rhyolites), producing homogeneous, crystal-poor basalts (~3 vol% phenocrysts). Southern volcanoes are smaller (<300 km³), ‘short-lived’ (≤1.5 Ma) and split into two parallel tracks that erupted more evolved and texturally complex magmas (~12 vol% phenocrysts, internally zoned). These findings imply waning magma flux leads to increasingly complex feeder systems that enhance magma storage and differentiation. Similar trends in hotspot tracks globally suggest that plume and magma flux play a crucial role in the evolution of intraplate volcanoes.
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The datasets generated and/or analysed during the current study are presented in the main figures and supplementary figures. All data are available as electronic supplementary files in .xlsx format (Supplementary Files 1 to 4). Electronic supplementary files are available in the Figshare repository at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.21856362.
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We are indebted to the early work of A. Ewart (including his thin section collection), P. Wellman and I. McDougall and thank T. Crossingham, I. Jones and B. Cohen for sharing the thin section collection on East Australia shield volcanoes (UQ AGES). We thank Queensland and New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Services for sampling permits SL101471 and WITK18783318 and the staff at the National Parks and Wildlife Services for their assistance with fieldwork. We are grateful for insightful discussions with F. Lin Sutherland and A. Marzoli, as well as T. Crossingham, J. Ward and R. Magee who also assisted with electron microscopy. We thank A. MacDonald for her assistance with the R script for thermobarometric calculations and Gang Xia (Rock Lab, SEES, UQ) for his assistance with thin section preparation. We acknowledge the facilities and staff of the Australian Microscopy and Microanalysis Research Facility at the Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis at the University of Queensland. We highly appreciate constructive comments from P. Ball, C. Class, K. Harpp which helped us improve the original version of the paper. This work was supported by the University of Queensland Argon Laboratory (UQ AGES, P.M.V.) and a Foundation Research Excellence Award from the University of Queensland (UQ-FREA RM2019001828, T.U.). Construction of UQ AGES was partially funded by Australian Research Council Equipment grant A39531815. A.T.T. acknowledges the support from the Australian Government Research Training Program (UQRTP; PhD scholarship).
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Supplementary Fig. 1: Eruption rate overview. Supplementary Fig. 2: Representative thin section scans and overview of porphyricity measurements. Supplementary Fig. 3: Overview of bulk rock major element variations in Hawaii, Columbia River and Tristan–Gough plume tracks. Supplementary Fig. 4: Common source component evidence. Supplementary Fig. 5: Petrographic and geochemical variations in seamounts. Supplementary Fig. 6: 40Ar/39Ar ages from Tweed–Main Range complex. Supplementary Fig. 7: Clinopyroxene thermobarometry comparison.
Supplementary Data 1
Porphyricity and phenocryst length summary.
Supplementary Data 2
In situ mineral chemistry, standard analyses and thermobarometry.
Supplementary Data 3
Whole rock and groundmass geochemistry.
Supplementary Data 4
Geochemistry of Columbia River Basalt, Walvis–Gough track and Hawaiian hotspots.
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Tapu, A.T., Ubide, T. & Vasconcelos, P.M. Increasing complexity in magmatic architecture of volcanoes along a waning hotspot. Nat. Geosci. 16, 371–379 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-023-01156-9