Mantle plumes originate at depths near the core−mantle boundary (~2,800 km). As such, they provide invaluable information about the composition of the deep mantle and insight into convection, crustal formation, and crustal recycling, as well as global heat and volatile budgets. In this Review, we discuss the effectiveness and challenges of using isotopic analyses of plume-generated rocks to infer mantle composition and to constrain geodynamic models. Isotopic analyses of plume-derived ocean island basalts, including radiogenic (Sr, Nd, Pb, Hf, W, noble gas) and stable isotopes (Li, C, O, S, Fe, Tl), permit determination of mantle plume composition, which in turn generate insight into mantle plume origins, dynamics, mantle heterogeneities, early-formed mantle reservoirs, crustal recycling processes, core−mantle interactions and mantle evolution. Nevertheless, the magmatic flux, temperature, tectonic environment and compositions of mantle plumes can vary. Consequently, plumes and their melts are best evaluated along a spectrum that acknowledges their different properties, particularly mantle flux, before making interpretations about the interior of the Earth. To provide insight into specific mantle and plume processes, future work should document correlations across elemental and isotopic data sets on the same sample powder, coordinate targeting sampling strategies, and refine stable isotopic fractionation factors through experiments. Such work will benefit from collaboration across geochemical laboratories, as well as among geochemists, mineral physicists, seismologists and geodynamicists.
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Figure 2a–f and the Supplementary figures were constructed from a combined data set of precompiled files for oceanic island groups from GeoRoc and several curated data sets64,81,86. New data were downloaded from the GeoRoc geochemistry database in October 2021 and include data from Azores, Easter and Salas y Gomez Islands, Iceland, Kerguelen and St Helena. Primary GeoRoc data selection criteria were geological setting (Ocean Island), selection of ocean island chain, type of material (whole rock) and type of rock (volcanic rock). GeoRoc data from the initial search were combined with additional data downloaded from GeoRoc in July 2020 and 2021, some of which is presented in ref. 86. These data include Samoa, Cook−Austral Islands, Pitcairn−Gambier, Easter, Galápagos, Society and Mauritius (see supplementary information in ref. 86 for a full list of references). New Pitcairn and Society trace element concentration and isotope composition data from ref. 118 were added to the GeoRoc compilation, along with data from the Galápagos from ref. 64. Hawaiian-Emperor data were taken from ref. 81. The total number of samples in the compiled data set is 19,824 and most isotopic data are post-1990. The format of each of these precompiled files was standardized and imported into R, a free open-source statistical computing application for analysis and plotting. All data sets except those downloaded in October 2021 were renormalized to the same standard values to ensure comparability81. For major element and isotope plots, no filters were used on the data set to assess data quality, which varied between laboratories, instrumentation, methods and detection limits over the past 40–50 years (much of these metadata are not included in the GeoRoc database or are inconsistently included and therefore difficult to apply across such a varied data set). For trace element plots, a filter of SiO2 >55 wt% and total alkalis (Na2O+K2O) <8 wt% was applied to remove highly silica-undersaturated samples or lavas that were produced by anomalously low degrees of partial melting. This filter removes samples with heavily enriched incompatible trace element concentrations, which would skew the average results presented in the extended trace element spider diagram.
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D.W. acknowledges support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada through a Discovery Grant (‘From mantle geodynamics to environmental processes: a geochemical perspective’) and from UBC for the Killam Professorship. K.S.H. received support from the National Science Foundation Grant RUI ‘The effect of a mid-ocean ridge-centered environment on a zoned mantle plume and associated secondary magmatism’ (NSF award number 2018283). L.N.H. is grateful for the support of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Volcano Science Center and the USGS Mendenhall Postdoctoral program. M.B. received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement No. 682778). C.C. acknowledges support from ERC (Grant Agreement No. 833632 — Survival of Hadean Remnants in a Dynamic mantle). R.P. was supported by NSF EAR 2145663. Any use of trade, firm or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Weis, D., Harpp, K.S., Harrison, L.N. et al. Earth’s mantle composition revealed by mantle plumes. Nat Rev Earth Environ 4, 604–625 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43017-023-00467-0