Lithium isotopic composition of Central American Volcanic Arc lavas: Implications for modification of subarc mantle by slab-derived fluids

L. H. Chan, W. P. Leeman, C. F. You

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Li contents and isotopic compositions were determined for a suite of well-characterized basaltic lavas from the Central American Volcanic Arc (CAVA). Variable Li/Y (0.2-0.5), Li/Sc (0.1-0.4), and δ6Li values (+2.6 to -7.7‰) attest to significant compositional heterogeneity in the subarc mantle. Within specific arc segments, these parameters correlate strongly with each other and with a number of other constituents (e.g., K, Rb, Ba, B/La, 10Be/9Be, 87Sr/86Sr, U/Ce, and 230Th/232Th, among others); these correlations are particularly strong for Nicaragua samples. Coupling of this particular set of constituents is best explained in terms of addition of 'subduction components' to the subarc mantle. Moreover, their selective enrichment with respect to relatively fluid-immobile incompatible elements signifies the dominance of fluid vs. silicate melt transport of slab components to the subarc mantle. Several interesting nuances are revealed by the Li data. First, although Li and B are strongly correlated in both Costa Rica and Nicaragua, there are systematic along-strike variations in Li/B that are consistent with these elements having different 'fluid release patterns' from subducted slab segments. For example, Li/B is highest in Costa Rica where auxiliary evidence indicates higher subduction zone temperatures; apparently B is preferentially depleted and Li retained in the slab under warmer conditions. The same relations are reflected in Li/10Be and other subduction tracer systematics, all of which point to larger subduction contributions below Nicaragua. Yet, even Nicaragua lavas vary widely in levels of subduction enrichment. High-Ti basalts from Nejapa are the least enriched and have the highest δ6Li (1.4 to 2.6‰); these values are greater than in fresh MORB (ca. -4‰) and are not easily explained by additions of subducted Li because most oceanic crustal rocks and marine sediments have lower δ6Li than MORB (with typical values between -8 and -20‰). Thus, it appears the Nejapa data may be representative of isotopically light mantle domains. Relatively light δ6Li values in an undepleted spinel lherzolite (+11.3‰) from Zabargad Is. (Red Sea) and in primitive backarc basalts (-1.6 to -0.5‰) from Lau Basin support this conclusion. Considering representative fluid and mantle endmember compositions, the CAVA data are consistent with limited (up to a few percent) additions of slab-derived fluids to a heterogeneous mantle containing variably depleted and enriched domains to form the respective magma sources. In our view, the subarc mantle is heterogeneous on a small scale, but some arc sectors clearly received greater slab inputs than others.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-280
Number of pages26
JournalChemical Geology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1999 Sep 2

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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