Trace element behavior in hydrothermal experiments: Implications for fluid processes at shallow depths in subduction zones

C. F. You, P. R. Castillo, J. M. Gieskes, L. H. Chan, A. J. Spivack

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Chemical evaluation of fluids affected during progressive water-sediment interactions provides critical information regarding the role of slab dehydration and/or crustal recycling in subduction zones. To place some constraints on geochemical processes during sediment subduction, reactions between décollement sediments and synthetic NaCl-CaCl2 solutions at 25-350°C and 800 bar were monitored in laboratory hydrothermal experiments using an autoclave apparatus. This is the first attempt in a single set of experiments to investigate the relative mobilities of many subduction zone volatiles and trace elements but, because of difficulties in conducting hydrothermal experiments on sediments at high P-T conditions, the experiments could only be designed for a shallow (∼ 10 km) depth. The experimental results demonstrate mobilization of volatiles (B and NH4) and incompatible elements (As, Be, Cs, Li, Pb, Rb) in hydrothermal fluids at relatively low temperatures (∼ 300°C). In addition, a limited fractionation of light from heavy rare earth elements (REEs) occurs under hydrothermal conditions. On the other hand, the high field strength elements (HFSEs) Cr, Hf, Nb, Ta, Ti, and Zr are not mobile in the reacted fluids. The observed behavior of volatiles and trace elements in hydrothermal fluids is similar to the observed enrichment in As, B, Cs, Li, Pb, Rb, and light REEs and depletion in HFSEs in arc magmas relative to magmas derived directly from the upper mantle. Thus, our work suggests a link between relative mobilities of trace elements in hydrothermal fluids and deep arc magma generation in subduction zones. The experimental results are highly consistent with the proposal that the addition of subduction zone hydrous fluids to the subarc mantle, which has been depleted by previous melting events, can produce the unique characteristics of arc magmas. Moreover, the results suggest that deeply subducted sediments may no longer have the composition necessary to generate the other distinct characteristics, such as the B-δ11B and B-10Be systematics, of arc lavas. Finally, the mobilization of B, Cs, Pb, and light REEs relative to heavy REEs in the hydrothermal fluids fractionate the ratios of B/Be, B/Nb, Cs/Rb, Pb/Ce, La/Ba and LREE/HREE, which behave conservatively during normal magmatic processes. These results demonstrate that the composition of slab-derived fluids has great implications for the recycling of elements; not only in arc magmas but also in mantle plumes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-52
Number of pages12
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 1996 May

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science

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