Arc magmatism at subduction zones (SZs) most voluminously supplies juvenile igneous material to build rafts of continental and intra-oceanic or island arc (CIA) crust. Return or recycling of accumulated CIA material to the mantle is also most vigorous at SZs. Recycling is effected by the processes of sediment subduction, subduction erosion, and detachment and sinking of deeply underthrust sectors of CIA crust. Long-term (>10-20 Ma) rates of additions and losses can be estimated from observational data gathered where oceanic crust underruns modern, long-running (Cenozoic to mid-Mesozoic) ocean-margin subduction zones (OMSZs, e.g. Aleutian and South America SZs). Long-term rates can also be observationally assessed at Mesozoic and older crust-suturing subduction zone (CSSZs) where thick bodies of CIA crust collided in tectonic contact (e.g. Wopmay and Appalachian orogens, India and SE Asia). At modern OMSZs arc magmatic additions at intra-oceanic arcs and at continental margins are globally estimated at c. 1.5 AU and c. 1.0 AU, respectively (1 AU, or Armstrong Unit,= 1 km3 a-1 of solid material). During collisional suturing at fossil CSSZs, global arc magmatic addition is estimated at 0.2 AU. This assessment presumes that in the past the global length of crustal collision zones averaged c. 6000 km, which is one-half that under way since the early Tertiary. The average long-term rate of arc magmatic additions extracted from modern OMSZs and older CSSZs is thus evaluated at 2.7 AU. Crustal recycling at Mesozoic and younger OMSZs is assessed at c. 60 km3 Ma-1 km-1 (c. 60% by subduction erosion). The corresponding global recycling rate is c. 2.5 AU. At CSSZs of Mesozoic, Palaeozoic and Proterozoic age, the combined upper and lower plate losses of CIA crust via subduction erosion, sediment subduction, and lower plate crustal detachment and sinking are assessed far less securely at c. 115 km3 Ma-1 km-1. At a global length of 6000 km, recycling at CSSZs is accordingly c. 0.7 AU. The collective loss of CIA crust estimated for modern OMSZs and for older CSSZs is thus estimated at c. 3.2 AU. SZ additions (2.7 AU) and subtractions (23.2 AU) are similar. Because many uncertainties and assumptions are involved in assessing and applying them to the deep past, the net growth of CIA crust during at least Phanerozoic time is viewed as effectively nil. With increasing uncertainty, the long-term balance can be applied to the Proterozoic, but not before the initiation of the present style of subduction at c. 3 Ga. Allowing that since this time a rounded-down rate of recycling of 3 AU is applicable, a startlingly high volume of CIA crust equal to that existing now has been recycled to the mantle. Although the recycled volume (c. 9 ?? 109 km3) is small (c. 1%) compared with that of the mantle, it is large enough to impart to the mantle the signature of recycled CIA crust. Because subduction zones are not spatially fixed, and their average global lengths have episodically been less or greater than at present, recycling must have contributed significantly to creating recognized heterogeneities in mantle geochemistry. ?? The Geological Society of London 2009.
Additional publication details
Implications of estimated magmatic additions and recycling losses at the subduction zones of accretionary (non-collisional) and collisional (suturing) orogens