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Argon, Oxygen, and Boron Isotopes Document High-P Subduction Metasomatism of Continental Crust


Argon, oxygen, and boron isotopic evidence documenting 40ArE accumulation in phengite during water-rich high-pressure subduction metasomatism of continental crust

Carrie A. Menold, Marty Grove, Natalie E. Sievers, Craig E. Manning, An Yin, Edward D. Young, Karen Ziegler


The Luliang Shan area of the North Qaidam high pressure (HP) to ultrahigh pressure (UHP) metamorphic terrane in northwestern China features thick, garnet- and phengite-rich metasomatic selvages that formed around gneiss-hosted mafic eclogite blocks during HP conditions. Here we present new 40Ar/39Ar, d18O, and d11B results from a previously studied 30 m, 18 sample traverse that extends from the host gneiss into a representative eclogite block. Previous thermobarometry and new mica-quartz oxygen isotope thermometry from the traverse reveal that the phengite-rich selvage formed at temperatures similar to those recorded by the eclogites at peak pressure. Quartz and white mica d18O data from the selvage cannot be explained by simple mixing of gneiss and eclogite, and indicate a fluid/rock ratio >1 during regional-scale infiltration of high d18O (ca. 14‰) fluids. Heavy d18O overgrowths of metamorphic zircon over lighter d18O detrital grains indicate that the gneiss was similarly affected. Starkly contrasting boron content and d11B compositions for the host gneiss and the selvage also cannot be explained by local-scale devolatilization of the gneiss to form the selvage. Instead, the boron systematics are best attributed to two distinct phases of fluid infiltration: (1) low-boron selvage phengite with d11B from −10 to −30‰ grew under HP conditions; and (2) tourmaline and boron-rich muscovite with generally positive d11B crystallized in the host gneiss under subsequent lower pressure epidote–amphibolite facies conditions as the Luliang Shan gneiss terrane was exhumed past shallower portions of the subduction channel. Consistent with observations made worldwide, we were able to identify uptake of excess argon (40ArE) in phengite as a high pressure phenomenon. Phengite 40Ar/39Ar ages from massive eclogite exceed the ca. 490 Ma zircon U–Pb age of eclogite metamorphism by a factor of 1.5. However, phengite ages from the more permeable schistose selvage were even older, exceeding the time of eclogite formation by a factor of 1.7. In contrast, lower pressure retrograde muscovite present within the host gneiss and in discrete shear zones cutting the selvage yield 40Ar/39Ar ages that were younger than the time of HP metamorphism and consistent with regional cooling age patterns. Our observation of high 40ArE concentrations in phengite from schistose rocks infiltrated by regionally extensive fluids at HP conditions runs contrary to widely held expectations. Conventional wisdom dictates that low phengite/fluid partition coefficients for argon (View the MathML source) coupled with the dry, closed systems conditions that are widely reported to characterize HP metamorphism of continental crust explains why high concentrations of 40ArE partitions are able to accumulate within phengite. We alternatively propose that phengite/fluid partition coefficients for argon increase linearly with pressure to values as high as 10−2 to allow phengites to accumulate large amounts of 40ArE from aqueous fluids under HP to UHP conditions.