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Recycling lower continental crust in the North China craton
ABSTRACT:  Foundering of mafic lower continental crust into underlying convecting mantle has been proposed as one means to explain the unusually evolved chemical composition of Earth’s continental crust1,2, yet direct evidence of this process has been scarce. Here we report that Late Jurassic high-magnesium andesites, dacites and adakites (siliceous lavas with high strontium and low heavyrare-earth element and yttrium contents) from the North China craton have chemical and petrographic features consistent with their origin as partial melts of eclogite that subsequently interacted with mantle peridotite. Similar features observed in adakites and some Archaean sodium-rich granitoids of the tonalitetrondhjemite-granodiorite series have been interpreted to result from interaction of slab melts with the mantle wedge. Unlike their arc-related counterparts, however, the Chinese magmas carry inherited Archaean zircons and have neodymium and strontium isotopic compositions overlapping those of eclogite xenoliths derived from the lower crust of the North China craton. Such features cannot be produced by crustal assimilation of slab melts, given the high Mg#, nickel and chromium contents of the lavas. We infer that the Chinese lavas derive from ancient mafic lower crust that foundered into the convecting mantle and subsequently melted and interacted with peridotite. We suggest that lower crustal foundering occurred within the North China craton during the Late Jurassic, and thus provides constraints on the timing of lithosphere removal beneath the North China craton.
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