A geochemical approach to distinguishing competing tectono-magmatic processes preserved in small eruptive centres

Lucy E. McGee*, Raimundo Brahm, Michael C. Rowe, Heather K. Handley, Eduardo Morgado, Luis E. Lara, Michael B. Turner, Nicolas Vinet, Miguel-Ángel Parada, Pedro Valdivia

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)


    Small eruptive centres (SECs) representing short-lived, isolated eruptions are effective samples of mantle heterogeneity over a given area, as they are generally of basaltic composition and show evidence of little magmatic processing. This is particularly powerful in volcanic arcs where the original melting process generating stratovolcanoes is often obscured by additions from the down-going slab (fluids and sediments) and the overlying crust. The Pucón area of southern Chile contains active and dormant stratovolcanoes, Holocene, basaltic SECs and an arc-scale strike-slip fault (the Liquiñe Ofqui Fault System: LOFS). The SECs show unexpected compositional heterogeneity considering their spatial proximity. We present a detailed study of these SECs combining whole rock major and trace element concentrations, U-Th isotopes and olivine-hosted melt inclusion major element and volatile contents to highlight the complex inter-relations in this small but active area. We show that heterogeneity preserved at individual SECs relates to different processes: some start in the melting region with the input of slab-derived fluids, whilst others occur later in a centre’s magmatic history with the influence of crustal contamination prior to olivine crystallisation. These signals are deduced through the combination of the different geochemical tools used in this study. We show that there is no correlation between composition and distance from the arc front, whilst the local tectonic regime has an effect on melt composition: SECs aligned along the LOFS have either equilibrium U-Th ratios or small Th-excesses instead of the large—fluid influenced—U-excesses displayed by SECs situated away from this feature. One of the SECs is modelled as being generated from fluid-enriched depleted mantle, a source which it may share with the stratovolcano Villarrica, whilst another SEC with abundant evidence of crustal contamination may share its plumbing system with its neighbouring stratovolcano Quetrupillán, showing that polygenetic–monogenetic connections are unpredictable. Such marked preservation of individual magmatic histories highlights the isolation of individual melting events even in complex and highly volcanically active areas.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number44
    Pages (from-to)1-26
    Number of pages26
    JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


    • Southern Chile
    • U-Th isotopes
    • Heterogeneity
    • Monogenetic
    • Melt inclusions
    • Tectonics


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