Generation of continental intraplate alkali basalts and implications for deep carbon cycle

Rong Xu, Yongsheng Liu*, Xuan-Ce Wang, Stephen F. Foley, Yanfei Zhang, Huaiyu Yuan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Although the deep recycling of carbon has been proposed to play a key role in producing intraplate magmatism, the question of how it controls or triggers mantle melting remains poorly understood. In addition, generation of incipient carbonated melts in the mantle and their subsequent reaction with the mantle are critical processes that can influence the geochemistry of intraplate basalts, but the details of such processes are also unclear. Here we present geochemical evidence for the existence of pervasive carbonate melt in the mantle source of Cenozoic continental intraplate highly alkali basalts (SiO2 < 45 wt%), which are volumetrically minor but widespread in eastern China. The primary magma compositions of these basalts cannot be explained by either partial melting of a single mantle source lithology or mixing of magmas derived from distinct mantle sources, but can be adequately explained by carbonate-fluxed melting of eclogite and subsequent reaction between silica-rich melts and peridotite that ultimately transformed the initial carbonated silica-rich melts into silica-undersaturated alkalic magmas. The source of the carbonate is in subducted eclogites associated with the Pacific plate, which stagnated in the mantle transition zone (MTZ). The spatial distribution of the alkali basalts is in accord with large-scale seismic low-velocity anomalies in the upper mantle above the MTZ. Similar scenarios in central-western Europe and eastern Australia lead us to propose that reaction between carbonated silica-rich melt and peridotite may be a pivotal mechanism for the generation of continental intraplate alkali basalts elsewhere in the world.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103073
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • Eastern China
  • Alkali basalt
  • Melt-peridotite reaction
  • Carbonate-fluxed melting
  • Mantle transition zone


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