Lithium and boron isotope systematics in lavas from the Azores islands reveal crustal assimilation

Felix S. Genske*, Simon P. Turner, Christoph Beier, Mei Fei Chu, Sonia Tonarini, Norman J. Pearson, Karsten M. Haase

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


The stable isotope systems of Li and B are useful tools for the understanding of ocean island basalt genesis. We have applied both systems to a comprehensive set of well-characterised samples across the Azores islands in order to further evaluate the nature of the mantle source. These ocean islands represent the surface expression of a low-buoyancy mantle plume. The variability of Li and B concentrations and their isotopic compositions across the archipelago builds on recent radiogenic isotope studies from the islands to the west of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (Flores and Corvo). The results for both systems yield some values that are typical for ocean island basalts; however, the variability of both δ7Li and δ11B observed in primitive lavas is most extreme on the western islands of Flores and Corvo (δ7Li=+3.5 to +8.2‰ and δ11B=-3.5 to +11.8‰). The large spread in isotopic composition is most likely due to contamination of the magmas during ascent through hydrothermally altered oceanic crust. Models of assimilation fractional crystallisation best explain the variability observed on each island and allow for robust estimates of the mantle source. The implication of these observations is that the interpretation of the radiogenic isotopes and trace elements may have to be treated with care if the stable isotopes record contamination by assimilation of hydrothermally altered material and that the use of Li and B as mantle source tracers may be obscured by shallow level processes. Further, it seems unlikely that the large range observed in Sr and Nd isotopes can reflect variable contributions from recycled low-T materials such as sediment or altered MORB, since there is no correlation between the radiogenic and stable isotope data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-36
Number of pages10
JournalChemical Geology
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2014


  • Assimilation
  • Azores mantle plume
  • Lithium-Boron isotopes
  • Ocean island basalts
  • Recycling


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