238U-230Th disequilibria, magma petrogenesis, and flux rates beneath the depleted Tonga-Kermadec island arc

Simon Turner*, Chris Hawkesworth, Nick Rogers, Jessica Bartlett, Tim Worthington, Janet Hergt, Julian Pearce, Ian Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

347 Citations (Scopus)


The highly depleted intra-oceanic Tonga-Kermadec island arc forms an endmember of arc systems and a unique location in which to isolate the effects of the slab flux. High precision TIMS uranium, thorium, strontium, neodymium, and lead isotopes, along with complete major and trace element data, have been obtained on an extensive sample set comprising fifty-eight lavas along the arc as well as nineteen samples of the subducting sediments at DSDP site 204 just to the east of the Tonga-Kermadec trench. Ca/Ti and Al/Ti ratios extend from values appropriate to an N-MORB source in the southern Kermadecs to very high ratios in Tonga interpreted to reflect increasing degrees of depletion of the mantle wedge due to backarc basalt extraction. The isotope data emphasize the need for four components in the petrogenesis of the lavas: (1) the mantle wedge; (2) a component with elevated 207Pb/204Pb towards which the Kermadec and southern Tongan lavas extend; (3) a component characterised by high 206Pb/204Pb, Ta/Nd, and low 143Nd/144Nd observed only in the northernmost Tongan islands of Tafahi and Niuatoputapu; (4) a fluid component characterised by strong enrichments of Rb, Ba, U, K, Pb, and Sr, relative to Th, Zr, and the REE and producing large 238U excesses ((230Th/238U) = 0.8-0.5) in the more depleted lavas. The mantle wedge (Component 1) is isotopically similar to the source of the Lau BABB. Component 2 is average pelagic sediment on the downgoing Pacific plate as observed at DSDP sites 595/596 and in the upper sections of the sediment pile at DSDP site 204. Mass balance calculations indicate that less than 0.5% is recycled into the arc lavas; essentially all the subducted sediment is returned to the upper mantle (∼0.03 km3 yr-1). Exceptionally low concentrations of Ta and Nb relative to Th and the LREE requires that this sediment component is added as a partial melt which was in equilibrium with residual rutile or ilmenite. Component 3 is identified as volcaniclastics from the Louisville Ridge which comprise the lower 44 m of the sediment section intersected at DSDP site 204. These volcaniclastics are spatially restricted to the vicinity of the Louisville Ridge and provide a unique sediment tracer which can be used to show that it takes ∼4 Myr from the time of subduction to its first appearance in the arc lava signature. Component 4, the fluid contribution to the lava source is inferred to contribute ∼1 ppm Rb, 10 ppm Ba, 0.02 ppm U, 600 ppm K, 0.2 ppm Pb, and 30 ppm Sr. It has 87Sr/86Sr = 0.7035 and 206Pb/204Pb = 18.5 and thus it is inferred to have been derived from dehydration of the subducting altered oceanic crust. U-Th isotope disequilibria reflect the time since fluid release from the subducting slab and a reference line through the lowest (230Th/232Th) lavas constrains this to be 30,000-50,000 yr. The U-Th and Th-Ra isotope systematics are decoupled, and it is suggested that Th-Ra isotope disequilibria record the time since partial melting and thus indicate rapid channelled magma ascent. Olivine gabbro xenoliths from Raoul are interpreted as cumulates to their host lavas with which they form zero age U-Th isochrons indicating that minimal time was spent in magma chambers. The subduction signature is not observed in lavas from the backarc island of Ninafo'ou. These were derived from partial melting of fertile peridotite at 130-160 km depth with melt rates around 2 × 10-4 kg m-3 yr-1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4855-4884
Number of pages30
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1997
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of '238U-230Th disequilibria, magma petrogenesis, and flux rates beneath the depleted Tonga-Kermadec island arc'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this