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New insights into the magmatic plumbing system of the South Australian Quaternary Basalt province from 3D seismic and geochemical data

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 23:15 authored by Holt, SJ, Holford, SP, Foden, J
Recent seismic reflection studies of large-volume, anorogenic basaltic provinces at passive continental margins have challenged the traditional viewpoint that erupted magmas predominantly ascend through the lithosphere via dykes that exploit high-angle faults. However, such seismic-based methods are yet to be applied to identify the magmatic plumbing systems of low-volume basaltic provinces, such as the Cretaceous–Cenozoic Newer Volcanic Province (NVP) in southeastern Australia (total volume <20 000 km3). The South Australian Quaternary Basalt (SAQB) represents the most recent phase of activity both within the NVP and on the Australian continent. This province is located within the Otway Basin, and a large amount of seismic data from gas exploration is available for this region. Consequently, the SAQB represents a superb natural laboratory in which geochemical and seismic data can be combined in order to study the magmatic plumbing system of a low-volume continental basalt province and discriminate between the competing hypotheses for magma transport through the Earth's crust. Geochemical analyses and thermodynamic modelling suggests that the magma that fed the SAQB was generated by adiabatic decompressional melting of a secondary mantle plume. These models imply that melt segregation took place at successively lower pressures from about ∼4000 to 3000 MPa during the ca 1 Ma SAQB eruptive history that culminated in the Northern Group, Mt Schank and Mt Gambier eruptions. During ascent, the magma underwent 34–41% fractional crystallisation and cooled ∼200 °C, while residing in the crust for a time period on the order of days to weeks. Interpretation of a 3D seismic survey that overlaps with the northeastern part of the SAQB reveals a saucer-shaped sill with an unusual morphology, exhibiting a series of vertical concentric steps towards its outer rim. This sill appears to be fed by magma that intruded along steep normal faults from a feeder dyke that is hosted by the regional, NW–SE-trending Hungerford-Kalangadoo Fault. Our results suggest that the melt that fed the SAQB rose through the crust via dykes and high-angle normal faults, with less evidence for significant horizontal transport of magma than observed in large-volume basaltic provinces in sedimentary basins at rifted continental margins, possibly highlighting a correlation between the extent, volume and magma supply rate within a basaltic province and the nature of magma ascent.


Publication title

Australian Journal of Earth Sciences










School of Natural Sciences


Taylor & Francis

Place of publication

Oxfordshire, UK

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Copyright 2014 Geological Society of Australia

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