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Subduction initiation terranes exposed at the front of a 2 Ma volcanically-active subduction zone

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 00:37 authored by Patriat, M, Trevor FalloonTrevor Falloon, Leonid Danyushevsky, Collot, J, Jean, MM, Hoernle, K, Hauff, F, Maas, R, Woodhead, JD, Sandrin FeigSandrin Feig
The development of ideas leading to a greater understanding of subduction initiation is limited by the scarcity of present-day examples. Furthermore, the few examples identified so far unfortunately provide few insights into the nature of magmatism at the inception of subduction. Here we report new observations from the Matthew and Hunter (M&H) subduction zone, a very young subduction zone located in the South-West Pacific. Tectonics of the area show it is younger than 2 Ma, making the M&H the youngest known volcanically-active subduction system and hence providing unique insights into the earliest stages of subduction initiation. Volcanism in this area comprises an exceptionally diverse range of contemporaneously erupting magma compositions which are spatially juxtaposed. Pb isotopic compositions and abundance of LILE and REE strongly suggest melting of upwelling asthenospheric mantle (Indian MORB) and subducted oceanic crust (Pacific MORB of the South Fiji Basin) and the mixing of these two components. Volcanism occurs much closer to the trench compared to volcanism in more mature subduction zones. We demonstrate that the M&H subduction zone is a modern example of an immature subduction system at the stage of pre-arc, near-trench magmatism. It is not yet building an arc but what we propose to call a Subduction Initiation Terrane (SITER). Today, the proto-forearc of the M&H subduction zone is a collage of these SITERs, coeval back-arc domains and remnants of pre-existing terranes including old Vitiaz Arc crust. The M&H area represents a modern analog of a Supra Subduction Zone setting where potentially a majority of ophiolites have formed their crustal and lithospheric components. Present-day magmatism in the M&H area therefore provides clues to understanding unforeseen distribution of contrasted magmatic rock types in fossil forearcs, whether they are at the front of mature subduction zones or in ophiolites.


University of Tasmania


Publication title

Earth and Planetary Science Letters








School of Natural Sciences


Elsevier Science Bv

Place of publication

Po Box 211, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1000 Ae

Rights statement

Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V.

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in the earth sciences