The redox budget of the Mariana subduction zone

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Assessing the efficiency of material recycling at convergent margins is critical to constraining the impact of plate tectonic processes on the composition of surface and deep mantle reservoirs on geologic timescales. In particular, oceanic lithosphere bearing oxidized phases such as Fe-oxy-hydroxides, Fe-oxides, serpentine, carbonate, and sulfate minerals, subduct at convergent margins and the infiltration of aqueous fluids and sediment melts from the subducting slab into the mantle beneath arc volcanoes may thus carry oxidized forms of multi-valent elements (e.g., S, Fe, C) and lead to the generation of primitive arc melts that record elevated oxygen fugacities relative to mid-ocean ridge primitive melts. It is unclear, however, how efficiently aqueous fluids and silicate melts transport the oxidized signatures of any given subducting slab into the mantle wedge in a single subduction zone, and how much, if any, of these oxidized phases may be recycled into the deeper mantle. We present a mass balance of Fe3+, S2−, S6+, and C4+, as well as the O2 associated with these species, through the Mariana subduction zone to assess the efficiency of recycling oxidized materials in an end-member type subduction zone, where old oceanic lithosphere and a thick sediment package is subducted. To do this, we report Fe3+/ΣFe ratios of bulk sediments and altered oceanic crust recovered from ODP Site 801 in the western Pacific in order to constrain the bulk Fe3+/ΣFe ratio of the Pacific plate prior to subduction in the Mariana convergent margin. Site 801 sediments have Fe3+/ΣFe ratios >0.69 and the altered oceanic crust (801 Super Composite) has Fe3+/ΣFe of 0.51. Bulk Fe3+/ΣFe ratios of altered oceanic crust at Site 801 increase from 0.14 (pristine Jurassic-aged MORB glass) to 0.78 with increasing extent of alteration. We find that 68–95% of the O2 added to the subducting crust by sedimentation, in situ alteration of basaltic crust on the seafloor, and serpentinization of the mantle lithosphere is not output by Mariana arc or back-arc magmas. This result demonstrates that significant amounts of oxidized materials from Earth's surface are transported into the deeper mantle beyond subduction zones, despite the production of oxidized arc and back-arc basalts, and may contribute to elevated oxygen fugacities recorded by ocean island lavas such as Iceland and Hawaii. This oxygen cycle is likely to have been operating at least for the past 400–800 million years, and potentially for the duration of plate tectonics.

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Earth and Planetary Science Letters