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Garnet growth at high- and ultra-high pressure conditions and the effect of element fractionation on mineral modes and composition

Journal article
Authors Matthias Konrad-Schmolke
Patrick J. O'Brien
Christian de Capitani
Dennis A. Carswell
Published in Lithos
Volume 103
Pages 309-332
ISSN 0024-4937
Publication year 2008
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages 309-332
Language en
Keywords subduction zone; element fractionation; ultra-high pressure; garnet; thermodynamic modelling.
Subject categories Earth and Related Environmental Sciences


In this paper we show that thermodynamic forward modelling, using Gibbs energy minimisation with consideration of element fractionation into refractory phases and/or liberated fluids, is able to extract information about the complex physical and chemical evolution of a deeply subducted rock volume. By comparing complex compositional growth zonations in garnets from high- and ultra-high pressure samples with those derived from thermodynamic forward modelling, we yield insight into the effects of element fractionation on composition and modes of the co-genetic metamorphic phase assemblage. Our results demonstrate that fractionation effects cause discontinuous growth and re-crystallisation of metamorphic minerals in high pressure rocks. Reduced or hindered mineral growth at UHP conditions can control the inclusion and preservation of minerals indicative for UHP metamorphism, such as coesite, and thus masking peak pressure conditions in subducted rocks. Further, our results demonstrate that fractional garnet crystallisation leads to strong compositional gradients and step-like zonation patterns in garnet, a feature often observed in high- and ultra-high pressure rocks. Thermodynamic forward modelling allows the interpretation of commonly observed garnet growth zonation patterns in terms of garnet forming reactions and the relative timing of garnet growth with respect to the rock’s pressure-temperature path. Such a correlation is essential for the determination of tectonic and metamorphic rates in subduction zones as well as for the understanding of trace element signatures in subduction related rocks. It therefore should be commonplace in the investigation of metamorphic processes in subduction zones.

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