Role of lithosphere-asthenosphere interaction in the genesis of Quaternary alkali and tholeiitic basalts from Datong, western North China Craton

Yi Gang Xu, Jin Long Ma, Frederick A. Frey, Mark D. Feigenson, Jiang Feng Liu

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The geochemistry of Quaternary volcanic rocks from Datong provides important constraints on the petrogenesis of continental alkali and tholeiitic basalts and lithospheric evolution in the western North China Craton. Alkali basalts in north Datong have trace element compositions similar to oceanic island basalts (OIB). They show nearly homogenous isotopic compositions (εNd = 5.4-6.8 and 87Sr/86Sr = 0.7035-0.7037) that resemble the nearby Hannuoba Miocene basalts, indicating that the two lava suites share a similar asthenospheric source. However, Datong basalts have conspicuously lower Al2O3 and CaO, higher SiO2 and HREE contents and Na/Ti ratios, compared to Hannuoba lavas at comparable MgO. This compositional difference is attributable to the combined effect of source difference and temporal decrease in melting depth. The latter reflects Cenozoic lithospheric thinning of the western North China Craton. Tholeiitic basalts in southeast Datong have incompatible element ratios that differ from OIB; they have lower εNd (1.3-3.7) and higher 87Sr/86Sr (0.7039-0.7046) compared to alkali basalts. These moderately evolved rocks (MgO < 7%) display unusually high Cr concentrations (>200 ppm), a nearly flat LREE pattern and a fractionated HREE with the "kink" occurring at Gd. A shallow melting depth (<60 km), suggested by their Q-normative composition, is in conflict with the residual garnet in the source (>75 km) as required by REE modeling. This paradox, which is reminiscent of that for Hawaiian tholeiites, can be reconciled if garnet lherzolite melts react with refractory peridotites during which orthopyroxene is dissolved and olivine precipitates. The diagnostic consequence of this melt-rock reaction includes increases in SiO2 and Cr, decreases in Al2O3 and CaO, and formation of "kinked" REE patterns. Involvement of lithospheric mantle in the genesis of Datong tholeiites may be related to the Cenozoic lithospheric thinning/erosion in the western North China Craton. The spatial distribution of Datong alkali and tholeiitic basalts may be related to enhanced extension along the lithospheric boundary between the Western Block of the North China Craton and the Trans-North China Orogen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-271
Number of pages25
JournalChemical Geology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 20 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


  • Alkali basalt
  • Geochemistry
  • Lithosphere-asthenosphere interaction
  • Lithospheric thinning
  • Petrogenesis
  • Tholeiite
  • Western North China craton


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