Subalkaline andesite from Valu Fa Ridge, a back-arc spreading center in southern Lau Basin: petrogenesis, comparative chemistry, and tectonic implications

T. L. Vallier, G. A. Jenner, F. A. Frey, J. B. Gill, A. S. Davis, A. M. Volpe, J. W. Hawkins, J. D. Morris, P. A. Cawood, J. L. Morton, D. W. Scholl, M. Rautenschlein, W. M. White, R. W. Williams, A. J. Stevenson, L. D. White

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Tholeiitic andesite was dredged from two sites on Valu Fa Ridge (VFR), a back-arc spreading center in Lau Basin. Valu Fa Ridge, at least 200 km long, is located 40-50 km west of the active Tofua Volcanic Arc (TVA) axis and lies about 150 km above the subducted oceanic plate. One or more magma chambers, traced discontinuously for about 100 km along the ridge axis, lie 3-4 km beneath the ridge. The mostly aphyric and glassy lavas had high volatile contents, as shown by the abundance and large sizes of vesicles. An extensive fractionation history is inferred from the high SiO2 contents and FeO* MgO ratios. Chemical data show that the VFR lavas have both volcanic arc and back-arc basin affinities. The volcanic arc characteristics are: (1) relatively high abundances of most alkali and alkaline earth elements; (2) low abundances of high field strength elements Nb and Ta; (3) high U/Th ratios; (4) similar radiogenic isotope ratios in VFR and TVA lavas, in particular the enrichment of 87Sr 86Sr relative to 206Pb 204Pb; (5) high 238U 230Th, 230Th 232Th, and 226Ra 230Th activity ratios; and (6) high ratios of Rb/Cs, Ba/Nb, and Ba/La. Other chemical characteristics suggest that the VFR lavas are related to MORB-type back-arc basin lavas. For example, VFR lavas have (1) lower 87Sr 86Sr ratios and higher 143Nd 144Nd ratios than most lavas from the TVA, except samples from Ata Island, and are similar to many Lau Basin lavas; (2) lower Sr/REE, Rb/Zr, and Ba/Zr ratios than in arc lavas; and (3) higher Ti, Fe, and V, and higher Ti/V ratios than arc lavas generally and TVA lavas specifically. Most characteristics of VFR lavas can be explained by mixing depleted mantle with either small amounts of sediment and fluids from the subducting slab and/or an older fragment of volcanic arc lithosphere. The eruption of subalkaline andesite with some arc affinities along a back-arc spreading ridge is not unique. Collision of the Louisville and Tonga ridges probably activated back-arc extension that ultimately led to the creation and growth of Valu Fa Ridge. Some ophiolitic fragments in circum-Pacific and circum-Tethyan allochthonous terranes, presently interpreted to have originated in volcanic arcs, may instead be fragments of lithosphere that formed during early stages of seafloor spreading in a back-arc basin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-256
Number of pages30
JournalChemical Geology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sep 1991
Externally publishedYes

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