The “zircon effect” as recorded by the chemical and Hf isotopic compositions of Lesser Antilles forearc sediments. - INSU - Institut national des sciences de l'Univers Access content directly
Journal Articles Earth and Planetary Science Letters Year : 2009

The “zircon effect” as recorded by the chemical and Hf isotopic compositions of Lesser Antilles forearc sediments.


Oceanic sediments contain the products of erosion of continental crust, biologic activity and chemical precipitation. These processes create a large diversity of their chemical and isotopic compositions. Here we focus on the influence of the distance from a continental platform on the trace element and isotopic compositions of sediments deposited on the ocean floor and highlight the role of zircons in decoupling high-field strength elements and Hf isotopic compositions from other trace elements and Nd isotopic compositions. We report major and trace element concentrations as well as Sr and Hf isotopic data for 80 sediments from the Lesser Antilles forearc region. The trace-element characteristics and the Sr and Hf isotopic compositions are generally dominated by detrital material from the continental crust but are also variably influenced by chemical or biogenic carbonate and pure biogenic silica. Next to the South American continent, at DSDP Site 144 and on Barbados Island, sediments, coarse quartz arenites, exhibit marked Zr and Hf excesses that we attribute to the presence of zircon. In contrast, the sediments from DSDP Site 543, which were deposited farther away from the continental platform, consist of fine clay and they show strong deficiencies in Zr and Hf. The enrichment or depletion of Zr–Hf is coupled to large changes in Hf isotopic compositions (− 30 < εHf < + 4) that vary independently from the Nd isotopes. We interpret this feature as a clear expression of the “zircon effect” suggested by Patchett and coauthors in 1984. Zircon-rich sediments deposited next to the South American continent have very low εHf values inherited from old zircons. In contrast, in detrital clay-rich sediments deposited a few hundred kilometers farther north, the mineral fraction is devoid of zircon and they have drastically higher εHf values inherited from finer, clay-rich continental material. In the two DSDP sites, average Hf isotopes are very unradiogenic relative to other oceanic sediments worldwide (εHf = − 14.4 and − 7.4) and they define the low Hf end member of the sedimentary field in Hf–Nd space. Their compositions correspond to end members that, when mixed with mantle, are able to reproduce the pattern of volcanic rocks from the Lesser Antilles. More generally, we find a relationship between Nb/Zr ratios and the vertical deviation of Hf isotope ratios from the Nd–Hf terrestrial array and we suggest that this relationship can be used as a tool to distinguish sediment input from fractionation during melting during the formation of arc lavas.

Dates and versions

insu-00422694 , version 1 (08-10-2009)



Marion Carpentier, Catherine Chauvel, René Maury, Nadine Mattielli. The “zircon effect” as recorded by the chemical and Hf isotopic compositions of Lesser Antilles forearc sediments.. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2009, 287 (1-2), pp.86-99. ⟨10.1016/j.epsl.2009.07.043⟩. ⟨insu-00422694⟩
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