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The redox geodynamics linking basalts and their mantle sources through space and time

Abstract : The Earth's mantle redox state regulates the fate and transfer of metals by magmatism, buffers the igneous inputs of volcanic gases in the atmosphere and controls the depth of mantle melting. It therefore strongly affects ore forming processes, biogeochemical cycles and deep geodynamic processes. This paper reviews the current knowledge on the redox state of the upper mantle and of magmas produced by mantle melting. The geochemical processes likely to control and modify it through space and time are discussed. We analyze the link between the redox state of magma and that of their mantle source and we conclude that melts produced in the mantle may well all equilibrate in a narrow range of oxidation state, where the speciation of sulfur in basalts shifts from sulfide to sulfate, that is, FMQ+1 ± 1 (1 log unit below and above the oxygen fugacity buffered by the assemblage fayalite–magnetite–quartz). Subsequently, degassing and partial crystallization of melts can affect their redox states, producing most of the range of redox states observed on magmas reaching Earth's surface. The asthenosphere sourcing basaltic magmas may therefore be more oxidized than the FMQ−1 value generally assumed. We also discuss redox transfers from the mantle to the atmosphere via volcanic degassing and the backward fluxes via subduction processes of the hydrothermalized oceanic lithosphere. Arc-magmas are oxidized (up to FMQ+4) but it is unclear when this feature is acquired since strongly oxidized primary arc-basalts have yet to be found. The oxidizing event may be the assimilation of slab-derived SO3-rich fluids by primary basalt generated by decompression melting in the mantle-wedge. Overall, subduction must result in a transfer of oxygen from the Earth's surface down to the mantle. This must imply that subduction and its initiation can hardly be the trigger of the great oxidation event at the end of the Archaean. In contrast, the cooling of the Earth's interior through time must have impacted on the redox state of basalts, by decreasing the depth of mantle melting. According to the long-established vertical stratification of the Earth's mantle, ancient primary magmas are therefore likely to have been more reduced (i.e. < FMQ−3) than present-day ones. However, geochemical observations on ancient basalts suggest a constant oxidation state since the early Archaean. We conclude that large uncertainties in the calibration of mineralogical oxygen barometer probably explains why we have difficulties in identifying (i) ancient primary basalts being more reduced than recent ones and (ii) primary basalts from subduction zones being as oxidized as arc-lavas reaching the surface. Finally, the degree of mantle melting is certainly a key issue for the interpretation of the mantle oxidation state. Extremely oxidized melts, enriched in C–H–S volatile species, produced by very low degrees of mantle melting may be indicative of an Earth's mantle more oxidized than usually considered.
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Fabrice Gaillard, Bruno Scaillet, Michel Pichavant, Giada Iacono-Marziano. The redox geodynamics linking basalts and their mantle sources through space and time. Chemical Geology, Elsevier, 2015, 418, pp.217-233. ⟨10.1016/j.chemgeo.2015.07.030⟩. ⟨insu-01187387⟩

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