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Dynamic control on serpentine crystallization in veins: Constraints on hydration processes in oceanic peridotites

Abstract : [1] Deformation and hydration processes are intimately linked in the oceanic lithosphere, but the feedbacks between them are still poorly understood, especially in ultramafic rocks where serpentinization results in a decrease of rock density that implies a volume increase and/or mass transfer. Serpentinization is accompanied by abundant veining marked by different generations of vein-filling serpentines with a high variety of morphologies and textures that correspond to different mechanisms and conditions of formation. We use these veins to constrain the role of deformation and mass transfer processes during hydration of oceanic peridotites at slow-spreading ridges. We have selected a representative set of veins from ocean floor serpentinites of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge near Kane transform fault (23°N) and characterized these in detail for their microstructures and chemistry by coupling optical and electron microscopy (SEM, TEM) with electron microprobe analyses. Four main veining episodes (V1 to V4) accompany the serpentinization. The first episode, identified as vein generation V1, is interpreted as the tectonically controlled penetration of early seawater-dominated fluid within peridotites, enhancing thermal cracking and mesh texture initiation at 3-4 km up to 8 km depth and at T <300-350°C. The two following vein stages (V2 and V3) formed in a closed, diffusive system and accommodate volume expansion required to reach almost 50% serpentinization of the protolith. The cracks exploited by these veins were caused by the progressive unroofing at depths of 4 to 2 km along a detachment fault. Degree and rate of serpentinization seem to be controlled by the capacity of the system to create space and to drive the mass transfer needed for ongoing serpentinization, and this capacity is in turn linked to the exhumation rate and local tectonics. During this period, water consumed by hydration may prevent the establishment of convective hydrothermal cells. The onset of an open hydrothermal system in the shallow lithosphere (<2 km), where brittle fracturing and advective transfer dominate and enable the completion of serpentinization, is marked by the last vein generation (V4). These results show a complete history of alteration, with the crystallization of different types of serpentine recording different tectonic events, chemical conditions, and modes of hydrothermal alteration of the lithosphere.
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M. Andreani, C. Mevel, A.-M. Boullier, J. Escartín. Dynamic control on serpentine crystallization in veins: Constraints on hydration processes in oceanic peridotites. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, AGU and the Geochemical Society, 2007, 8 (2), ⟨10.1029/2006gc001373⟩. ⟨insu-01874661⟩



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