3 years ago

Growth, destruction, and preservation of Earth's continental crust

From the scant Hadean records of the Jack Hills to Cenozoic supervolcanoes, the continental crust provides a synoptic view deep into Earth history. However, the information is fragmented, as large volumes of continental crust have been recycled back into the mantle by a variety of processes. The preserved crustal record is the balance between the volume of crust generated by magmatic processes and the volume destroyed through return to the mantle by tectonic erosion and lower crustal delamination. At present-day, the Earth has reached near-equilibrium between the amount of crust being generated and that being returned to the mantle at subduction zones. However, multiple lines of evidence support secular change in crustal processes through time, including magma compositions, mantle temperatures, and metamorphic gradients. Though a variety of isotopic proxies are used to estimate crustal growth through time, none of those currently utilized are able to quantify the volumes of crust recycled back into the mantle. This implies the estimates of preserved continental crust and growth curves derived therefrom represent only a minimum of total crustal growth. We posit that from the Neoarchean, the probable onset of modern-day style plate tectonics (i.e. steep subduction), there has been no net crustal growth (and perhaps even a net loss) of the continental crust. Deciphering changes from this equilibrium state through geologic time remains a continual pursuit of crustal evolution studies.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0012825217300934

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