Carbonation of subduction-zone serpentinite (high-pressure ophicarbonate; Ligurian Western Alps) and implications for the deep carbon cycling

Marco Scambelluri, Gray Edward Bebout, Donato Belmonte, Mattia Gilio, Nicola Campomenosi, Nathan Collins, Laura Crispini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

43 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Much of the long-term carbon cycle in solid earth occurs in subduction zones, where processes of devolatilization, partial melting of carbonated rocks, and dissolution of carbonate minerals lead to the return of CO2 to the atmosphere via volcanic degassing. Release of COH fluids from hydrous and carbonate minerals influences C recycling and magmatism at subduction zones. Contradictory interpretations exist regarding the retention/storage of C in subducting plates and in the forearc to subarc mantle. Several lines of evidence indicate mobility of C, of uncertain magnitude, in forearcs. A poorly constrained fraction of the 40-115 Mt/yr of C initially subducted is released into fluids (by decarbonation and/or carbonate dissolution) and 18-43 Mt/yr is returned at arc volcanoes. Current estimates suggest the amount of C released into subduction fluids is greater than that degassed at arc volcanoes: the imbalance could reflect C subduction into the deeper mantle, beyond subarc regions, or storage of C in forearc/subarc reservoirs.We examine the fate of C in plate-interface ultramafic rocks, and by analogy serpentinized mantle wedge, via study of fluid-rock evolution of marble and variably carbonated serpentinite in the Ligurian Alps. Based on petrography, major and trace element concentrations, and carbonate C and O isotope compositions, we demonstrate that serpentinite dehydration at 2-2.5 GPa, 550 °C released aqueous fluids triggering breakdown of dolomite in nearby marbles, thus releasing C into fluids. Carbonate + olivine veins document flow of COH fluids and that the interaction of these COH fluids with serpentinite led to the formation of high-P carbonated ultramafic-rock domains (high-P ophicarbonates). We estimate that this could result in the retention of ~0.5-2.0 Mt C/yr in such rocks along subduction interfaces. As another means of C storage, 1 to 3 km-thick layers of serpentinized forearc mantle wedge containing 50 modal % dolomite could sequester 1.62 to 4.85 Mt C/yr.We stress that lithologically complex interfaces could contain sites of both C release and C addition, further confounding estimates of net C loss at forearc and subarc depths. Sites of C retention, also including carbonate veins and graphite as reduced carbonate, could influence the transfer of slab C to at least the depths beneath volcanic fronts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-166
Number of pages12
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume441
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Aqueous carbonic fluids
  • Deep Carbon cycle
  • High-pressure ophicarbonate
  • Marble
  • Serpentinite
  • Subduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science

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