Petrologic and geochemical characterization of rift-related magmatism at the northernmost Main Ethiopian Rift: Implications for plume-lithosphere interaction and the evolution of rift mantle sources

D. H. Feyissa, R. Shinjo, Hiroshi Kitagawa, D. Meshesha, Eizou Nakamura

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In this paper, we present petrography, K–Ar ages, whole-rock major- and trace-element concentrations, and Sr–Nd–Hf–Pb isotopic ratios of volcanic rocks from Debre Birhan area in the northernmost Main Ethiopian Rift (MER). The K–Ar ages of the mafic series range from 27 to 0.25 Ma, and two felsic rocks yield ages of 0.93 and 0.23 Ma. The mafic volcanics are classified into older and younger series based on their K–Ar ages. The Mg-numbers (Mg# < 60) of both mafic series, along with low Ni and Cr contents, clearly indicate that these lavas have undergone fractionation en route to the surface. Geochemical and isotopic compositions of the older and younger mafic lavas indicate that crustal contamination did not play a significant role in the evolution of their magmas, hence reflect the geochemical characteristics of the sources. The older and younger mafic volcanic rocks display contrasting trace element and isotopic signatures. The older lavas have higher La/Nb, Zr/Nb, Ba/Nb and 87Sr/86Sri (0.70445–0.70681) and lower ԐHf (− 2.58 to + 6.01) and ԐNd (− 1.25 to + 3.43) and less radiogenic Pb isotopic ratios (206Pb/204Pbi = 17.82–18.64, except TG-54 = 19.1) relative to the younger mafic lavas. Correlations among isotopic ratios and trace element concentrations provide evidence for the involvement of at least three major end-member components (C-1, C-2, and C-3) in the petrogenesis of these mafic lavas. The C-1 end-member component contributes dominantly to younger mafic lavas, and has isotopic composition similar to the common component ‘C’ deduced from oceanic basalts. The second end-member component (C-2) is represented by lavas near the transition between older and younger, and has isotopic composition similar to that of the seafloor basalts of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The third end-member component (C-3) is prominent in the older mafic series, and similar isotopically to Pan-African lithosphere. The younger felsic volcanic rocks generally have higher 87Sr/86Sri (0.70395–0.70689) than younger mafic series (0.70366–0.70454) but Nd, Hf and Pb isotopic ratios similar to those of the younger mafic lavas. The element concentrations and Sr, Nd, Hf and Pb isotopic compositions of the younger felsic rocks are explained by fractional crystallization of mafic melts in shallow-level magma chambers accompanied by limited assimilation of crustal material. Low degrees of partial melting of existing mafic underplate can account for the genesis of the least-differentiated (intermediate) lavas, but failed to explain highly evolved younger felsic rocks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-261
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2017



  • Afar mantle plume
  • Continental lithosphere
  • Geochemistry
  • K–Ar age
  • Main Ethiopian Rift
  • Petrology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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