Sediment is actively being subducted in every convergent margin worldwide. Yet, geochemical data for arc lavas from several subduction zones, such as Northern Tonga and Costa Rica have revealed either attenuated or limited evidence for sediment in their mantle source regions. Here we use thallium (Tl) isotopes to trace slab components in lavas from the Tonga-Kermadec and Central American arcs. In general, both arcs display Tl isotope data that are most compatible with addition of sediment to the sub-arc mantle from the subducting slab. This evidence is particular strong in the Tonga-Kermadec arc where pelagic clays dominate the Tl budget along the entire arc. Contributions from altered oceanic crust as well as the Louisville Seamount chain that subducts underneath Northern Tonga are not visible in Tl isotopes, which is likely due to the very high Tl concentrations found in pelagic sediments outboard of the Tonga-Kermadec arc. Lavas from Central America reveal variable and systematic Tl isotope compositions along-strike. In particular, lavas from Nicaragua are dominated by contributions from sediments, whereas Costa Rican samples reveal a significant altered oceanic crust component with little influence from sediments on thallium isotope composition. The absence of a sediment signature in Costa Rica corresponds with the Cocos Ridge and the seamount province subduction, which results in a thinner sediment cover. Furthermore, the subducted sediment is dominated by carbonates with very low Tl concentrations and, therefore, small amounts of carbonate sediment added to the mantle wedge do not contribute significantly to the overall Tl budget. A review of Tl isotope and concentration data from the Aleutians, Marianas, Tonga-Kermadec and Central American arcs demonstrate that pelagic sediments are detectable in most arcs, whereas altered oceanic crust components only become appreciable when sediment Tl concentrations are very low (e.g. carbonate) or if sediments are no longer a significant component of the subducting slab (e.g. slab melting in Western Aleutians). As such, Tl isotopes are a promising tool to trace sediment subduction although this requires at least some pelagic sediment is present in the subducted sediment package. We suggest that thallium partitioning between the slab and mantle wedge is most likely controlled by retention in phengite or by partitioning into fluids. Residual phengite likely produces high Cs/Tl ratios because Tl should be more compatible in phengite than is Cs, however, this conclusion needs experimental verification. The stability of phengite is lower at higher fluid contents, which results in hyperbolic relationships between Cs/Tl and possible indicators of fluids such as Sr/Nd and Ba/Th. Thus, combined Tl isotopic and elemental systematics not only provide detailed information about the specific slab components that contribute to arc lavas, but also potentially shed light on the mineralogy and physical conditions of subducting slabs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology