Recycled Dehydrated Lithosphere Observed in Plume-influenced Mid-ocean-ridge Basalt

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A substantial uncertainty in the Earth's global geochemical water cycle is the amount of water that enters the deep mantle through the subduction and recycling of hydrated oceanic lithosphere. Here we address the question of recycling of water into the deep mantle by characterizing the volatile contents of different mantle components as sampled by ocean island basalts and mid-ocean-ridge basalts. Although all mantle plume (ocean island) basalts seem to contain more water than mid-ocean-ridge basalts, we demonstrate that basalts associated with mantle plume components containing subducted lithosphere—‘enriched-mantle’ or ‘EM-type’ basalts—contain less water than those associated with a common mantle source. We interpret this depletion as indicating that water is extracted from the lithosphere during the subduction process, with greater than 92 per cent efficiency.

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Nature, v. 420, p. 385-389