Quantifying Crustal Thickness in Continental Collisional Belts: Global Perspective and a Geologic Application

Title of Publication: 
Quantifying Crustal Thickness in Continental Collisional Belts: Global Perspective and a Geologic Application
Hu, Fangyang, Ducea, Mihai N., Liu, Shuwen, & Chapman, James B.
Publication Info: 
Scientific Reports | 7: 7058 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-07849-7

We present compiled geochemical data of young (mostly Pliocene-present) intermediate magmatic rocks from continental collisional belts and correlations between their whole-rock Sr/Y and La/Yb ratios and modern crustal thickness. These correlations, which are similar to those obtained from subductionrelated magmatic arcs, confirm that geochemistry can be used to track changes of crustal thickness changes in ancient collisional belts. Using these results, we investigate temporal variations of crustal thickness in the Qinling Orogenic Belt in mainland China. Our results suggest that crustal thickness remained constant in the North Qinling Belt (~45–55 km) during the Triassic to Jurassic but fluctuates in the South Qinling Belt, corresponding to independently determined tectonic changes. In the South Qinling Belt, crustal thickening began at ~240 Ma and culminated with 60–70-km-thick crust at ~215 Ma. Then crustal thickness decreased to ~45 km at ~200 Ma and remained the same to the present. We propose that coupled use of Sr/Y and La/Yb is a feasible method for reconstructing crustal thickness through time in continental collisional belts. The combination of the empirical relationship in this study with that from subduction-related arcs can provide the crustal thickness evolution of an orogen from oceanic subduction to continental collision.

Full article

Figure 1. Simplified geological map showing the distribution of tectonic units, sedimentary sequences, and the early Mesozoic granitoid rocks in the Qinling Orogenic Belt (modified from Dong and Santosh, 201630 and Li et al., 201337). The blue dashed line (Baoji-Chengdu railway) separates the eastern and western Qinling Orogenic Belt31. The inset at the top right corner is a histogram of crystallization ages (Ma) and a probability distribution plot of the granitoid intrusions from the Qinling Orogenic Belt. To minimize sampling bias, only one age datum is selected for each pluton if between-sample age difference is lower than 3 Myr. SQB = South Qinling Belt, NQB = North Qinling Belt. The inset at the bottom left corner is a schematic map showing the North China Craton, South China Craton, Tarim Craton, and major orogenic belts in China (modified from Hu et al., 201632). The plotted data are listed in Supplementary Information. Numbers for intrusions: 1-Maixiu; 2-Tongren; 3-Shuangpenxi; 4-Xiekeng; 5-Xiahe; 6-Meiwu; 7-Lüjing; 8-Zhongchuang; 9-Luchuba; 10-Wenquan; 11-Huangzhuguan; 12-Mishuling; 13-Miba; 14-Xinyuan; 15-Zhangjiaba; 16-Guangtoushan; 17-Erdaohexiang; 18-Huoshaodian; 19-Liuba; 20-Taoyuanpu; 21-Xiba; 22-Huayang; 23-Xichahe; 24-Longcaoping; 25-Wulong; 26-Laocheng; 27-Yanzhiba; 28-Dongjiangkou; 29-Zhashui; 30-Caoping; 31-Shahewan; 32-Lengshuigou; 33-Baishagou + Chigou + Tudigou + Shuangyuangou; 34-Xiaohekou + Wagou + Yuanjiagou; 35-Xiaguanfang + Yuanzijie; 36-Baoji; 37-Laojunshan; 38-Qinlingliang; 39-Taibai; 40-Cuihuashan; 41-Muhuguan; 42-Mangling.