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Geochronology of ultrahigh-pressure rocks to interrogate the evolution of the continental crust and mantle Cutts, Jamie Alistair


The formation of cratonic lithosphere and its participation in continental collision are first-order processes in global tectonics. The Western Gneiss Complex (WGC) of southwestern Norway is a fragment of continental crust that uniquely preserves a complete record of its burial and exhumation during collisional orogeny along with rare fragments of sub-continental lithospheric mantle that were entrained into the terrane during its residence in the mantle. Despite the importance of the WGC for characterising processes operating in the deep crust and mantle during continent-continent collision, its rate and style of burial and exhumation have not been comprehensively studied and the protracted evolution of the included peridotite bodies remains unclear. Lu-Hf garnet and micro-analytical U-Pb rutile geochronology are two powerful tools for lithosphere and tectonics research as they can be used to link ages to conditions of equilibration of rock-forming assemblages. Using these techniques applied to eclogites in the WGC, I constrained the burial rate for continental crust during collisional orogeny to ~5 mm yr-¹, developed a quantitative framework for evaluating geodynamic changes during continental collision, and proposed that deeply buried continental crust is exhumed largely as a flat-slab in the mid-crust, possibly due to erosion of a paleo-plateau in the upper plate. Using Lu-Hf garnet geochronology applied to ultrahigh-pressure (UHP) enstatite-bearing eclogites in the WGC, I provided well-constrained empirical evidence for non-lithostatic eclogitisation, a process that explains the localised occurrence of anomalously-high pressures conditions in deeply buried continental crust. When these research outcomes are compared to the lower plate in the India-Asia collision zone, they demonstrate consistency in the rate and depth of burial and the style of exhumation of continental crust during collisional orogeny. Using Lu-Hf garnet geochronology applied to included peridotite bodies in the WGC, I provided the first well-constrained geochronological evidence for the stabilisation of a buoyant cratonic sub-continental lithospheric mantle in the Archean that melted and recrystallised in concert with major supercontinent break-up intervals. The techniques used herein could be applied to other collisional settings and to other mantle peridotite suites to better constrain the emergence and evolution of global plate tectonics cycles.

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