Detachment within subducted continental crust and multi-slice successive exhumation of ultrahigh-pressure metamorphic rocks: Evidence from the Dabie-Sulu orogenic belt

Research paper by YiCan Liu, ShuGuang Li

Indexed on: 30 Aug '08Published on: 30 Aug '08Published in: Chinese science bulletin = Kexue tongbao


Although tectonic models were presented for exhumation of ultrahigh-pressure (UHP) metamorphic rocks during the continental collision, there is increasing evidence for the decoupling between crustal slices at various depths within deeply subducted continental crust. This lends support to the multi-slice successive exhumation model of the UHP metamorphic rocks in the Dabie-Sulu orogen. The available evidence is summarized as follows: (1) the low-grade metamorphic slices, which have geotectonic affinity to the South China Block and part of them records the Triassic metamorphism, occur in the northern margin of the Dabie-Sulu UHP metamorphic zone, suggesting decoupling of the upper crust from the underlying basement during the initial stages of continental subduction; (2) the Dabie and Sulu HP to UHP metamorphic zones comprise several HP to UHP slices, which have an increased trend of metamorphic grade from south to north but a decreased trend of peak metamorphic ages correspondingly; and (3) the Chinese Continental Science Drilling (CCSD) project at Donghai in the Sulu orogen reveals that the UHP metamorphic zone is composed of several stacked slices, which display distinctive high and low radiogenic Pb from upper to lower parts in the profile, suggesting that these UHP crustal slices were derived from the subducted upper and middle crusts, respectively. Detachment surfaces within the deeply subducted crust may occur either along an ancient fault as a channel of fluid flow, which resulted in weakening of mechanic strength of the rocks adjacent to the fault due to fluid-rock interaction, or along the low-viscosity zones which resulted from variations of geotherms and lithospheric compositions at different depths. The multi-slice successive exhumation model is different from the traditional exhumation model of the UHP metamorphic rocks in that the latter assumes the detachment of the entire subducted continental crust from the underlying mantle lithosphere and its subsequent exhumation as a whole. This also reveals the difference between the continental subduction and oceanic subduction. In addition, several important proposals concerning the multi-slice successive exhumation model are made for further studies.