Fault-controlled hydration of the upper mantle during continental rifting

Gaye Bayracki, Tim Minshull, Dale Sawyer, Timothy Reston, Dirk Klaeschen, Cord Papenberg, Cesar Ranero, Jonathan Bull, Richard Davy, Donna Shillington, Marta Perez Gussinye, Julia Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)
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Water and carbon are transferred from the ocean to the mantle in a process that alters mantle peridotite to create serpentinite and supports diverse ecosystems1. Serpentinized mantle rocks are found beneath the sea floor at slow- to ultraslow-spreading mid-ocean ridges1 and are thought to be present at about half the world’s rifted margins2,3. Serpentinite is also inferred to exist in the downgoing plate at subduction zones4, where it may trigger arc magmatism or hydrate the deep Earth.Water is thought to reach the mantle via active faults3,4. Here we show that serpentinization at the rifted continental margin oshore from western Spain was probably initiated when the whole crust cooled to become brittle and deformation was focused along large normal faults.We use seismic tomography to image the three-dimensional distribution of serpentinization in the mantle and find that the local volume of serpentinite beneath thinned, brittle crust is related to the amount of displacement along each fault.This implies that seawater reaches the mantle only when the faults are active. We estimate the fluid flux along the faults and find it is comparable to that inferred for mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal systems. We conclude that brittle processes in the crust may ultimately control the global flux of sea water into the Earth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-388
Number of pages7
JournalNature Geoscience
Early online date7 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2016


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