EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Evaluating scant surface evidence of deep lithosphere removal: Towards a more comprehensive record

John He and Paul Kapp
John He and Paul Kapp
  • University of Arizona, Geoscience, United States of America (

Lithosphere removal beneath orogenic plateaus are transient events that must often be inferred from the absence of evidence: for example, unexplained topographic uplift in the geologic record, or the absence of high-velocity mantle lithosphere. Even when foundering events do leave traces of their occurrence on the surface, the low preservation potential of such evidence leaves incomplete and ambiguous records. Distinctive features include isotopically juvenile magmatism and transient surface subsidence that form localized, internally drained hinterland basins and playas. However, basaltic volcanism and related lacustrine sediments are rarely well preserved, and this limits our ability to evaluate the role of lithosphere removal in orogenesis to only select localities. To develop a more comprehensive record of this process, and facilitate comparisons between regions with copious surface and/or geophysical evidence of lithospheric foundering with regions where the evidence is scant, whether poorly preserved or not yet recognized, we present the detrital record from young strata in internally-drained hinterland basins as a proxy for foundering-related magmatism. The detrital samples include unconsolidated to poorly consolidated lacustrine sediment of the Bidahochi paleolake from the Colorado Plateau, which is associated with the isotopically juvenile (positive epsilon Nd) Hopi Buttes Volcanic field; Oligocene siltstone from the Pamir Plateau with juvenile isotopic signature (positive epsilon Hf); and Eocene-Oligocene sandstone from several localities on the Tibetan Plateau. Integration of isotope geochemistry, trace element geochemistry, and thermochronology of detrital zircon and apatite presents a promising approach to reconstruct a continuous record of low-volume magmatism, both eroded and preserved. Ti-in-zircon thermometry, Ce-U-Ti oxybarometry, and REE proxies for depth of magmatic differentiation potentially provide a means of distinguishing zircon crystals associated with hinterland magmatism from that associated with arc magmatism. Using these datasets, we consider whether lithospheric foundering can be associated with recognizable patterns that are similar across orogens, and whether geochemical shifts in hinterland magmatism reveal first-order differences in the temporal scale of lithosphere removal in different orogens. 

How to cite: He, J. and Kapp, P.: Evaluating scant surface evidence of deep lithosphere removal: Towards a more comprehensive record, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-443,, 2022.


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