Springer Nature is making Coronavirus research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Chemical zoning and open system processes in the Laacher See magmatic system


Unravelling the generation of compositionally and thermally zoned magma reservoirs is important to our understanding of the dynamic processes operating in magmatic systems. Here, we present new major and trace element data for volcanic glasses from the classically zoned Laacher See Tephra and suggest that mafic recharge may play an important role in producing the observed compositional gradient. Mafic phonolite glass from the upper part of the Laacher See Tephra records the addition of ca. 30% basanite magma, which is recognised by an increase in REE + Y and a decrease in Th, U and Zr relative to glasses from more evolved units. We suggest that the Laacher See magmatic system was sustained by repeated episodes of basanite recharge and calculate a recharge magma flux of between 2 × 10–5 and 1 × 10−4 km3y−1 in the 20 kyr leading up to the eruption. Basanite addition would have provided heat required to generate the strong compositional and thermal gradients that are recorded in crystals ejected during the Laacher See Tephra eruption.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

(modified from Ginibre et al. (2004b) showing the three main stratigraphic units (LLST, MLST, ULST) and subunits (Bogaard and Schminke 1984) and the locations of studied samples within the stratigraphy

Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8


  1. Annen C (2009) From plutons to magma chambers: thermal constraints on the accumulation of eruptible silicic magma in the upper crust. Earth Planet Sci Lett 284:409–416

  2. Baales M, Joris O, Street M et al (2002) Impact of the late glacial eruption of the Laacher See volcano, Central Rhineland, Germany. Quat Res 58:273–288.

  3. Bachmann O, Bergantz GW (2009) Rhyolites and their source mushes across tectonic settings. J Petrol 49:2277–2285.

  4. Bachmann O, Huber C (2016) Silicic magma reservoirs in the Earth’s crust. Am Mineral 101:2377–2404.

  5. Bachmann O, Deering CD, Lipman PW, Plummer C (2014) Building zoned ignimbrites by recycling silicic cumulates: insight from the 1000 km(3) Carpenter Ridge Tuff, CO. Contrib to Mineral Petrol.

  6. Bacon C, Druitt TH (1988) Compositional evolution of the zoned calcalkaline magma chamber of Mount Mazama, Crater Lake, Oregon. Contrib to Mineral Petrol 98:224–256

  7. Barboni M, Boehnke P, Schmitt AK, et al (2016) Warm storage for arc magmas. Proc Natl Acad Sci 113:13959–13964. 10.1073/pnas.1616129113

  8. Berndt J, Holtz F, Koepke J (2001) Experimental constraints on storage conditions in the chemically zoned phonolitic magma chamber of the Laacher See volcano. Contrib to Mineral Petrol 140:469–486.

  9. Bogaard P, Schmincke HU (1985) Laacher See Tephra: a widespread isochronous late quaternary tephra layer in central and northern Europe. Geol Soc Am Bull 96:1554–1571.;2

  10. Bogaard P, Schminke HU (1984) The eruptive center of the later Quaternary Laacher See Tephra. Geol Rundschau 73:933–980

  11. Bourdon B, Zindler A, Worner G (1994) Evolution of the Laacher-See magma chamber: evidence from SIMS and TIMS measurements of U–Th disequilibria in minerals and glasses. Earth Planet Sci Lett 126:75–90.

  12. Brauer A, Endres C, Negendank JFW (1999) Lateglacial calendar year chronology based on annually laminated sediments from Lake Meerfelder Maar, Germany. Quat Int 61:17–25.

  13. Cashman K V, Sparks RSJ, Blundy JD (2017) Vertically extensive and unstable magmatic systems: A unified view of igneous processes. Science (80-) 355. 10.1126/science.aag3055

  14. Coombs DS, Wilkinson JFG (1969) Lineages and fractionation trends in undersaturated volcanic rocks from the East Otago Volcanic Province (New Zealand) and Related Rocks. J Petrol 10:440–501.

  15. Cooper KM, Kent AJR (2014) Rapid remobilization of magmatic crystals kept in cold storage. Nature 506:480

  16. Deering CD, Bachmann O, Vogel TA (2011) The Ammonia Tanks Tuff: erupting a melt-rich rhyolite cap and its remobilized crystal cumulate. Earth Planet Sci Lett 310:518–525.

  17. Degruyter W, Huber C, Bachmann O et al (2016) Magma reservoir response to transient recharge events: the case of Santorini volcano (Greece). Geology 44:23–26.

  18. Duda A, Schmincke H (1987) Quaternary basanites, melilitite nephelinites and tephrites from the Laacher See Area, Germany. Neues Jahrb für Mineral 132:1–33

  19. Dufek J, Bachmann O (2010) c. Geology 38:687–690. 10.1130/G30831.1

  20. Eichelberger JC, Chertkoff DG, Dreher ST, Nye CJ (2000) Magmas in collision: rethinking chemical zonation in silicic magmas. Geology 28:603–606.;2

  21. Fedele L, Lustrino M, Melluso L et al (2015) Trace-element partitioning between plagioclase, alkali feldspar, Ti-magnetite, biotite, apatite, and evolved potassic liquids from Campi Flegrei (Southern Italy). Am Mineral 100:233–249.

  22. Forni F, Petricca E, Bachmann O et al (2018) The role of magma mixing/mingling and cumulate melting in the Neapolitan Yellow Tuff caldera-forming eruption (Campi Flegrei, Southern Italy). Contrib to Mineral Petrol 173:45.

  23. Ganne J, Bachmann O, Feng X (2018) Deep into magma plumbing systems: interrogating the crystal cargo of volcanic deposits. Geology 46:415–418.

  24. Gelman SE, Gutiérrez FJ, Bachmann O (2013) On the longevity of large upper crustal silicic magma reservoirs. Geology 41:759–762.

  25. Ginibre C, Davidson JP, Worner G (2004a) Sr isotope zoning in feldspars at Laacher See Volcano, Germany. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 68:A654–A654

  26. Ginibre C, Worner G, Kronz A (2004b) Structure and dynamics of the Laacher See magma chamber (Eifel, Germany) from major and trace element zoning in sanidine: A cathodoluminescence and electron microprobe study. J Petrol 45:2197–2223.

  27. Gluhak TM, Hofmeister W (2009) Roman lava quarries in the Eifel region (Germany): geochemical data for millstone provenance studies. J Archaeol Sci 36:1774–1782.

  28. Harms E, Schmincke HU (2000) Volatile composition of the phonolitic Laacher See magma (12,900 yr BP): implications for syn-eruptive degassing of S, F, Cl and H2O. Contrib to Mineral Petrol 138:84–98.

  29. Harms E, Gardner JE, Schmincke HU (2004) Phase equilibria of the Lower Laacher See Tephra (East Eifel, Germany): constraints on pre-eruptive storage conditions of a phonolitic magma reservoir. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 134:125–138.

  30. Hensch M, Dahm T, Ritter J et al (2019) Deep low-frequency earthquakes reveal ongoing magmatic recharge beneath Laacher See Volcano (Eifel, Germany). Geophys J Int 216:2025–2036.

  31. Hildreth W, Wilson CJN (2007) Compositional Zoning of the Bishop Tuff. J Petrol 48:951–999.

  32. Humphreys MCS, Blundy JD, Sparks RSJ (2006) Magma evolution and open-system processes at Shiveluch Volcano: Insights from phenocryst zoning. J Petrol 47:2303–2334.

  33. Irving AJ, Green DH (2008) Phase relationships of hydrous alkalic magmas at high pressures: production of nepheline hawaiitic to mugearitic liquids by amphibole-dominated fractional crystallization within the lithospheric mantle. J Petrol 49:741–756.

  34. Irving AJ, Price RC (1981) Geochemistry and evolution of Iherzolite-bearing phonolitic lavas from Nigeria, Australia, East Germany and New Zealand. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 45:1309–1320.

  35. Jochum KP, Stoll B, Herwig K et al (2006) MPI-DING reference glasses for in situ microanalysis: new reference values for element concentrations and isotope ratios. Geochem Geophys Geosystems 7:Q02008.

  36. Langmuir CH, Vocke RD, Hanson GN, Hart SR (1978) General mixing equation with applications to Icelandic basalts. Earth Planet Sci Lett 37:380–392.

  37. Le Roex AP, Cliff RA, Adair BJI (1990) Tristan-da-Cunha, south-Atlantic: geochemistry and petrogenesis of a basanite phonolite lava series. J Petrol 31:779–812.

  38. Liszewska KM, White JC, Macdonald R, Bagiński B (2018) Compositional and thermodynamic variability in a stratified magma chamber: evidence from the Green Tuff Ignimbrite (Pantelleria, Italy). J Petrol 59:2245–2272.

  39. Litt T, Schmincke HU, Kromer B (2003) Environmental response to climatic and volcanic events in central Europe during the Weichselian Lateglacial. Quat Sci Rev 22:7–32.

  40. Masotta M, Freda C, Gaeta M (2012) Origin of crystal-poor, differentiated magmas: insights from thermal gradient experiments. Contrib to Mineral Petrol 163:49–65

  41. McDonough WF, Sun SS (1995) The composition of the Earth. Chem Geol 120:223–253.

  42. Newhall CG, Self S (1982) The volcanic explosivity index (VEI): an estimate of explosive magnitude for historical volcanism. J Geophys Res 87:1231–1238.

  43. Olin PH, Wolff JA (2012) Partitioning of rare earth and high field strength elements between titanite and phonolitic liquid. Lithos 128–131:46–54.

  44. Rout SS, Worner G (2018) Zoning and exsolution in alkali feldspars from Laacher See volcano (Western Germany): constraints on temperature history prior to eruption. Contrib to Mineral Petrol.

  45. Schmitt AK (2006) Laacher See revisited: high-spatial-resolution zircon dating indicates rapid formation of a zoned magma chamber. Geology 34:597–600.

  46. Schmitt AK, Wetzel F, Cooper KM et al (2010) Magmatic Longevity of Laacher See Volcano (Eifel, Germany) Indicated by U–Th Dating of Intrusive Carbonatites. J Petrol 51:1053–1085.

  47. Smith VC, Blundy JD, Arce JL (2009) A temporal record of magma accumulation and evolution beneath Nevado de Toluca, Mexico, preserved in plagioclase phenocrysts. J Petrol 50:405–426.

  48. Solano JMS, Jackson MD, Sparks RSJ et al (2012) Melt segregation in deep crustal hot zones: a mechanism for chemical differentiation, crustal assimilation and the formation of evolved magmas. J Petrol 53:1999–2026.

  49. Sun S-S, McDonough WF (1989) Chemical and isotopic systematics of oceanic basalts: implications for mantle composition and processes. In: Saunders AD, Norry MJ (eds) Magmatism in Ocean Basins. Geol. Soc. Spec. Publ, London, pp 313–345

  50. Tait SR, Worner G, Vandenbogaard P, Schmincke HU (1989) Cumulate nodules as evidence for convective fractionation in a phonolite magma chamber. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 37:21–37.

  51. Tomlinson EL, Thordarson T, Müller W et al (2010) Microanalysis of tephra by LA-ICP-MS—Strategies, advantages and limitations assessed using the Thorsmork ignimbrite (Southern Iceland). Chem Geol 279:73–89.

  52. Wolff JA, Ellis BS, Ramos FC et al (2015) Remelting of cumulates as a process for producing chemical zoning in silicic tuffs: a comparison of cool, wet and hot, dry rhyolitic magma systems. Lithos 236–237:275–286.

  53. Worner G, Schmincke HU (1984a) Mineralogical and chemical zonation of the laacher see tephra sequence (East Eifel, West-Germany). J Petrol 25:805–835.

  54. Worner G, Schmincke HU (1984b) Petrogenesis of the zoned Laacher See tephra. J Petrol 25:836–851.

  55. Worner G, Wright TL (1984) Evidence for magma mixing within the Laacher See magma chamber (East-Eifel, Germany). J Volcanol Geotherm Res 22:301–327.

  56. Worner G, Beusen JM, Duchateau N et al (1983a) Trace-element abundances and mineral melt distribution coefficients in phonolites from the Laacher-See volcano (Germany). Contrib to Mineral Petrol 84:152–173

  57. Worner G, Schmincke HU, Wright TL (1983b) Evidence for magma mixing within the Laacher See magma chamber (East Eifel). Fortschritte Der Mineral 61:220–221

  58. Worner G, Staudigel H, Zindler A (1985) Isotopic constraints on open system evolution of the Laacher-See magma chamber (Eifel, West-Germany). Earth Planet Sci Lett 75:37–49.

Download references


This work was funded by the NERC RESET consortium (NE/E015905/1). The authors would like to thank Alice Williams for field assistance and Neil Holloway for sample polishing. We also gratefully acknowledge Chris Ballhaus for editorial handling, and Gerhard Wörner for a detailed and thorough review of this work.

Author information

Correspondence to Emma L. Tomlinson.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Communicated by Chris Ballhaus.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary file1 (XLSX 163 kb)

Supplementary file2 (PDF 303 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Tomlinson, E.L., Smith, V.C. & Menzies, M.A. Chemical zoning and open system processes in the Laacher See magmatic system. Contrib Mineral Petrol 175, 19 (2020).

Download citation


  • Magmatic system
  • Mafic recharge
  • Phonolite
  • Compositional zoning
  • Trace element