Journal of Earth System Science

, Volume 113, Issue 4, pp 723–736 | Cite as

Silica-poor, mafic alkaline lavas from ocean islands and continents: Petrogenetic constraints from major elements

  • Shantanu Keshav
  • Gudmundur H Gudfinnsson


Strongly silica-poor (ne-normative), mafic alkaline lavas generally represented by olivine nephelinites, nephelinites, melilitites, and olivine melilitites have erupted at various locations during Earth's history. On the basis of bulk-rock Mg#, high concentrations of Na2O, TiO2, and K2O, and trace element geochemistry, it has been suggested that these lavas represent low-degree melts that have undergone little crystal fractionationen route to the surface. Many of these lavas also carry high-pressure mantle material in the form of harzburgite, spinel lherzolite, and variants of websterite xenoliths, and rare garnet-bearing xenoliths. However, phenocryst phases instead indicate that these magmas cooled to variable extents during their passage. We note subtle, yet important, differences in terms of CaO, Al2O3, CaO/AlP2O3, and CaO/MgO. High-pressure experimental melting studies in CMAS-CO2 (3-8 GPa) and natural lherzolitic systems (3GPa) demonstrate that at an isobar increasing F leads to a moderate decrease in CaO + MgO, whereas CaO/MgO and CaO/Al2O3 sharply decrease. Relatively high CaO/Al2O3 indicates melting in the presence of garnet (>- 85 km). Studies also demonstrate that CO2-bearing lherzolitic systems, when compared with anhydrous ones, also have higher CaO content in the coexisting melt at a given P and T. Comparison of the bulk-rock major-element chemistry of silica-poor, mafic alkaline lavas with experimentally determined high-pressure melts indicates that melting of anhydrous mantle lherzolite or garnet pyroxenite is not able to explain many of the major element systematics of the lavas. However, high-pressure partial melts of carbonated lherzolite have the right major element trends. Among ocean islands, lavas from Samoa and Hawaii are perhaps the products of very low degree of partial melting. Lavas from Gran Canaria and Polynesia represent products of more advanced partial melting. On continents, lavas from South Africa and certain localities in Germany are the products of a very low degree of partial melting, and those from Texas and certain other localities in Germany are products of a slightly more advanced degree of partial melting of a carbonated lherzolite. Lavas from Deccan, Czech Republic, and Freemans Cove are the products of even more advanced degree of partial melting. The mere presence of mantle xenoliths in some of these lavas does not necessarily mean that the erupted lavas represent direct mantle melts.


Partial Melting Ocean Island Garnet Pyroxenite Deccan Volcanic Province Alkaline Lava 
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Copyright information

© Printed in India 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shantanu Keshav
    • 1
  • Gudmundur H Gudfinnsson
    • 1
  1. 1.Geophysical LaboratoryCarnegie Institution of WashingtonWashington DCUSA

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