Deeply subducted continental fragments – Part 1: Fracturing, dissolution–precipitation, and diffusion processes recorded by garnet textures of the central Sesia Zone (western Italian Alps)
- Institute of Geological Sciences, University of Bern, Baltzerstrasse 1 + 3, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
Abstract. Contiguous continental high-pressure terranes in orogens offer insight into deep recycling and transformation processes that occur in subduction zones. These remain poorly understood, and currently debated ideas need testing. The approach we chose is to investigate, in detail, the record in suitable rock samples that preserve textures and robust mineral assemblages that withstood overprinting during exhumation. We document complex garnet zoning in eclogitic mica schists from the Sesia Zone (western Italian Alps). These retain evidence of two orogenic cycles and provide detailed insight into resorption, growth, and diffusion processes induced by fluid pulses in high-pressure conditions. We analysed local textures and garnet compositional patterns, which turned out remarkably complex. By combining these with thermodynamic modelling, we could unravel and quantify repeated fluid–rock interaction processes. Garnet shows low-Ca porphyroclastic cores that were stable under (Permian) granulite facies conditions. The series of rims that surround these cores provide insight into the subsequent evolution: the first garnet rim that surrounds the pre-Alpine granulite facies core in one sample indicates that pre-Alpine amphibolite facies metamorphism followed the granulite facies event. In all samples documented, cores show lobate edges and preserve inner fractures, which are sealed by high-Ca garnet that reflects high-pressure Alpine conditions. These observations suggest that during early stages of subduction, before hydration of the granulites, brittle failure of garnet occurred, indicating high strain rates that may be due to seismic failure. Several Alpine rims show conspicuous textures indicative of interaction with hydrous fluid: (a) resorption-dominated textures produced lobate edges, at the expense of the outer part of the granulite core; (b) peninsulas and atoll garnet are the result of replacement reactions; and (c) spatially limited resorption and enhanced transport of elements due to the fluid phase are evident along brittle fractures and in their immediate proximity. Thermodynamic modelling shows that all of these Alpine rims formed under eclogite facies conditions. Structurally controlled samples allow these fluid–garnet interaction phenomena to be traced across a portion of the Sesia Zone, with a general decrease in fluid–garnet interaction observed towards the external, structurally lower parts of the terrane. Replacement of the Permian HT assemblages by hydrate-rich Alpine assemblages can reach nearly 100 % of the rock volume. Since we found no clear relationship between discrete deformation structures (e.g. shear zones) observed in the field and the fluid pulses that triggered the transformation to eclogite facies assemblages, we conclude that disperse fluid flow was responsible for the hydration.