Articles | Volume 9, issue 3
Research article
19 Jun 2018
Research article |  | 19 Jun 2018

Ca-rich garnets and associated symplectites in mafic peraluminous granulites from the Gföhl Nappe System, Austria

Konstantin Petrakakis, Nathalie Schuster-Bourgin, Gerlinde Habler, and Rainer Abart

Abstract. Mafic peraluminous granulites associated with the mantle-derived peridotites of the Dunkelsteiner Wald provide evidence of the tectono-metamorphic evolution of the Gföhl Nappe System, Austria. They contain the primary assemblage garnet + Al-rich clinopyroxene + kyanite. Large Ca- and Mg-rich garnets are embedded in a granoblastic matrix of Al-rich clinopyroxene, Ca-rich plagioclase and minor hornblende. They were partially replaced by different generations of symplectites: (a) corundum + sapphirine + spinel + plagioclase formed around kyanite inclusions, (b) orthopyroxene + spinel + plagioclase ± hornblende formed at their rims and (c) clinopyroxene + orthopyroxene + spinel + plagioclase ± hornblende formed within cracks.

Large garnets show complex compositional structure comprising several repeatedly occurring garnet types, which are characterized by specific compositions. The areal extent and the cross-cutting relations observed in element distribution maps allowed for the derivation of the relative timing of the formation of the different garnet types. The compositional features of the garnets indicate post-formational modification by intra-crystalline diffusion and metasomatic agents.

The garnet composition isopleths in equilibrium assemblage diagrams are in line with compositions modification as indicated by the element distribution maps. They confirm the deviation of composition from equilibrium for all garnet types. Furthermore, at least the youngest garnet types show evidence of metasomatic (Fe + Mg) loss affecting their Ca content. Pressure–temperature (P–T) estimates are based on equilibrium assemblage diagrams that reproduce satisfactorily the observed mineral assemblages and measured mineral compositions. Criteria for checking the existence of preserved equilibrium compositions are suggested. The results call into question the invariability of the assumption that the Ca content and/or zoning in garnet preserves primary P–T information from garnet growth in every case.

Recrystallization and compositional readjustment of the reactive garnet volume during symplectite formation led to the development of pronounced, secondary diffusion-induced zoning profiles overprinting the different garnet types and post-dating the complex garnet compositional structure. The primary assemblage is stable between 760 and 880 °C and pressures > 11 kbar. The bulk composition of the crack symplectites is almost isochemical to the oldest, broken-down garnet type. These symplectites were formed above 730 °C and pressures between 5 and 7.5 kbar. The rocks studied underwent more or less isothermal decompression from pressures above 11 to ∼ 6 kbar at temperatures of about 800 °C. Crack and rim symplectites were formed after decompression during the early stage of approximately isobaric cooling under conditions of low differential stress. Due to limited availability of fluids promoting symplectite formation, the timescale of symplectite formation calculated from secondary diffusion profiles associated with crack symplectites is shown to be geologically very short (< 0.5 ka).

Short summary
Aluminum-rich granulites from Austria contain large garnets with kyanite inclusions. Garnets are built up from compositionally different types. They are replaced partially by various symplectites. Thermodynamic analysis points to metasomatic alteration and rock decompression due to tectonic transport at high temperatures from deep to middle crustal levels. The various symplectites were formed after decompression during cooling within a short time interval of less than 500 years.