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60.4 wt % SiO 2. 71.2 wt % SiO 2. 65.8 wt % SiO 2. The felsic plutonic core of the western Talkeetna island arc crustal section, Alaska: Its formation and implications for crustal growth along continental margins. Paper No. 30 - 8.

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60.4 wt

% SiO2

71.2 wt

% SiO2

65.8 wt

% SiO2

The felsic plutonic core of the western Talkeetna island arc crustal section, Alaska:

Its formation and implications for crustal growth along continental margins

Paper No. 30 - 8

Michael Johnsen, Department of Geology, WWU, Bellingham, WA

Susan DeBari, Department of Geology, WWU, Bellingham, WA

Matthew Rioux, Department of Earth Science, UCSB, Santa Barbara, CA










What magmatic processes are responsible for the formation of intermediate-felsic plutonic and volcanic rocks exposed in the western arc? Were these rocks formed by simple fractional crystallization or did assimilation of existing crust and/or magma mixing play an important role? Greene et al. (2006) modeled fractional crystallization from basalt to andesite compositions in the

eastern arc. The research presented here

attempts to model the formation of more

felsic compositions starting with an

andesitic composition.

The accretion of island arc crust is believed to be a major contributor to the growth of continents. A particularly important question in arc evolution is the origin of felsic plutonic rocks in island arcs. Felsic rocks represent the nucleus of continents, yet there is no clear consensus on how these rocks originate. The Jurassic Talkeetna island arc in south-central Alaska is an exhumed and titled arc section where middle and upper crust lithologies are now exposed at the surface, providing us with the rare opportunity to directly model processes responsible for the formation of the felsic core of an island arc.

Studies in the eastern Talkeetna arc (Talkeetna and Chugach Mountains) indicate that the arc crustal section comprises a calc-alkaline suite where all lithologies display consistent major and trace element trends, each group of rocks forming by processes of fractional crystallization and accumulation. In contrast, two chemically distinct groups can be defined in the western Talkeetna arc (Lower Cook Inlet region). Compositional group I (n = 75; 43.0-76.1 wt % SiO2) shares many of the same trends as rocks from the eastern arc: relatively low K at a given SiO2 and flat REE patterns ([La/Yb]N < 5; average 2.6) where REE abundances increase with increasing SiO2. Compositional group II (n = 21; 56.1-73.6 wt % SiO2) shows trends of LREE enrichment and HREE depletion ([La/Yb]N > 5; average 7.5), where REE abundances decrease with increasing SiO2. The most silicic members of this group exhibit concave-up patterns of HREE depletion.

Of particular interest is the formation of the voluminous felsic core of the western arc, exposed over more than 4800 km2 of the region. Major element and REE modeling indicate the majority of these rocks formed through fractional crystallization and accumulation (compositional group I). In addition, modeling results for compositional group II rocks indicate that the observed range of intermediate-felsic compositions can be produced by variable mixing of an andesitic parent liquid (presumably formed by fractional crystallization) with a felsic end-member magma (formed by ~15-25% partial melting of mafic crust). This study provides important insights into the range of processes responsible for the formation of the felsic core of island arcs and potentially the nucleus of continental crust.


Research presented here addresses three main questions yet to be resolved for the intermediate-felsic core of the western Talkeetna arc:

Along strike compositional variation: is there significant geochemical variability along arc strike (compared to the eastern arc)?

Processes of magma differentiation: what magmatic processes are responsible for the formation of the exposed intermediate-felsic plutonic and volcanic rocks in this region?

Continental Growth: what implications do the chemical trends and magmatic formation of western arc rocks have on models for the growth of continental crust at convergent margins?

wt % SiO2


Compositional Group I


Fractional Crystallization


Increasing REE abundances with increasing SiO2 (proxy for fractionation) and REE pattern shape are matched well by modeling fractional crystallization from andesitic to dacitic compositions.

Calculated concentration (Cc)

Measured (observed) concentration (Cm)

Cc/Cm = 1 is a perfect match

~20-30% xtal

cpx, opx,

plag, hbl, mag

~15-25% xtal

plag, hbl,

mag, ilm

Compositional Group II

Mixing Intermediate and Felsic End-member Magmas

Simple fractional crystallization (FC) and assimilation fractional crystallization (EC-AFC developed by Bohrson & Spera, 2001) do not explain REE trends for compositional group II rocks, specifically decreasing REE abundances with increasing SiO2 (fractionation) and HREE depletion. So what processes formed these rocks?





The western arc section is composed predominantly of intermediate-felsic plutonic rocks (diorites and tonalites), minor amounts of gabbroic rock, and a significant component of overlying Talkeetna Formation volcanic and volcaniclastic rocks. The western arc is a small sub-section of the entire arc crustal section exposed in the east.

The Talkeetna island arc is an exhumed and tilted section where deep levels of arc lower crust as well as middle and upper crust arc lithologies are now exposed at the surface.

Whole-rock major element variation diagrams for western arc rocks with published data from the eastern arc (Clift et al., 2005; Greene et al., 2006).


Schematic section showing rocks exposed in the western arc (Lower Cook Inlet region)

Several intermediate and felsic end-member pairs from the group II suite seem to predict the observed range of observed samples. Presumably, the intermediate liquid formed via fractional crystallization, but how did the felsic liquid form?

Western Arc

Eastern Arc

Volcanic and volcaniclastic


Upper crust

~7 km

Intermediate-felsic plutonic


Upper-mid crust


avg. [La/Yb]N = 4.6

Partial Melting of Mafic Compositions

avg. [La/Yb]N = 2.0

Mafic plutonic


melting assemblage

cpx, opx, plag,

hbl, mag

Several gabbroic samples collected from the western arc can be used to produce felsic liquids. On average, ~15-20% melting of gabbroic compositions can produce the observed felsic, HREE-depleted samples from group II.

44.8 wt

% SiO2

Unit Exposed Area




12.6 % 700 km2

87.0 %4,860 km2

0.4 % 24 km2

Int-Felsic Plutonic

avg. [La/Yb]N = 4.0

avg. [La/Yb]N = 1.7

> 54 wt % SiO2

Lower Cook Inlet region study area and other Talkeetna island arc plutonic and volcanic exposures. Western arc exposures from Detterman & Reed (1980) and Riehle et al. (1993). Terranes from Barker et al. (1994), Siberling et al. (1994), and Wilson et al. (1998).

Total = 5,584 km2

Mafic Plutonic

< 54 wt % SiO2

Compositional Group I REE patterns are relatively flat like the eastern arc, while Compositional Group II samples exhibit trends of concave-up HREE depletion.

The Talkeetna magmatic arc was created by northward dipping subduction (present-day coordinates) of the oceanic Farallon plate beneath the Peninsular terrane (part of the WCT) (Plafker et al., 1994; Clift et al., 2005).

Compositional Group I (green)

Compositional Group II (blue)

71.2 wt

% SiO2

How does western arc chemistry, petrologic modeling, and age correlation relate to the development of the arc crustal section?

Magma mingling of intermediate and felsic compositions, north shore Lake Grosvenor (5710J05)

Plutonic and volcanic exposures in the western Talkeetna island arc and the locations of rock samples used in this study. Western arc exposures are from Detterman & Reed (1980), Riehle et al. (1993), and Reed et al. (1982).

avg. [La/Yb]N = 2.1

REE normalized to C1 chondrite (Sun & McDonough, 1989)




Age Correlation




The arc crustal section studied in the east comprises a calc-alkaline suite where all lithologies display consistent major and trace element trends. In contrast, two compositionally distinct groups can be defined in the western arc using geochemistry of plutonic and volcanic rocks.

Early Stages(compositional group I)


Petrographic Characteristics

Mineral Modes

  • Arc volcanism (starting ~198 Ma)

  • Older plutons (~185-170 Ma) emplaced in relatively thin, immature arc crust

  • Fractional crystallization and accumulation dominant

Samples include fine-grained massive volcanic rocks and rounded volcanic clasts within volcaniclastic sediment. Predominantly porphyritic, samples range from basaltic-andesite to rhyolite. Phenocrysts are mostly subhedral plagioclase and cpx (when present). Plagioclase is commonly concentrically zoned and intergrown, many contain seive textures. Amphibole phenocrysts are largely broken up and surrounded by reaction rims of Fe-Ti oxides + pyroxene. Trace minerals: quartz. Alteration minerals: chlorite.

40-70% Matrix (plag dominated)


50-95% Plagioclase

0-20% Cpx (Mg-no. 73-84)

0-5% Opx (Mg-no. 65-67)

0-5% Amphibole (Mg-no. 67-73)

0-5% Fe-Ti oxide

Volcanic and volcaniclastic rocks; Talkeetna Formation

(53.6 - 72.7 wt % SiO2)

Zoned cpx phenocryst (volcanic sample 5713J05)

Compositional Group I (75 samples)

Arc Maturation (compositional group II)

Compositionally similar to rocks from the eastern arc: relatively low K at a given SiO2 and flat REE patterns ([La/Yb]N < 5; average 2.6) where REE abundances increase with increasing SiO2. Rocks cover a wide range of compositions (43.0 – 76.1 wt % SiO2), including mafic and intermediate-felsic plutonic as well as volcanic samples.

  • Younger plutons (~170-160 Ma) intrude into mature, thicker arc crust

  • Conductive heating of gabbroic lower crust produces felsic partial melts

  • Mixing of felsic and intermediate magmas produces the observed range of compositions

Subhedral to anhedral granular texture. Samples include diorite, quartz diorite, granodiorite, tonalite, and trondhjemite. Subhedral to anhedral plagioclase, commonly corroded and concentrically zoned. Poikilitic anhedral to subhedral amphibole containing plagioclase and/or biotite. Consertal and interstitial anhedral quartz. Some Mg-rich samples from the suite contain trace amounts of clinopyroxene and/or orthopyroxene (Mg-no. 61-65). Trace minerals: K-felspar, apatite, titanite, and zircon. Alteration minerals: chlorite, epidote, calcite, and pyrite.

40-70% Plagioclase (An 51-75)

10-30% Amphibole (Mg-no. 46-70)

5-20% Quartz

5-15% Biotite

1-5% Fe-Ti oxide

Intermediate to felsic plutonic rocks

(54.3 - 76.1 wt % SiO2)

Typical magnesio-hornblende (intermediate-felsic sample 2727M01)

Compositional Group II (21 samples)

  • Fractional crystallization, partial melting, and magma mixing

    may all have contributed to the formation of the western

    Talkeetna island arc crustal section.

  • Both compositional groups are components of the buoyant

    intermediate-felsic nucleus of the western arc that accreted

    to the continental margin.

Compositional Group I rocks show trends similar to eastern arc samples. Compositional Group II samples show an increase in [La/Yb]N and Sr/Y with increasing SiO2.

Show an entirely different trend of LREE enrichment and HREE depletion ([La/Yb]N > 5; average 7.3) where REE abundances decrease with increasing SiO2. Samples exhibit higher Al2O3, Sr, and Ba, and lower TiO2, FeO, and Y compared to group I at the same silica contents. Define a more restricted range of compositions (56.1 – 73.6 wt % SiO2), including intermediate-felsic plutonic and volcanic samples.

45-65% Plagioclase (An 73-92)

25-45% Amphibole (Mg-no. 60-69)

0-15% Cpx (Mg-no. 68-82)

0-10% Opx (Mg-no. 54-69)

0-5% Biotite

2-5% Fe-Ti oxide

Anhedral granular texture dominant. Samples are predominately gabbroic. Anhedral to subhedral plagioclase, faint concentric zoning and corroded cores common. Anhedral poikilitic amphibole containing plagioclase. Clinopyroxene and orthopyroxene commonly cored in amphibole. Trace minerals: apatite and titanite. Alteration minerals: chlorite.

Mafic plutonic rocks

(43.0 - 53.7 wt % SiO2)

Group I rocks are older (~185 – 175 Ma)

Group II rocks are younger (~170 – 160 Ma)

Cpx cores in amphibole (mafic sample 2729M10A)