Persistence of fertile and hydrous lithospheric mantle beneath the northwestern Ethiopian plateau: Evidence from modal, trace element and Sr–Nd–Hf isotopic compositions of amphibole-bearing mantle xenoliths
We present new trace element compositions of amphiboles, Sr–Nd–Hf isotope compositions of clinopyroxenes and mineral modes for spinel peridotite xenoliths that were entrained in a Miocene alkali basalt (Gundeweyn, northwestern Ethiopian plateau), in order to understand the geochemical evolution and variation occurring within the continental lithospheric mantle (CLM) in close proximity to the East African Rift system, and its dynamic implications. With the exception of a single amphibole-bearing sample that is depleted in LREE (La/YbN = 0.45 × Cl), amphiboles in lherzolites and in one harzburgite show variable degrees of LREE enrichment (La/YbN = 2.5–12.1 × Cl) with flat HREE (Dy/YbN = 1.5–2.1 × Cl). Lherzolitic clinoyroxenes have 87Sr/86Sr (0.70227 to 0.70357), 143Nd/144Nd (0.51285 to 0.51346), and 176Hf/177Hf (0.28297 to 0.28360) ranging between depleted lithosphere and enriched mantle. LREE-enriched clinopyroxenes generally have more enriched isotope compositions than depleted ones. While lherzolites with isotope compositions similar to those of the Afar plume result from the most recent metasomatic overprint, isotope compositions more depleted than present-day MORB can be explained by an older melt extraction and/or isotopic rehomogenisation event, possibly related to the Pan-African orogeny.
Several generations of amphibole are recognized in accord with this multi-stage evolution. Texturally unequilibrated amphibole occurring within the peridotite matrix and in melt pockets attest to continued hydration and refertilization of the lithospheric mantle subsequent to Oligocene flood basalt magmatism, during which an earlier-emplaced inventory of amphibole was likely largely consumed. However, a single harzburgite contains amphibole with the highest Mg# and lowest TiO2 content, which is interpreted as sampling a volumetrically subordinate mantle region beneath the Ethiopian plateau that was not tapped during flood basalt magmatism. Strikingly, both trace-element enriched and depleted lherzolites have high clinopyroxene and orthopyroxene and low olivine contents (median 15, 24 and 56 vol.%), combined with primitive olivine Mg# (median 89.5), indicating the presence of refertilized mantle beneath Gundeweyn. Despite its fertility and FeO-rich character (hence high inferred density), and impingement by the Afar plume, the CLM beneath the Ethiopian plateau, though apparently thinned through thermochemical erosion, has so far resisted whole-sale delamination or dripping. This is tentatively ascribed to insufficient stress and density contrasts at the periphery of the Afar plume, which reached its greatest thermochemical buoyancy in the Afar region, northeast of Gundeweyn.