Reconciling the detrital zircon record and crustal growth within juvenile accretionary orogens

Friday, 19 December 2014: 4:15 PM
Christopher J Spencer, NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory, Keyworth, United Kingdom, Peter A. Cawood, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, United Kingdom and Nick M W Roberts, NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory, Keyworth, NG12, United Kingdom
Ancient cratons are generally characterised by Archaean cores surrounded by Proterozoic accretionary belts with large volumes of juvenile crust. Their crustal growth histories provide important insights into the genesis of continents and orogenic evolution. Whole-rock and detrital zircon isotopic studies are often used to deduce those histories, but the extent to which representative lithologies within the orogens are reliably sampled for such studies is not well established. This is especially true in cases where juvenile, zircon-poor mafic crust comprises a significant proportion of an orogen such as the East African (0.8-0.5 Ga), Namaqua-Natal (1.2-1.0 Ga), Trans-Hudson (1.9-1.8 Ga), and Kola (2.5 Ga). In particular, the Mesoproterozoic Namaqua-Natal orogenic belt (NNO) fringing the Kalahari Craton is a case in point in which Nd isotopic studies of whole-rock outcrop samples and U-Pb-Hf isotopic studies of detrital zircons from sediments of the Orange River (which drains the NNO) show different crust-formation ages and proportions of new and reworked crustal material. We hypothesise that this discrepancy is due to biasing of the detrital zircon record towards felsic rocks. Understanding the representative nature of the crustal archive preserved in detrital zircons remains critical for many studies of crustal evolution. We present data that: (a) addresses the scale of potential bias within an accretionary orogen containing large proportions of juvenile material, (b) demonstrates how the whole-rock and detrital zircon records can be reconciled for the Namaqua-Natal orogen to start, and (c) can be used to evaluate the effect of zircon bias on previous crustal growth models.