Creep Cavitation in Lower Crustal Shear Zones

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 2:55 PM
Luca Mr Menegon, Plymouth University, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Plymouth, PL4, United Kingdom, Florian Fusseis, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom and H Holger Stunitz, University of Tromsø, Department of Geology, Tromsø, Norway
Shear zones channelize fluid flow in the Earth’s crust. A number of mechanisms have been suggested to control fluid migration pathways in upper- and mid-crustal shear zones, amongst them creep cavitation, which is well-known from deforming metals and ceramics. However, little is known on deep crustal fluid migration and on how fluids are channelized and distributed in actively deforming lower crustal shear zones.

This study investigates the deformation mechanisms, fluid-rock interaction, and development of porosity in a monzonite ultramylonite from Lofoten, northern Norway. The rock was deformed under lower crustal conditions (T=700-730° C, P=0.65-0.8 GPa). The ultramylonite consists of feldspathic layers and of domains of amphibole + quartz + calcite, which represent the products of hydration reactions of magmatic clinopyroxene. The average grain size in both domains is <25 μm. Microstructural observations and EBSD analysis are consistent with diffusion creep as the dominant deformation mechanism in both domains. In feldspathic layers, isolated quartz grains without a crystallographic preferred orientation occur along C’-type shear bands. All microstructures suggest that quartz precipitated in cavities. The orientation of such quartz bands overlaps with the preferred orientation of pores in the ultramylonites, as evidenced from synchrotron X-ray microtomography. Such C’-type shear bands are interpreted as high-strain cavitation bands resulting from diffusion creep deformation associated with grain boundary sliding. Mass-balance calculation indicates a 2% volume increase during the protolith-ultramylonite transformation. The volume increase is consistent with a synkinematic formation of cavities.

Thus, this study presents clear evidence that high-strain cavitation bands may control deep crustal porosity and fluid flow. Nucleation of new phases in cavitation bands inhibits grain growth and enhances the activity of grain-size sensitive creep, thereby maintaining strain and fluid flow localized in the fine-grained polymineralic ultramylonites.