A tale of two arcs? Plate tectonics of the Izu-Bonin-Mariana (IBM) arc using subducted slab constraints

Friday, 19 December 2014: 10:20 AM
Jonny E Wu1, John Suppe1, Lu Renqi2 and Ravi V S Kanda2, (1)NTU National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan, (2)Department of Geoscience, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
Published plate reconstructions typically show the Izu-Bonin Marianas arc (IBM) forming as a result of long-lived ~50 Ma Pacific subduction beneath the Philippine Sea. These reconstructions rely on the critical assumption that the Philippine Sea was continuously coupled to the Pacific during the lifetime of the IBM arc. Because of this assumption, significant (up to 1500 km) Pacific trench retreat is required to accommodate the 2000 km of Philippine Sea/IBM northward motion since the Eocene that is constrained by paleomagnetic data.

In this study, we have mapped subducted slabs of mantle lithosphere from MITP08 global seismic tomography (Li et al., 2008) and restored them to a model Earth surface to constrain plate tectonic reconstructions. Here we present two subducted slab constraints that call into question current IBM arc reconstructions:

1) The northern and central Marianas slabs form a sub-vertical ‘slab wall’ down to maximum 1500 km depths in the lower mantle. This slab geometry is best explained by a near-stationary Marianas trench that has remained +/- 250 km E-W of its present-day position since ~45 Ma, and does not support any significant Pacific slab retreat.

2) A vanished ocean is revealed by an extensive swath of sub-horizontal slabs at 700 to 1000 km depths in the lower mantle below present-day Philippine Sea to Papua New Guinea. We call this vanished ocean the ‘East Asian Sea’. When placed in an Eocene plate reconstruction, the East Asian Sea fits west of the reconstructed Marianas Pacific trench position and north of the Philippine Sea plate. This implies that the Philippine Sea and Pacific were not adjacent at IBM initiation, but were in fact separated by a lost ocean.

Here we propose a new IBM arc reconstruction constrained by subducted slabs mapped under East Asia. At ~50 Ma, the present-day IBM arc initiated at equatorial latitudes from East Asian Sea subduction below the Philippine Sea. A separate arc was formed from Pacific subduction below the East Asian Sea. The Philippine Sea plate moved northwards, overrunning the East Asian Sea and the two arcs collided between 15 to 20 Ma. From 15 Ma to the present, IBM arc magmatism was produced by Pacific subduction beneath the Philippine Sea.