The effect of syntectonic hydration on rock strength, fabric evolution, and polycrystalline flow in mafic lower continental crust rocks

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 10:35 AM
Amanda Getsinger, Brown University, Geological Sciences, Providence, RI, United States and Greg Hirth, Brown Univeristy, Providence, RI, United States
Strain localization is significantly enhanced by the influx of fluid; however, processes associated with deformation in polycrystalline material, fluid infiltration, and the evolution of creep processes and rock fabric with increasing strain localization are not well constrained for many lower crust lithologies. We combine field and experimental observations of mafic rocks deforming at lower crust pressure, temperature, and water conditions to examine strain localization processes associated with the influx of fluid, strength dependence of fabric evolution, and flow law parameters for amphibolite. General shear experiments were conducted in a Griggs rig on powdered basalt (≤5 µm starting grain size) with up to 1 wt% water at lower continental crust conditions (750˚ to 850˚C, 1GPa). Amphibole formed during deformation exhibits both a strong shape preferred orientation (SPO) and lattice preferred orientation (LPO). With increasing strain, the amphibole (and clinopyroxene) LPO strengthens and rotates to [001] maximum aligned sub-parallel to the flow direction and SPO, which indicates grain rotation during deformation. Plagioclase LPO increases from random to very weak in samples deformed to high strain. As the amphibole LPO rotates and strengthens, the mechanical strength decreases. The correlation of the SPO and LPO coupled with the rheological evidence for diffusion creep (n ≈ 1.5) indicates that the amphibole fabric results from grain growth and rigid grain rotation during deformation. The coevolution of LPO (and grain rotation) and mechanical weakening coupled with the absence of grain size reduction in our samples suggests that strength depends on the formation of a strong mineral LPO. Both our field and experimental data demonstrate that fluid intrusion into the mafic lower crust initiates syn-deformational, water-consuming reactions, creating a rheological contrast between wet and dry lithologies that promotes strain localization. Additionally, the rheology of both naturally deformed amphibolite shear zones and our fine-grained experimental amphibolite is comparable to that predicted using flow laws for wet anorthite. Thus, both our experimental and field analyses indicate that wet plagioclase rheology provides a good constraint on the strength of hydrated lower continental crust.