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Pacific Plate subduction beneath the central Mariana and Izu-Bonin fore arcs: New insights from an old margin

TitlePacific Plate subduction beneath the central Mariana and Izu-Bonin fore arcs: New insights from an old margin
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsOakley, AJ, Taylor, B, Moore, GF
JournalGeochem. Geophys. Geosyst.Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst.Geochem. Geophys. Geosys.
PaginationQ06003, doi:10.1029/2007GC001820
KeywordsGIS and oceanography, Mariana fore arc, forearc, Tonga, subduction

Multichannel seismic (MCS) profiles and bathymetric data from the central Mariana and Izu-Bonin
subduction systems image the subducting Pacific Plate from the outer trench slope to beneath serpentinite
seamounts on the outer fore arc. Subducting oceanic crust varies along the Mariana margin from 5.3 to
7 km thick and is covered by 0.5–2 km thick sediments and numerous seamounts. Oceanic crustal
thickness east of the Izu-Bonin Trench is 6 km. Faulting resulting from flexure of the incoming Pacific
Plate begins up to 100 km east of the trench axis, near the 6 km depth contour. The plate is cut by normal
faults that reactivate inherited tectonic fabric where that fabric strikes is >25 , incoming crust breaks along new faults with a trench-parallel strike. The Mariana Trench axis is
commonly a graben that accommodates an abrupt change (within (commonly 2 ) on the incoming plate to >8 beneath the outer fore arc. We infer that the plate fails there
rather than simply bends under the applied loads. Along portions of the Mariana margin, subducting
seamounts displace the trench axis westward and uplift the toe of the slope. Surprisingly, west of the toe,
there is no geophysical evidence of disturbance of the upper plate in response to seamount subduction, nor
of significant subduction erosion or sediment underplating. MCS profiles across the base of the Mariana
inner trench slope provide evidence for both complete subduction and small-scale accretion of Pacific Plate
sediments; however, we found no evidence for long-term sediment accretion. The subducting plate dips 9–
12 beneath serpentinite seamounts on the Izu-Bonin and Mariana fore arcs. Along the Mariana margin, the
majority of these seamounts are located 50–70 km west of the trench where the mantle wedge is 3–7 km
thick between 8–10 km thick fore-arc crust and the top of the subducting plate. The apparent lack of
significant deformation of the Mariana fore arc crust by subducting seamounts may be the result of a weak
serpentinized mantle wedge and/or progressive fracturing as the subducting plate increases in dip as it
passes through the trench graben.

Short TitleEarth and Planetary Science LettersGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Alternate JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems