The East Scotia Ridge exhibits systematic variations in axial morphology and basalt geochemistry. Central segments have morphology typical of intermediate-rate spreading centres and erupt mainly normal mid-ocean ridge basalt (N-MORB). Segments near the ridge ends exhibit anomalous, inflated, axial morphology and erupt more evolved basalts, influenced by the Bouvet plume in the north. As the end segments lie closer to the volcanic arc, these variations could be caused by coupled flow within the mantle wedge, as inferred from similar studies in the Lau Basin. Three of the four zones of crustal accretion defined from the Lau Basin may be identified in the East Scotia Sea, although there is no counterpart to a zone of diminished magma supply observed at the East Lau Spreading Centre. Superimposed on the pattern of plate-driven flow is a ridge-parallel flow related to inflow of Atlantic mantle into the East Scotia Sea back-arc region at both ends of the South Sandwich slab. The inflow causes enhanced magmatism and propagation of the end segments towards the middle of the back-arc region, and may be related to trench-parallel flow beneath the rapidly retreating slab. Alternatively, it may be driven by buoyancy flux from Atlantic hot spots. There is no evidence that retreat was ever driven by escape flow of Pacific mantle.
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Intra-Oceanic Subduction Systems: Tectonic and Magmatic Processes
Recycling of oceanic plate back into the Earth’s interior at subduction zones is one of the key processes in Earth evolution. Volcanic arcs, which form above subduction zones, are the most visible manifestations of plate tectonics, the convection mechanism by which the Earth loses excess heat They are probably also the main location where new continental crust is formed, the so-called ‘subduction factory’. About 40% modern subduction zones on Earth are intra-oceanic. These subduction systems are generally simpler than those at continental margins as they commonly have a shorter history of subduction and their magmas are not contaminated by ancient sialic crust. They are therefore the optimum locations for studies of mantle processes and magmatic addition to the crust in subduction zones.
This volume contains a collection of papers that exploit the relative simplicity of intra-oceanic subduction systems to provide insights into the tectonic, magmatic and hydrothermal processes associated with subduction.