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The role of decoupling in the low-velocity zone is crucial for understanding plate tectonics and mantle convection. Mantle convection models fail to integrate plate kinematics and thermodynamics of the mantle. In a first gross estimate, we computed at >300 km3/yr the volume of the plates lost along subduction zones. Mass balance predicts that slabs are compensated by broad passive upwellings beneath oceans and continents, passively emerging at oceanic ridges and backarc basins. These may correspond to the broad low-wavespeed regions found in the upper mantle by tomography. However, west-directed slabs enter the mantle more than three times faster...

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