Abstract

The Dabie Mountains are part of the >2000-km-long Qinling-Dabie-Sulu suture zone juxtaposing the Sino-Korean and Yangtze cratons. An eastern extension apparently crosses Korea and lies along the Japan Sea side of Honshu as the Imjingang and Sangun terranes, respectively; a northeastern segment may be present in Sikhote-Alin, Russian Far East. This orogenic belt records late Paleozoic ocean-floor consumption and the Triassic collision of two Precambrian continental massifs in east-central China. Coesite and microdiamond inclusions in strong, refractory minerals of eclogite facies ultrahigh-pressure (UHP) metamorphic rocks in the Dabie-Sulu area attest to profound subduction of a leading salient of the old, cold Yangtze craton, now recovered through tectonic exhumation and erosion. Northward increase in intensity of subsolidus recrystallization of the suture complex is analogous to the internal progression in grade of high-pressure (HP) and UHP metamorphism documented in the Western Alps. In both regions, subduction of narrow prongs of continental material, UHP metamorphism, and return toward midcrustal levels of relatively lower density, buoyant microcontinental blocks resulted from delamination of these rocks from the descending, higher density, oceanic-crust-capped lithospheric plate. Such salients of continental crust represent an integral structural part of the downgoing slab, remain intact, and may be dragged to great depths before disengaging and rising differentially as coherent blocks. UHP parageneses include trace mineralogic relics requiring peak metamorphic conditions of 700–900 ° C and 28–35 kbar or more. In contrast, Pacific-type HP metamorphic belts, as represented by the Franciscan Complex of western California, recrystallized under physical conditions up to 200–500 ° C, 10 ± 3 kbar. In this setting, voluminous quartzo-feldspathic and graywacke debris was carried downward on oceanic-crust-capped lithosphere, choking the subduction zone with incompetent material. Sited between both plates, and strongly adhering to neither, this buoyant, largely sedimentary complex decoupled at 25–30 km depth, and ascended toward the surface. In both Alpine-type intracontinental collision and Pacific-type underflow, light sialic material displaced dense mantle; thus, the return to midcrustal levels was propelled dominantly by body forces.

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