Alkaline lavas occur globally in subduction-related volcanic arcs. Conventional models for the origin of these lavas typically invoke a multi-stage process in which mantle wedge peridotite, enriched in phlogopite and/or amphibole due to prior metasomatism, partially melts during infiltration by fluids and melts derived from subducted oceanic lithosphere. However, geochemical systematics in the majority of subduction-related alkaline lavas require physical mixing of subducted components and peridotite prior to partial melting. This can be explained by the mélange diapir model, which predicts the generation of arc magmas during advection of buoyant material from the slab-wedge interface into the mantle wedge below arcs. Here we report results from experiments in which natural mélange materials were partially melted at upper mantle conditions to produce alkaline magmas. Partial melts produced in our experiments have trace-element abundance patterns that are typical of alkaline arc lavas, such as enrichment in large ion lithophile elements (LILEs) and depletion in Nb and Ta. These results favor generation of alkaline magmas in the arc and backarc regions of subduction zones by partial melting of mélange materials rather than previously metasomatized peridotite.

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