Abstract

Uplift of the Tibetan Plateau is thought to be one of the most important orogenic and climate forcing events of the Cenozoic Era, associated with geodynamic changes related to India-Asia collision and subsequent continental lithosphere subduction. However, the fate and scale of the subducted continental lithosphere segments remain highly controversial. Using a comprehensive compilation of the spatiotemporal distribution of postcollisional magmatic rocks across Tibet, together with new geochemical and Sr-Nd-Pb isotopic data and modeling simulations, we propose a holistic, two-stage evolutionary model to explain the link between genesis of the magmas and continental subduction. The magmatism prior to 25 Ma resulted from continuous upwelling of a carbonate-rich upper-mantle plume induced by northward underthrusting of Indian oceanic and continental lithosphere with its cover of Tethyan platform carbonate sediments, whereas magmatism after 25 Ma was related to opposing north-directed and south-directed continental subduction. Our model indicates a transformation in the distribution and nature of the magmatism in Tibet at ca. 25 Ma, which reflects a significant change in the Himalayan-Tibetan orogen and associated mantle dynamic processes in the early Miocene. Understanding this transformation could have important implications for the utility of the Himalayan-Tibetan system as a modern analogue for ancient orogens.

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