Olivine, once overlooked as a host of trace elements, is becoming increasingly important for our understanding of the kinetic and equilibrium behaviour of these elements. Much of our understanding of trace element substitution and diffusion in geological materials comes as a result of experimental and petrological studies of olivine. Here, we consider trace element concentrations and incorporation mechanisms, and how these relate to diffusive behaviour. If we understand trace element behaviour in olivine, we have a powerful tool kit that can be directly applied to address many problems in petrology and volcanology. Perhaps more importantly, what we have learned from olivine can be applied to other minerals and aid us in addressing other far-reaching questions from across the Earth sciences.

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