The zircon record of high-pressure metasedimentary rocks of New Caledonia: implications for regional tectonics of the south-west Pacific

Pirard, Cassian, and Spandler, Carl (2017) The zircon record of high-pressure metasedimentary rocks of New Caledonia: implications for regional tectonics of the south-west Pacific. Gondwana Research, 46. pp. 79-94.

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We report the U-Pb age, and trace element and hafnium isotope composition of zircons recovered from clastic metasedimentary rocks that span a range of metamorphic grades (prehnite-pumpellyite to eclogite facies) across the high-pressure metamorphic belt of northern New Caledonia. We use these data to evaluate the sedimentary source and environment of formation of these rocks, as well as their respective metamorphic evolution.

Metasediments from the low-grade Koumac and blueschist-facies Diahot sequences contain zircon with age populations of 1800–1500 Ma, 700–500 Ma, 300–250 Ma and 140–80 Ma. These grains have highly variable Hf isotope compositions (εHf − 36 to + 12), and some have thin metamorphic rim zones dated to ~ 38 Ma. Zircon grains from the high-grade metamorphic section (Pouebo Eclogite Mélange) are mostly Upper Cretaceous and lowermost Eocene in age, with ~ 40 Ma metamorphic overgrowth zones. The Upper Cretaceous zircons from across the belt have similar isotopic compositions, whereas the lowermost Eocene zircons have relatively high εHf of + 6 to + 13. The zircon record of the eclogites often lacks the diverse old detrital signature that is prevalent in the blueschist-facies rocks; rather the age populations of the eclogite grade zircons reflect derivation from nearby volcanic sources.

We suggest that the bulk of Koumac and Diahot sequences represent the erosional products of the Norfolk Ridge that were transported eastwards and accumulated into the East New Caledonia Basin. Paleozoic and Precambrian zircon grains were originally sourced from Paleozoic orogenic belts of the eastern margin of Australia, and possibly from now-submerged ridges of continental character. We suggest that the Mesozoic zircon grains derived from volcanic arc activity on the eastern margin of Gondwana. Extension led to a reduced continental sediment input into the East New Caledonia Basin during the Cretaceous, which explains the limited amounts of ancient detritus in the mid-Cretaceous to Eocene sedimentary protoliths of the Pouebo Eclogite Mélange. The combined Hf isotope and age data for our zircon record point to the existence of a west-dipping subduction zone active throughout the Late Triassic to the Late Cretaceous, possibly with some short-lived periods of volcanic hiatus. In the early Eocene, a new east-dipping subduction formed following a major change in plate kinematics, producing younger metavolcanic zircons and eventually leading to the metamorphism of sedimentary units in the middle Eocene.

Item ID: 48966
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1342-937X
Keywords: New Caledonia, high-pressure metamorphism, detrital zircon, hafnium isotopes, South-west Pacific
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC DP 1095280
Date Deposited: 29 May 2017 23:06
FoR Codes: 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3703 Geochemistry > 370303 Isotope geochemistry @ 20%
37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3705 Geology > 370503 Igneous and metamorphic petrology @ 50%
37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3705 Geology > 370502 Geochronology @ 30%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences @ 100%
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