Xu Yigang

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  • Article
    Mantle upwelling beneath the South China Sea and links to surrounding subduction systems
    (Oxford University Press, 2019-08-28) Lin, Jian ; Xu, Yigang ; Sun, Zhen ; Zhou, Zhiyuan
    The evolution of the South China Sea (SCS) is directly linked to the complex subduction systems of the surrounding Pacific, Philippine Sea and Indo-Australian Plates (Fig. 1a). Major advances in the last several years are providing new insights into the SCS-mantle dynamics, through regional seismic imaging of the upper mantle [1,2], unprecedented IODP drilling expeditions (349/367/368/368X) [3–5] that obtained the oceanic basement basalt samples for the first time, geochemical analyses of the SCS-mantle source compositions [6–8] and geodynamic modeling [9,10]. Furthermore, new geological mapping, seismic imaging [11,12] and IODP drilling [13,14] have revealed evidence for significantly greater magma production at the northern SCS rifted margin, in comparison to the magma-poor end-member of the Atlantic rifted margins. This paper provides a new perspective of the SCS-mantle dynamics inspired by new observations and geodynamic modeling. We first highlight new geophysical evidence for a broad region of low-seismic-velocity anomalies in the upper mantle beneath the northern SCS, abundant magmatism during continental breakup and post-seafloor spreading, and geochemical evidence for recycled oceanic components beneath the SCS. We then present new models of layered flows in the mantle beneath the SCS, revealing two modes of plate- and subduction-driven mantle upwelling, including (i) narrow centers of mantle upwelling at shallow depths induced by divergent plate motion at seafloor-spreading centers and (ii) broad zones of mantle upwelling as a result of subduction-induced mantle-return flows at greater depths. These new observations and geodynamic studies suggest strong links between mantle upwelling beneath the SCS and surrounding subducting plates.