The effects of K2O on the compositions of near-solidus melts of garnet peridotite at 3 GPa and the origin of basalts from enriched mantle

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Enrichment in K2O in oceanic island basalts (OIB) is correlated with high SiO2, low CaO/Al2O3, and radiogenic isotopic signatures indicative of enriched mantle sources (EM1 and EM2). These are also chemical characteristics of the petit-spot lavas, which are highly enriched in K2O (3-4 wt%) compared to other primitive oceanic basalts. We present experimentally derived liquids with varying concentrations of K2O in equilibrium with a garnet lherzolite residue at 3 GPa to test the hypothesis that the major element characteristics of EM-type basalts are related to their enrichment in K2O. SiO2 is known to increase with K2O at pressures less than 3 GPa, but it was previously unknown if this effect was significant at the high pressures associated with partial melting at the base of the lithosphere. We find that at 3 GPa for each 1 wt% increase in the K2O content of a garnet lherzolite saturated melt, SiO2 increases by ~0.5 wt% and CaO decreases by ~0.5 wt%. MgO and KDFe-Mg each decrease slightly with K2O concentration, as do Na2O and Cr2O3. The effect of K2O alone is not strong enough to account for the SiO2 and CaO signatures associated with high-K2O OIB. The SiO2, CaO, and K2O concentrations of experimentally derived partial melts presented here resemble those of petit-spot lavas, but the Al2O3 concentrations from the experimental melts are greater. Partitioning of K2O between peridotite and melt suggests that petit spots, previously considered to sample ambient asthenosphere, require a source more enriched in K2O than the MORB source.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1029-1046
Number of pages18
JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We gratefully acknowledge the support from the National Science Foundation through award # EAR1019744. This manuscript was improved after thoughtful reviews by Brian Balta and Mike Krawczynski. Thanks to Mike Krawczynski for sharing his Matlab code for calculating chemical mass balance.


  • Experimental petrology
  • KO
  • Oceanic island basalt
  • Peridotite
  • Petit spot


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