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Geochemical Characterization of Serpentinites in the Franciscan Complex, western California

Rania Eldam

Jaime Barnes and Rania Eldam
Rania Eldam (B.S. '13) conducts geochemistry research with assistant professor Jaime Barnes (left)

In my research project that I began in the spring of 2010 with Dr. Jaime Barnes, we intended to address the idea of geochemical characterization of serpentinites within the Franciscan Complex in western California. We did this by conducting field work that summer that spanned the Californian coast, collecting samples of serpentinites to analyze for fluid-rock interactions and protolith characterization. After taking our samples back to the lab, I began a series of extended analyses, ranging from HF digestion of our serpentinites, crushing rocks into powder or separates in a mortar and pestle, to using various different analytical methods to give interesting and variable analyses of our rocks. The abstract is as follows:

Franciscan Complex serpentinites have been interpreted as eroded pieces of the overriding Coast Range Ophiolite (CRO), off-scraped pieces of the subducting oceanic plate, and as sedimentary serpentinites (e.g., Wakabayashi, 2004); however, most of these interpretations are based on tectonic models and field relationships. We present bulk rock major and trace element geochemistry, pyroxene and spinel geochemistry, and stable isotope data (O, H, Cl) for serpentinite samples with the goal of determining protolith origin and subsequent serpentinizing fluid sources of several metasomatized Franciscan and CRO ultramafic rocks in order to decipher the tectonic setting of serpentinization. We focused on serpentinite bodies found in the Franciscan Complex (west of Cuesta Ridge;south of San Francisco; Tiburon Peninsula; Healdsburg) (n = 12). Three samples from Cuesta Ridge (CRO) were also analyzed for comparison.

eldam franciscan complexAll samples are >~95% serpentinized and consist of lizardite +/- chrysotile. Relict grains are rarely preserved.Franciscan serpentinites (Tiburon Peninsula, west of Cuesta Ridge) show positive-sloped REE patterns. This depletion in LREE is typical of abyssal peridotites. Relictclinopyroxenes from Tiburon Peninsula have high HREE concentrations, also supportingan abyssal origin. 2 of the 3 samples from the Cuesta Ridge show flat REE patterns; whereas, one is U-shaped. This enrichment in LREE is similar to forearc peridotites. Spinels from Cuesta Ridge have Cr# > 0.60 also implying a forearc setting; whereas,Franciscan localities have typically have lower Cr# (0.21 to 0.51). All samples show remarkable positive Ce and Y anomalies. We speculate that these anomalies may be due to interaction with ferromanganese nodules and crusts (also high in Ce and Y) on the seafloor prior to subduction. Cuesta Ridge samples have δ18O values between +6.0 to+6.6‰. Franciscan serpentinites (except those south of San Francisco) have δ18O values of +5.4 to +7.9‰. These δ18O values are similar to typical oceanic serpentinites and likely represent low-T seawater hydration on the seafloor. δD values of all samples are extremely low (-107 to -90‰) and likely result from post- serpentinization, post emplacement interaction with meteoric water at low temperature. Samples south of San Francisco lie on the San Andreas fault and have high δ18O values (+7.2 to +9.5‰) and low δD values (-107 to -104‰) likely due to low-T interaction with meteoric water at high fluid-rock ratios. Most of the serpentinites (12 of the 15) have δ37 Cl values between+0.2 and +0.9‰, typical values for serpentinites formed by interaction with seawater. Based on bulk rock geochemistry and pyroxene and spinel compositions, serpentinites located within the Franciscan Complex have geochemical characteristics of abyssal peridotites; whereas, those from Cuesta Ridge are more chemically heterogeneous with most having affinity to forearc peridotites. All stable isotope geochemistry indicates seafloor serpentinization by seawater.

Supervisor: Jaime Barnes