Carbonate-rich crust subduction drives the deep carbon and chlorine cycles

Chunfei Chen*, Michael W. Förster, Stephen F. Foley, Svyatoslav S. Shcheka

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    The flux balances of carbon and chlorine between subduction into the deep mantle and volcanic emissions into the atmosphere are crucial for the habitability of our planet 1,2. However, pervasive loss of fluids from subducting slabs has been thought to cut off the delivery of both carbon and chlorine to the deep mantle owing to their high mobility under hydrous conditions 3,4. Our new high-pressure experiments show that most carbonates (>75 wt%) in carbonate-rich crustal rocks—one of the main subducting carbon reservoirs—survive devolatilization and hydrous melting in cold and warm subduction zones, indicating that their subduction has driven the deep carbon cycle since the Mesoproterozoic. We found that KCl and NaCl, respectively, become stable phases crystallizing from hydrous carbonatite melts with low chlorine solubility in warm and hot subduction zones, resulting in the sequestration of chlorine in the solid residue in downwelling slabs. Accordingly, the subduction of carbonate-rich rocks facilitated highly effective recycling of both chlorine and carbon into the deep mantle at intermediate stages of Earth’s history and led to declining atmospheric pCO2 and the formation of carbon-rich and chlorine-rich mantle reservoirs since the Mesoproterozoic. This period of optimal carbon and chlorine subduction may explain the ages of eclogitic diamonds and the formation of the HIMU mantle source.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)576-581
    Number of pages6
    Issue number7974
    Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2023


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