Garnet sand reveals rock recycling processes in the youngest exhumed high- And ultrahigh-pressure terrane on Earth

Suzanne L. Baldwin, Jan Schönig, Joseph P. Gonzalez, Hugh Davies, Hilmar von Eynatten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Rock recycling within the forearcs of subduction zones involves subduction of sediments and hydrated lithosphere into the upper mantle, exhumation of rocks to the surface, and erosion to form new sediment. The compositions of, and inclusions within detrital minerals revealed by electron microprobe analysis and Raman spectroscopy preserve petrogenetic clues that can be related to transit through the rock cycle. We report the discovery of the ultrahigh-pressure (UHP) indicator mineral coesite as inclusions in detrital garnet from a modern placer deposit in the actively exhuming Late Miocene–Recent high- and ultrahigh-pressure ((U)HP) metamorphic terrane of eastern Papua New Guinea. Garnet compositions indicate the coesite-bearing detrital garnets are sourced from felsic protoliths. Carbonate, graphite, and CO2 inclusions also provide observational constraints for geochemical cycling of carbon and volatiles during subduction. Additional discoveries include polyphase inclusions of metastable polymorphs of SiO2 (cristobalite) and K-feldspar (kokchetavite) that we interpret as rapidly cooled former melt inclusions. Application of elastic thermobarometry on coexisting quartz and zircon inclusions in six detrital garnets indicates elastic equilibration during exhumation at granulite and amphibolite facies conditions. The garnet placer deposit preserves a record of the complete rock cycle, operative on <10-My geologic timescales, including subduction of sedimentary protoliths to UHP conditions, rapid exhumation, surface uplift, and erosion. Detrital garnet geochemistry and inclusion suites from both modern sediments and stratigraphic sections can be used to decipher the petrologic evolution of plate boundary zones and reveal recycling processes throughout Earth’s history.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2017231118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 19 2021


  • Detrital garnet
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Rock cycle
  • Ultrahigh-pressure metamorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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