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Lithium isotopic compositions of the New England Batholith: correlations with inferred source rock compositions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 July 2007

Colleen J. Bryant
Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia. e-mail:
Bruce W. Chappell
ARC National Key Centre for Geochemical Evolution and Metallogeny of Continents, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia.
Victoria C. Bennett
Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.
Malcolm T. McCulloch
Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.


A strong correlation exists between the Li isotopic compositions of CarboniferousTriassic granites from the New England Batholith, and the previously inferred involvement of sedimentary and mantle/infracrustal source components. Isotopically (Nd and Sr) juvenile, low-K, Cordilleran I-type granites of the Clarence River supersuite have δ7 Li= +2·2 to +8‰ similar to those of arc magmas, the inferred source of these granites (Bryant et al. 1997). Isotopic variability within this supersuite probably arises from heterogeneity within primary mantle-derived magmas, combined with subsequent modifications through interactions with crustal materials. Oxidised, high-K granites of the Moonbi Supersuite have more homogenous and slightly lighter Li isotopic compositions (δ7 Li= +1·9 to +4·2‰). The observed range of values lies within the range of arc magmas, and is consistent with partial melting of arc shoshonites within the crust (cf. Chappell 1978) or the involvement of high-K mantle-derived magmas (cf. Shaw & Flood 1981; Landenberger & Collins 1998). S-type granites of the Bundarra (δ7 Li= −0·1 to +2·1‰; average= +1˙3‰; n=6) and Hillgrove supersuites (δ7 Li= +0·4 to +1·7‰; average= +0·8‰) define a narrow range of isotopic compositions which are, overall, lower than those observed in NEB I-type granites or generally observed in primary arc magmas. Their isotopic compositions are equivalent to those typically observed in shales (primarily δ7 Li= −3·2 to +2·0‰; Moriguti & Nakamura 1998; Teng et al. 2004). No difference is evident in the isotopic compositions of the two S-type supersuites despite inferred differences in the degree of weathering experienced by the sedimentary protolith, or differences in mineralogy of the granites. Granites of the Uralla Supersuite, which have been have formed from mixtures of local meta-igneous and meta-sedimentary components, span a broad range of values (δ7 Li= −1·3 to +3·9‰) which overlap with both the sediment-poor New England Batholith I-type intrusions of the Clarence River and Moonbi supersuites, and the S-type granites of the Bundarra and Hillgrove supersuites. Lower δ7 Li values primarily occur in lower-K plutons from the northern portion of the Uralla Supersuite.

Overall, anatexis and magma differentiation do not appear to contribute to significant fractionation of Li isotopes relative to the inferred source components. However, subtly lower δ7 Li values, evident in the three leucogranites analysed herein, imply that subtle Li isotopic fractionation may occur in association with the exsolution of an aqueous fluid. Like most isotopic systems, the Li isotopic composition of rocks is not a definitive guide to source rock compositions, but given the results herein, the present authors suggest that it may play a very useful role in understanding crustal processes.

Research Article
Copyright © Royal Society of Edinburgh 2004

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