Decoupling of zircon U–Pb and trace-element systematics driven by U diffusion in eclogite-facies zircon (Monviso meta-ophiolite, W. Alps)

Joshua M. Garber, Andrew J. Smye, Maureen D. Feineman, Andrew R.C. Kylander-Clark, Simon Matthews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Zircon is widely used to date metamorphic processes, particularly due to slow cation diffusion under crustal conditions. Here, we present laser-ablation depth profiling data that demonstrate rapid U diffusion in partially altered, high-pressure zircon. The zircons are hosted in metagabbros that underwent eclogite-facies (~ 550 °C, ~ 2.6 GPa) recrystallization during subduction of the Monviso meta-ophiolite. One metagabbro contains only newly grown zircons (50.2 ± 1.1 Ma); two coarser-grained samples exhibit thin metamorphic rims on igneous cores. Most profiles in the coarse-grained samples record discrete PbC-rich and Pb*-, U-, Th-, and trace-element poor rims in the outermost ≤ 5 µm of each grain, but U shows apparent diffusion profiles that extend ~ 10–15 µm into zircon crystals and correlate with U–Pb date resetting. The data define three populations (cores, diffusively reset rims, and newly precipitated rims) that form two two-component mixtures, indicating that recrystallization was everywhere coupled with U addition. Data from fully equilibrated rims form a single age population (51.1 ± 0.4 Ma) within error of the newly grown zircon and compatible with ~ 1 My fluid–rock interaction timescales. We interpret the U profiles as evidence of inward U diffusion associated with fluid-induced resorption, and systematically exclude other mechanisms for their formation. However, calculated diffusivity estimates are > 20 orders of magnitude faster than predicted by experiments. The absence of zircon lattice damage, and the propagation of diffusion inward of a reaction front, indicates a link between fluid-saturated zircon alteration and fast U diffusion in zircon. Our results emphasize that–-even at low temperature–-zircon U–Pb systematics may be affected by parent and/or daughter diffusion over length scales large enough to affect laser-ablation or ion microprobe spot analyses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number55
JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


Dive into the research topics of 'Decoupling of zircon U–Pb and trace-element systematics driven by U diffusion in eclogite-facies zircon (Monviso meta-ophiolite, W. Alps)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this