Erosion of lithospheric mantle beneath the East African Rift system: Geochemical evidence from the Kivu volcanic province

Tanya Furman, David Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


This study presents new major and trace element and Sr-Nd isotopic results for a suite of Miocene-Recent mafic lavas from the Kivu volcanic province in the western branch of the East African Rift. These lavas exhibit a very wide range in chemical and isotopic characteristics, due to a lithospheric mantle source region that is heterogeneous on a small scale, probably < 1 km. The chemical and isotopic variations are mostly geographically controlled: lavas from Tshibinda volcano, which lies on a rift border fault on the northwestern margin of the province, have higher values of 87Sr/86Sr, (La/Sm)n, Ba/Nb, and Zr/Hf than the majority of Kivu (Bukavu) samples. The range of 87Sr/86Sr at Tshibinda (0.70511-0.70514) overlaps some compositions found in the neighboring Virunga province, while Bukavu group lavas include the lowest 87Sr/ 86Sr (0.70314) and highest εNd (+ 7.6) yet measured in western rift lavas. The Tshibinda compositions trend towards a convergence for Sr-Nd-Pb isotopic values among western rift lavas. Among Kivu lavas, variations in 143Nd/144Nd correlate with those for certain incompatible trace element ratios (e.g., Th/Nb, Zr/Hf, La/Nb, Ba/Rb), with Tshibinda samples defining one compositional extreme. There are covariations of isotopic and trace element ratios in mafic lavas of the East African Rift system that vary systematically with geographic location. The lavas represent a magmatic sampling of variations in the underlying continental lithospheric mantle, and it appears that a common lithospheric mantle (CLM) source is present beneath much of the East African Rift system. This source contains minor amphibole and phlogopite, probably due to widespread metasomatic events between 500 and 1000 Ma. Lava suites which do not show a strong component of the CLM source, and for which the chemical constraints also suggest the shallowest magma formation depths, are the Bukavu group lavas from Kivu and basanites from Huri Hills, Kenya. The inferred extent of lithospheric erosion therefore appears to be significant only beneath these two areas, which is generally consistent with lithospheric thickness variations estimated from gravity and seismic studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-262
Number of pages26
JournalDevelopments in Geotectonics
Issue numberC
StatePublished - 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geology


Dive into the research topics of 'Erosion of lithospheric mantle beneath the East African Rift system: Geochemical evidence from the Kivu volcanic province'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this