Recurring slow slip along near-trench megathrust faults occurs at many subduction zones, but for unknown reasons, this process is not universal. Fluid overpressures are implicated in encouraging slow slip; however, links between slow slip, fluid content, and hydrogeology remain poorly known in natural systems. Three-dimensional seismic imaging and ocean drilling at the Hikurangi margin reveal a widespread and previously unknown fluid reservoir within the extensively hydrated (up to 47 vol % H2O) volcanic upper crust of the subducting Hikurangi Plateau large igneous province. This ∼1.5 km thick volcaniclastic upper crust readily dewaters with subduction but retains half of its fluid content upon reaching regions with well-characterized slow slip. We suggest that volcaniclastic-rich upper crust at volcanic plateaus and seamounts is a major source of water that contributes to the fluid budget in subduction zones and may drive fluid overpressures along the megathrust that give rise to frequent shallow slow slip.
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