Filling in the juvenile magmatic gap: Evidence for uninterrupted Paleoproterozoic plate tectonics

C. A. Partin, A. Bekker, P. J. Sylvester, N. Wodicka, R. A. Stern, T. Chacko, L. M. Heaman

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69 Scopus citations


Despite several decades of research on growth of the continental crust, it remains unclear whether the production of juvenile continental crust has been continuous or episodic throughout the Precambrian. Models for episodic crustal growth have gained traction recently through compilations of global U-Pb zircon age frequency distributions interpreted to delineate peaks and lulls in crustal growth through geologic time. One such apparent trough in zircon age frequency distributions between ~2.45 and 2.22 Ga is thought to represent a pause in crustal addition, resulting from a global shutdown of magmatic and tectonic processes. The ~2.45-2.22 Ga magmatic shutdown model envisions a causal relationship between the cessation of plate tectonics and accumulation of atmospheric oxygen over the same period. Here, we present new coupled U-Pb, Hf, and O isotope data for detrital and magmatic zircon from the western Churchill Province and Trans-Hudson orogen of Canada, covering an area of approximately 1.3 million km2, that demonstrate significant juvenile crustal production during the ~2.45-2.22 Ga time interval, and thereby argue against the magmatic shutdown hypothesis. Our data is corroborated by literature data showing an extensive 2.22-2.45 Ga record in both detrital and magmatic rocks on every continent, and suggests that the operation of plate tectonics continued throughout the early Paleoproterozoic, while atmospheric oxygen rose over the same time interval. We argue that uninterrupted plate tectonics between ~2.45 and 2.22 Ga would have contributed to efficient burial of organic matter and sedimentary pyrite, and the consequent rise in atmospheric oxygen documented for this time interval.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-133
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Feb 15 2014


  • Crustal evolution
  • Global magmatic shutdown
  • Hf isotopes
  • Paleoproterozoic
  • Rise of atmospheric oxygen


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