Dehydration of the subducting slab is a crucial process in the generation of hydrous convergent margin magmas, yet the exact processes of how and where the slab dehydrates and how these fluids are transported to the mantle wedge remain obscure. Strontium is a “fluid-mobile” element and as such well suited to investigate the source of slab-derived fluids. We employ mass-dependent Sr isotope systematics (δ88/86Sr; the deviation in 88Sr/86Sr of a sample relative to NIST SRM 987) of primitive arc lavas, in tandem with conventional radiogenic 87Sr/86Sr measurements, as a novel tracer of slab dehydration. To characterise the δ88/86Sr composition of subduction zone inputs, we present new δ88/86Sr data for subducting sediments, altered oceanic crust and MORB. Calcareous sediments are isotopically lighter and carbonate-free sediments are isotopically heavier than mid-ocean ridge basalts (MORB). Samples of the altered oceanic crust display elevated 87Sr/86Sr but only the most intensely altered sample has significantly higher δ88/86Sr than pristine MORB. Mafic arc lavas from the Aegean and Mariana arc invariably have a mass-dependent Sr isotope composition that is indistinguishable from MORB and lower 87Sr/86Sr than upper altered oceanic crust. This δ88/86Sr-87Sr/86Sr signature of the arc lavas, in combination with their high but variable Sr/Nd, can only be explained if it is provided by a fluid that acquired its Sr isotope signature in the deeper, less altered part of the subducted oceanic crust. We propose a model where the breakdown of serpentinite in the slab mantle releases a pulse of fluid at sub-arc depths. These fluids travel through and equilibrate with the overlying oceanic crust and induce wet partial melting of the upper altered crust and sediments. This hydrous melt is then delivered to the mantle source of arc magmas as a single metasomatic component. From mass balance it follows that the slab-derived fluid contributes >70% of the Sr budget of both Mariana and Aegean arc lavas. Whereas this fluid-dominated character is unsurprising for the sediment-poor Mariana arc, the Aegean arc sees the subduction of 3–6 km of calcareous sediments that were found to exert very little control on the Sr budget of the arc magmas and are overwhelmed by the fluid contribution.
- Mass-dependent Sr isotope variations
- Serpentinite fluid
- Arc magmatism
- Altered oceanic crust
- Subducting sediment