Earth’s chondritic light rare earth element composition: Evidence from the Ce–Nd isotope systematics of chondrites and oceanic basalts

1Michael Willig,1Andreas Stracke
Earth and Planetary Science Letters 509, 55-65 Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2018.12.004]
1Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Corrensstr. 24, 48149 Münster, Germany
Copyright Elsevier

Combined Ce and Nd isotope ratios provide a time-integrated record of the light rare earth element (LREE) abundances of their source materials. Here, we present new high precision Ce isotope data for chondrites and basalts from ocean islands (OIB) and mid ocean ridges (MORB). The new Ce isotope ratios in chondritic meteorites define a precise new CHUR reference value. In Ce–Nd isotopic space, the MORB and OIB form a well-defined array that intersects with the Ce–Nd chondritic reference value. The simplest first-order explanation is that the bulk silicate Earth (BSE) has chondritic LREE and Ce–Nd isotope ratios. We show, however, that the intercept and slope of the Ce–Nd isotope mantle array depend on several factors. Perhaps most important are whether the BSE is chondritic and how closely the mantle average reflected in the MORB and OIB data corresponds to the Ce–Nd isotope ratio of the BSE. A significant difference between the accessible mantle’s average Ce–Nd isotope ratio and that of BSE could result from the permanent storage of a considerable proportion of Earth’s total LREE budget in the continental crust or potential isolated reservoirs. We show that the formation of isolated reservoirs either has a minor effect on the average Ce–Nd composition of the average mantle, or is geochemically and geodynamically implausible. If, due to formation of the continental crust, a significant shift in the average mantle’s Ce–Nd isotope composition relative to BSE occurs, this shift is parallel to the Ce–Nd mantle array, and does not affect its chondritic intercept. The chondritic intercept of the Ce–Nd isotope mantle array therefore is strong evidence that BSE’s relative LREE and Ce–Nd isotope composition is chondritic. However, an apparent difference between the accessible mantle’s average Ce–Nd isotope ratio and that of BSE could also result if MORB and OIB do not sample the accessible mantle in a representative manner. Although we cannot entirely exclude the latter, it would require a fortuitous combination of factors to cause the observed chondritic intercept of the Ce–Nd isotope mantle array. We therefore conclude that the bulk silicate Earth has chondritic LREE and Ce–Nd isotope ratios.

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