Effect of Grain-Size and Textural Weakening in Polyphase Crustal and Mantle Lithospheric Shear Zones

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Jonas Ruh
Whitney Behr
Leif Tokle


Strain localization to form narrow plate boundary shear zones in Earth’s lithosphere requires a significant amount of strain weakening. Here we investigate the relative contributions of grain-size-sensitive weakening versus textural weakening in polyphase shear zones in granitoid and peridotitic rocks through two-dimensional centimetre-scale bulk simple shear numerical models. The models deploy both constant grain size (only textural weakening) and dynamic grain-size evolution based on the paleowattmeter. Our results reveal that for granitoid rocks, textural weakening dominates, especially at temperatures around 550 °C, while grain-size-sensitive weakening plays a secondary yet significant role. For peridotitic rocks, intense weakening is evident below temperatures of ~1000 °C due to grain-size reduction, while textural weakening has a minor effect on weakening for experiments above 1000 °C. Two-dimensional experiments are compared to one-dimensional, single-phase models to reveal the effect of geometrical complexities in stress and grain-size evolution. These results are discussed in the context of natural lithospheric shear zones and are compared with established piezometers for individual mineral phases. Our findings underscore the vital role of grain-size-sensitive rheologies, particularly in the mantle lithosphere, for the initial weakening of ductile shear zones. These insights offer quantitative constraints that advance our understanding of the long-term strength of lithospheric plate boundaries.

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Ruh, J., Behr, W., & Tokle, L. (2024). Effect of Grain-Size and Textural Weakening in Polyphase Crustal and Mantle Lithospheric Shear Zones. τeκτoniκa, 2(1), 91–110. https://doi.org/10.55575/tektonika2024.2.1.68


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