author={Robert J. Stern},
  journal={Reviews of Geophysics},
  • R. Stern
  • Published 1 December 2002
  • Geology
  • Reviews of Geophysics
Subduction zones are where sediments, oceanic crust, and mantle lithosphere return to and reequilibrate with Earth's mantle. Subduction zones are interior expressions of Earth's 55,000 km of convergent plate margins and are the geodynamic system that builds island arcs. Excess density of the mantle lithosphere in subduction zones provides most of the power needed to move the plates while inducing convection in the overriding mantle wedge. Asthenospheric mantle sucked toward the trench by the… 

Continental versus oceanic subduction zones

Subduction zones are tectonic expressions of convergent plate margins, where crustal rocks descend into and interact with the overlying mantle wedge. They are the geodynamic system that produces

Subduction-zone peridotites and their records of crust-mantle interaction

Subduction is the core process of plate tectonics. The mantle wedge in subduction-zone systems represents a key tectonic unit, playing a significant role in material cycling and energy exchange

Tectonic evolution of convergent plate margins and its geological effects

Oceanic lithosphere is generated at divergent plate boundaries and disappears at convergent plate boundaries. Seafloor spreading and plate subduction together constitute the physical coupling and

The Architecture, Chemistry, and Evolution of Continental Magmatic Arcs

Continental magmatic arcs form above subduction zones where the upper plate is continental lithosphere and/or accreted transitional lithosphere. The best-studied examples are found along the western

The transport of water in subduction zones

The transport of water from subducting crust into the mantle is mainly dictated by the stability of hydrous minerals in subduction zones. The thermal structure of subduction zones is a key to

Water and partial melting of Earth’s mantle

Water plays a crucial role in the melting of Earth’s mantle. Mantle magmatisms mostly occur at plate boundaries (including subduction zones and mid-ocean ridges) and in some intraplate regions with

When and how did plate tectonics begin? Theoretical and empirical considerations

Plate tectonics is the horizontal motion of Earth’s thermal boundary layer (lithosphere) over the convecting mantle (asthenosphere) and is mostly driven by lithosphere sinking in subduction zones.

Subduction zone geochemistry

Intra-oceanic Subduction Zones

Modern intra-oceanic subduction zones comprise around 17,000 km (~40%) of the convergent margins of the Earth and are subjects of intense cross-disciplinary studies that are reviewed in this chapter.



Thermal Structure and Metamorphic Evolution of Subducting Slabs

Subducting lithospheric slabs represent the cool, downwelling limbs of mantle convection and the negative buoyancy of slabs (slab pull) drives plate tectonics [Forsyth and Uyeda, 1975]. Subduction

Hydrous minerals in the mantle wedge and the maximum depth of subduction thrust earthquakes

In many subduction zones the downdip limit of thrust earthquakes approximately coincides with the intersection of the subduction thrust with the forearc mantle. This limit may be explained by

Physical model of source region of subduction zone volcanics

The thermal structure of a generic subduction zone is investigated to elucidate the source region of subduction zone volcanics. The steady state thermal field is evaluated for a model subduction zone

Lithospheric buoyancy and collisional orogenesis: Subduction of oceanic plateaus, continental margins, island arcs, spreading ridges, and seamounts

The sizes of continental blocks, basaltic oceanic plateaus, and island arcs that would cause collisional orogenesis when they enter a subduction zone are calculated in an analysis based upon the

Mantle and Slab Contributions in ARC Magmas

Destructive plate margins are major sites of terrestrial magmatism that have long had a key role in models for the generation of continental crust and the development of chemical heterogeneities in

The Earth's mantle

It is shown that geochemical, seismological and heat-flow data are all consistent with whole-mantle convection provided that the observed heterogeneities are remnants of recycled oceanic and continental crust that make up about 16 and 0.3 per cent, respectively, of mantle volume.


At ocean margins where two plates converge, the oceanic plate sinks or is subducted beneath an upper one topped by a layer of terrestrial crust. This crust is constructed of continental or island arc

Metastable mantle phase transformations and deep earthquakes in subducting oceanic lithosphere

Earth's deepest earthquakes occur as a population in subducting or previously subducted lithosphere at depths ranging from about 325 to 690 km. This depth interval closely brackets the mantle

Tectonic Implications of the Composition of Volcanic Arc Magmas

Volcanic arc magmas can be defined tectonically as magmas erupting from volcanic edifices above subducting oceanic lithosphere. They form a coherent magma type, characterized compositionally by