Igneous layering in basaltic magma chambers

O. Namur, Bénédicte Abily, Alan E. Boudreau, Francois Blanchette, John W.M. Bush, Georges Ceuleneer, B. Charlier, Colin H. Donaldson, Jean-Clair Duchesne, M.D. Higgins, D. Morata, Troels F.D. Nielsen, B. O'Driscoll, K.N. Pang, Thomas Peacock, Carl J. Spandler, Atsushi Toramaru, I.V. Veksler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in bookResearchpeer-review


Layering is a common feature in mafic and ultramafic layered intrusions and generally consists of a succession of layers characterized by contrasted mineral modes and/or mineral textures, including grain size and orientation and, locally, changing mineral compositions. The morphology of the layers is commonly planar, but more complicated shapes are observed in some layered intrusions. Layering displays various characteristics in terms of layer thickness, homogeneity, lateral continuity, stratigraphic cyclicity, and the sharpness of their contacts with surrounding layers. It also often has similarities with sedimentary structures such as cross-bedding, trough structures or layer termination. It is now accepted that basaltic magma chambers mostly crystallize in situ in slightly undercooled boundary layers formed at the margins of the chamber. As a consequence, most known existing layering cannot be ascribed to a simple crystal settling process. Based on detailed field relationships, geochemical analyses as well as theoretical and experimental studies, other potential mechanisms have been proposed in the literature to explain the formation of layered igneous rocks. In this study, we review important mechanisms for the formation of layering, which we classify into dynamic and non-dynamic layer-forming processes.

Dynamic processes occur during filling of the magma chamber or during its crystallization. They include differential settling or flotation of crystals with contrasted densities and/or grain sizes, flow segregation of crystal-laden magma and crystal segregation during convective liquid movement into the magma chamber. Double diffusive convection, which produces a stratified liquid column in the magma chamber, can also produce layering. Other dynamic processes include magma injection into the chamber, which results in magma stratification or magma mixing, and silicate liquid immiscibility either in the main magma chamber or within the solidifying crystal mush.

Non-dynamic layer-forming processes mainly include rapid changes in intensive conditions of crystallization (e.g. pressure, oxygen fugacity) that disrupt and change the stable liquidus assemblages, and transitory excursions about cotectic curves. Layering can also result from variation in nucleation rates and from mineral reorganization in a crystal mush through grain rotation, dissolution-precipitation due to initial heterogeneity in terms of grain size distribution, mineral modes or differential pressure. Many of these processes are driven by dissipation of energy and can be referred to as equilibration or self-organization processes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLayered Intrusions
EditorsBernard Charlier, Olivier Namur, Rais Latypov, Christian Tegner
Place of PublicationDordrecht
Number of pages78
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-017-9652-1
ISBN (Print)978-94-017-9651-4, 978-94-024-0655-9
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

SeriesSpringer Geology

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 4: Mineral Resources


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