Folded marble within sulfide ores, Greenland
Tectonics and Resources

Our Research


Ongoing research projects

Subproject of SPP 1833: Building a habitable Earth

Terrane spotting - an investigation of different models for the formation of the first continents

PI: Prof. Annika Dziggel (Ph.D.).

Archean cratons are generally characterized by steeply dipping, large-scale shear zones. The shear zones are often interpreted as terrane boundaries separating crustal fragments of different geological evolution. The accretion of terranes implies the prevalence of horizontal shortening and thus subduction. However, it is also plausible that some of the steep shear zones were formed by partial convection-induced upheaval and the subsidence of gravitationally unstable greenstone belts into the deep crust. This process does not require subduction. Recognizing these different geodynamic processes is often difficult because Archean rocks have a long and complex evolution characterized by multiple deformation events and subsequent tectonic overprinting. This project will test two different hypotheses (terrane accretion versus later overprinting of a formerly continuous segment of Archean crust) for the origin of the Lewisian complex in Scotland using phase diagram modeling and in situ U-Pb, Lu-Hf, O isotopes and trace element analysis in zircon. The main goal of this study is to gain a better understanding of the age and conditions of crustal formation within individual terranes, in order to clarify whether the tectonic blocks are actually terranes or whether they represent distinct crustal domains of a once-contiguous Archean continent.

To the SPP 1833 website (https://habitableearth.uni-koeln.de/).

Subproject of FOR 2881: Diffusion Chronometry of Magmatic Systems

Chronometry in plutonic rocks: Cooling rates of ancient oceanic crust

PI: Dr. Kathrin Faak, Dr. Maria Kirchenbaur (Uni Hannover)

Since the onset of plate tectonics, the formation of new oceanic crust at mid-ocean ridges has been one of the main mechanisms for the cooling of the Earth's interior. However, one of the key unsolved problems is the efficient heat transfer during the formation of plutonic ocean crustal section. Several models for the generation of the plutonic section at oceanic ridges have been presented, focusing mainly on cooling of the oceanic crust by conduction or advection of fluids through the crust. Attempts to test prominent end-member models have not yet yielded conclusive results. For example, cooling of the entire crust seems more consistent with conductive cooling, although evidence of hydrothermal flux is found in the rocks. Therefore, it is necessary to consider the distribution of cooling rates as a function of distance from documented fluid paths while quantifying fluid flux. We propose to address this problem with a comprehensive approach combining diffusion chronometry and isotope geochemistry on samples from focused fluid flow zones (FFFZs) within the gabbro layers of the Wadi Gideah reference profile in the Oman ophiolite. Therefore, our goal is to quantify cooling rates in multiple profiles, starting at contact with a FFFZ and continuing into the massive layered gabbros. Cooling rates are determined on olivine, plagioclase, and pyroxenes in various gabbro samples using multidiffusion chronometers. These include, for example, the well-established Ca-in-olivine geospeedometer together with recently developed geospeedometers based on trace element diffusion in plagioclase (Mg, Ba, Sr, La, Ce), as well as possible chronometers with pyroxenes (e.g., Fe-Mg, Sr, or Li diffusion in clinopyroxene). In addition, we propose to apply the rapidly diffusing stable Li isotope system to olivine, plagioclase, and pyroxene, as well as to selected whole-rock samples. Measurement of Li and Sr isotopic profiles in rock samples surrounding the FFFZ can be used to simultaneously determine cooling rates as well as fluid fluxes. The study not only provides insight into the cooling mechanism of the oceanic crust, but also allows the consistency and robustness of different diffusion chronometers applied to the same samples to be tested.

To the FOR website (https://diffchron.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/)

DFG Individual Grants

The role of mafic-ultramafic bodies in the formation of the early continental crust

PI: Dr. Silvia Volante & Prof. Annika Dziggel (PhD)

Main components of the oldest continental crust are sodic rocks of the tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite (TTG) series, formed by partial melting of hydrous metabasalts at different depths. However, the processes associated with the formation of the TTG melts remain controversial, and fundamental questions regarding the role and origin of water in the formation of such large volumes of melts remain to be answered.

This project aims to better characterize the pressure-temperature-composition-time (P-T-X-t) conditions during partial melting of natural Archean mafic-ultramafic protoliths and their role in the formation of TTG melts. In particular, we aim to investigate the role and origin of water during partial melting and explore how the different composition of mafic-ultramafic protoliths and the availability of water control the composition and volume of melts produced. The samples studied include pairs of TTGs and enclosed mafic-ultramafic rocks from different Archean terrains that differ in terms of their assumed geodynamic evolution and age.

Phase equilibrium modeling will be used to determine the conditions during melt formation and the composition of the resulting melts. These results will be combined with trace element modeling and whole-rock geochemistry of the TTG gneisses to compare the modeled melt compositions with those of the natural TTG gneiss samples. In addition, U-Pb dating and trace element and oxygen isotope analyses of zircon will be used to i) determine the age and P-T conditions of the zircon-equilibrated TTG melts, ii) obtain further information on melt depth, and iii) determine the source of water during melt formation. The results of this study have the potential to make an important contribution to the long-standing debate on the formation of arcaic TTGs, and may also provide further insight into the geodynamic environments in which they were formed.

PI: Prof. Annika Dziggel (Ph.D.) and the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS)

DFG individual grant

Natural variations of the 51V/50V isotope composition: A new redox tracer?

PI: Dr. Stephan Schuth, project handling: Dr. Ashley Martin

            The stable isotopes of the redox sensitive vanadium offer a particular opportunity to investigate systematically the poorly constrained marine V cycle including rivers, and thus to unlock V isotopes as a potentially powerful tracer of redox and water chemistry variations. In addition to the instrumental requirement for precise and accurate V-isotope analysis, the measurement of extremely low V concentrations (<2 μg/L) in ocean and river waters poses a major laboratory challenge in obtaining enough V for an isotope measurement. In the first project phase, the V separation was significantly improved in order to faster extract sufficient V from large amounts of seawater (ca. 2 L). Intensive testing shows an excellent agreement of the V isotope composition of a seawater standard (δ51VAA=+0.30 ‰) and the North Sea (δ51VAA=+0.03 ‰) with recently published ocean isotope data. However, very low δ51V values​of approximately -1.9 ‰ for an Antarctic seawater sample indicate heterogeneous V signatures in the marine environment. In addition, it was shown that the V isotopic signatures of the dissolved V fraction in the main and tributary rivers of the Yangtze River Basin evolve toward to higher δ51V values from the smaller rivers to the large streams, (ii) within a large river like the Yangtze, the δ51V values ​​increase continuously towards the estuary, and (iii) the V isotope composition of the dissolved V pool can be significantly influenced by V adsorption to particulate Fe oxides. Interestingly, the δ51V values ​​of the particulate bound V in these Yangtze Basin river waters overlap those of Fe-Mn nodules, suggesting comparable V isotope fractionation processes. Additionally, the first δ51V values ​​of sediments of the Black Sea indicate a steady increase of δ51V values ​​from -3.1 to + 0.3 ‰ from a depth of 850 to ~2,000m, while from 150 to 380m (i.e. towards the chemocline) an increase of approximately -1.9 to -1.1 ‰ was observed. For the whole sampling depth, the δ238U signatures vary only slightly from 0.03 to 0.17 ‰, and are also decoupled from the V isotope composition. Potentially the V isotopes record redox processes that were not archived by the U isotopes. In order to better understand the V isotope signatures, in the second project phase the V isotopes of the other oceanic sinks (hydrothermal Fe oxides, carbonates, Fe-Mn nodules, reduced sediments) as well as a large suite of seawater samples will be investigated. Simple experiments will shed more light on V isotope fractionation by adsorption and precipitation by Fe oxides. Finally, V isotopes, along with V species analyses (III-IV-V), or in combination with other redox indicators such as U, may allow a detailed view of the redox evolution of the early oceans, showing differences between anoxic and euxinic environments, or even indicating biosignatures.


Barrote, V.R., Volante, S., Blereau, E.R., Rosière, C.A., Spencer, C.J. (2022): Implications of the dominant LP–HT deformation in the Guanhães Block for the Araçuaí West-Congo Orogen evolution, Gondwana Research 107, 154-175. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gr.2022.03.012

Kotzé, E., Schuth, S., Goldmann, S., Holtz, F. (2022): The influence of humic substances on the weathering of PGE in chromitite of the Bushveld Complex: An experimental simulation of the weathering environment. South African Journal of Geology, https://doi.org/10.25131/sajg.125.0020

Hohl, S.V., Schuth, S., Münker, C., König, S., Garbe-Schönberg, D., Kuduon, J. (2022): Geochemical evolution of the Rabaul volcanic complex, Papua New Guinea - Insights from HFSE, Sr-Nd-Hf, and Fe isotopes. Lithos 408-409, 106560.

Kirchenbaur, M., Schuth, S., Barth, A.R., Luguet, A., König, S., Idrus, A., Garbe-Schönberg, D., Münker, C. (2022): Sub-arc mantle enrichment in the Sunda rear-arc inferred from HFSE systematics in high-K lavas from Java. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 177, 8-25.

Tittel, J., Büttner, O., Friese, K., Lechtenfeld, O. J., Schuth, S., von Tümpling, W., Musolff, A. (2022): Iron exports from catchments are constrained by redox status and topography. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 36, e2021GB007056. https://doi.org/10.1029/2021GB007056

Volante, S., Collins, W. J., Barrote, V., Nordsvan, A. R., Pourteau, A., Li, Z. X., Beams, S. (2022): Spatio–temporal evolution of Mesoproterozoic magmatism in NE Australia: A hybrid tectonic model for final Nuna assembly. Precambrian Research, 372, 106602.



Diener, J.F.A., Dziggel, A. (2021): Can mineral equilibrium modelling provide additional details on metamorphism of the Barberton garnet amphibolites? South African Journal of Geology 124, 211-224.

Moyen, J.-F., Zeh, A., Cuney, M., Dziggel, A., Carrouée, S. (2021): The multiple ways of recycling Archaean crust: a case study from the ca. 3.1 Ga granitoids from the Barberton greenstone belt, South Africa. Precambrian Research, 353, 105998.

Schlüter, J., Schuth, S., Fonseca, R.O.C., Wendt, D. (2021): A remarkable discovery of electrum on the island of Sylt, northern Germany, and its Scandinavian origin. European Journal of Mineralogy 33 (4), 373-387.



Brüske, A., Martin, A.N., Rammensee, P., Eroglu, S., Lazarov, M., Albut, G., Schuth, S., Aulbach, S., Schoenberg, R., Beukes, N., Hofmann, A., Nägler, T., Weyer, S. (2020): The onset of oxidative weathering traced by uranium isotopes. Precambrian Research 338, 105583.  

Kelemen, P.B., Matter, J.M., Teagle, D.A.H., Coggon, J.A., and the Oman Drilling Project Science Team (2020) Site GT2: foliated to layered gabbro transition. In Kelemen, P.B., Matter, J.M., Teagle, D.A.H., Coggon, J.A., and the Oman Drilling Project Science Team, Proceedings of the Oman Drilling Project: College Station, TX (International Ocean Discovery Program). https://doi.org/10.14379/OmanDP.proc.2020

Kelemen, P.B., Matter, J.M., Teagle, D.A.H., Coggon, J.A., and the Oman Drilling Project Science Team (2020) Site GT1. In Kelemen, P.B., Matter, J.M., Teagle, D.A.H., Coggon, J.A., et al., Proceedings of the Oman Drilling Project: College Station, TX (International Ocean Discovery Program). https://doi.org/10.14379/OmanDP.proc.2020

Li J., Pourteau A., Li Z.-X., Jourdan F., Nordsvan A.R., Collins W.J., Volante S., 2020. Heterogeneous Exhumation of the Mount Isa Orogen in NE Australia after 1.6 Ga Nuna Assembly: New High-Precision 40Ar/39Ar Thermochronological Constraints. Tectonics, 39, e2020TC006129. https://-doi.org/10.1029/2020TC006129.

Olierook H.K.H., Affleck R.G., Evans N.J., Jourdan F., Kirkland C.L., Volante S., Nordsvan A.R., McInnes B.I., McDonald B., Mayers C., Frew R.A., Rankenburg K., d’Offay N., Nind M., Larking A., 2020. Mineralization proximal to the final Nuna suture in northeastern Australia. Gondwana Research. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gr.2020.12.017.

Pourteau A., Doucet L.S., Blereau E., Volante S., Johnson T.E., Collins W.J., Li Z.-X., Champion D., 2020. TTG generation by fluid-fluxed crustal melting: Direct evidence from the Proterozoic Georgetown Inlier, NE Australia. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 550, 116548.

Volante S., Collins W.J., Blereau E., Pourteau A., Spencer C.J., Evans N.J., Barrote V., Nordsvan A.R., Li Z.-X., Li J., 2020. Reassessing zircon-monazite thermometry with thermodynamic modelling: insights from the Georgetown igneous complex, NE Australia. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, 175, 110 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00410-020-01752-7.

Volante S., Collins W.J., Pourteau A., Li Z.-X., Li J., Nordsvan A., 2020. Structural evolution of a 1.6 Ga orogeny related to the final assembly of the supercontinent Nuna: coupling of episodic and progressive deformation. Tectonics, 39, e2020TC006162. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020TC006162.



Balzer, R., Behrens, H., Schuth, S., Waurischk, T., Reinsch, S., Müller, R., Fechtelkord, M., Deubener, J. (2019): The influence of H2O and SiO2 on the structure of silicoborate glasses. Journal of Non-Crystalline Solids 519, doi.org/10.1016/j.jnoncrysol.2019.05.030

Dziggel, A., Diener, J.F.A., Kokfelt, T.F., Kolb, J., Scherstén, A. (2019) Thermal structure and evolution of an Archean large hot orogen: insights from the Tasiusarsuaq terrane, SW Greenland. Precambrian Research, 335, 105499.

Dziggel, A., Kisters, A.F.M. (2019) Chapter 26 - Tectono-metamorphic controls on Archaean gold mineralization in the Barberton greenstone belt, South Africa. In: Van Kranendonk, M., Bennett, V., Hoffmann J.E. (Eds.) Earth’s Oldest Rocks (2nd Edition). Developments in Precambrian Geology, Elsevier, 655-674.

Horn, S., Dziggel, A., Kolb, J., Sindern, S. (2019) Textural characteristics and trace element distribution in carbonate-hosted Zn-Pb-Ag ores at the Paleoproterozoic Black Angel deposit, Central West Greenland. Mineralium Deposita, 54 (4), 507-524.

Kotzé, E., Schuth, S., Goldmann, S., Winkler, B., Botcharnikov, R.E., Holtz, F. (2019): The mobility of palladium and platinum in the presence of humic acids: An experimental study. Chemical Geology 514, 65-78.

Schuth, S., Brüske, A., Hohl, S.V., Jiang, S.-Y., Meinhardt, A.-K., Gregory, D.D., Viehmann, S., Weyer, S. (2019): Vanadium and its isotope composition of river water and seawater: analytical improvement and implications for vanadium isotope fractionation. Chemical Geology 528, doi.org/10.1016/j.chemgeo.2019.07.036

Shollenberger, Q.R., Wittke, A., Render, J., Mane, P., Schuth, S., Weyer, S., Gussone, N., Wadhwa, M., Brennecka, G.A. (2019): Combined mass-dependent and nucleosynthetic isotope variations in refractory inclusions and their mineral separates to determine their original Fe isotope compositions. Geochimica et Cosmochimca Acta 263, 215-234.