Research Topic

Subduction Zone Initiation: Past, Present, and Future

About this Research Topic

The process of subduction is intrinsic to plate tectonics, mantle convection, and ultimately the long-term habitability of Earth. Consequently, the enigmatic process of subduction zone initiation is vital for understanding why Earth has plate tectonics, how it started and why it continues through time. While the onset of deep subduction (i.e., penetration of subducted slabs into the upper mantle to establish sufficient slab pull forces to drive the trailing plates) is synonymous with the beginning of ocean-plate tectonics, the initiation of new subduction zones is key to maintaining ocean-plate tectonics on the more recent Earth. Despite their importance, the mechanisms controlling the formation and stability of new subduction zones today, and back in deep geologic time, remain enigmatic. Subduction zones are thought to form in a wide variety of geodynamic environments; initiating mechanisms may therefore be unique to each system. At the same time, oceanic lithosphere cycling in subduction zones contributes to the formation of continental crust and causes the most devastating earthquakes, tsunamis and explosive volcanic eruptions. A strongly cross-disciplinary approach and effective communication across the various Earth Science disciplines are therefore required to advance our understanding of this phenomenon.

This Research Topic aims to bring together researchers across different disciplines with the common goal of understanding when, where, and how subduction zones initiate(d).

We welcome insights from field observations, IODP/ICDP drilling programs, geochemical and petrological analysis, plate kinematic reconstructions, seismology, seismic tomography, numerical and analogue modelling, and other fields, as well as from multi-disciplinary approaches.


Keywords: subduction, subduction zone initiation, ocean plate tectonics, geodynamics, Earth systems


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

The process of subduction is intrinsic to plate tectonics, mantle convection, and ultimately the long-term habitability of Earth. Consequently, the enigmatic process of subduction zone initiation is vital for understanding why Earth has plate tectonics, how it started and why it continues through time. While the onset of deep subduction (i.e., penetration of subducted slabs into the upper mantle to establish sufficient slab pull forces to drive the trailing plates) is synonymous with the beginning of ocean-plate tectonics, the initiation of new subduction zones is key to maintaining ocean-plate tectonics on the more recent Earth. Despite their importance, the mechanisms controlling the formation and stability of new subduction zones today, and back in deep geologic time, remain enigmatic. Subduction zones are thought to form in a wide variety of geodynamic environments; initiating mechanisms may therefore be unique to each system. At the same time, oceanic lithosphere cycling in subduction zones contributes to the formation of continental crust and causes the most devastating earthquakes, tsunamis and explosive volcanic eruptions. A strongly cross-disciplinary approach and effective communication across the various Earth Science disciplines are therefore required to advance our understanding of this phenomenon.

This Research Topic aims to bring together researchers across different disciplines with the common goal of understanding when, where, and how subduction zones initiate(d).

We welcome insights from field observations, IODP/ICDP drilling programs, geochemical and petrological analysis, plate kinematic reconstructions, seismology, seismic tomography, numerical and analogue modelling, and other fields, as well as from multi-disciplinary approaches.


Keywords: subduction, subduction zone initiation, ocean plate tectonics, geodynamics, Earth systems


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 August 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 August 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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