The Central Asian Orogenic Belt (CAOB), also known as the Altaid Tectonic Collage, is characterised by a vast distribution of Paleozoic and Mesozoic granitic intrusions. The granitoids have a wide range of compositions and roughly show a temporal evolution from calcalkaline to alkaline to peralkaline series. The emplacement times for most granitic plutons fall between 500 Ma and 100 Ma, but only a small proportion of plutons have been precisely dated. The Nd-Sr isotopic compositions of these granitoids suggest their juvenile characteristics, hence implying a massive addition of new continental crust in the Phanerozoic. In this paper we document the available isotopic data to support this conclusion.
Most Phanerozoic granitoids of Central Asia are characterised by low initial Sr isotopic ratios, positive εNd(T) values and young Sm—Nd model ages (TDM) of 300-1200 Ma. This is in strong contrast with the coeval granitoids emplaced in the European Caledonides and Hercynides. The isotope data indicate their ‘juvenile’ character and suggest their derivation from source rocks or magmas separated shortly before from the upper mantle. Granitoids with negative εNd(T) values also exist, but they occur in the environs of Precambrian microcontinental blocks and their isotope compositions may reflect contamination by the older crust in the magma generation processes.
The evolution of the CAOB is probably related to accretion of young arc complexes and old terranes (microcontinents). However, the emplacement of large volumes of post-tectonic granites requires another mechanism, probably through a series of processes including underplating of massive basaltic magma, intercalation of basaltic magma with lower crustal granulites, partial melting of the mixed lithologic assemblages leading to generation of granitic liquids, followed by extensive fractional crystallisation. The proportions of the juvenile or mantle component for most granitoids of Central Asia are estimated to vary from 70% to 100%.