The study focuses on the distribution of B, Be, Li, rare earth elements (REE), high-field-strength elements (HFSE), Th, U and Pb in fresh and hydrothermally altered ocean island basalts (OIB) from French Polynesia, and evaluates B/Be and Li/Be ratios as potential tracers of subducted components in the mantle. Hydrothermal solutions affecting the rocks during cooling were derived from meteoric water, sea water and magmatic fluids. The concentrations of REE, HFSE, Th and Be in the OIB were not affected by secondary processes except during advanced stages of subaerial hydrothermal alteration where saponite was a dominant secondary phase. This alteration modified the contents of these elements, changed REE patterns and produced a positive Ce anomaly. The subaerial and submarine hydrothermal alteration (T ∼ 70–100°C) may change U concentrations in OIB, whereas Pb was only marginally redistributed during alteration.
Boron was enriched during submarine and subaerial hydrothermal alteration but was not noticeably affected in basalts altered by magmatic fluids at T > 200°C. Like B, the mobility of Li during the alteration varies with fluid temperature. Lithium became enriched in the basalts during advanced stages of lower T hydrothermal alteration (<100°C). However, this element was partly removed from the rocks during higher T alteration (>200°C) by magmatic fluids. Boron, Be and Li behave as incompatible trace elements in basaltic magmas. Beryllium content in primitive mantle is estimated to be 0.07 ppm. Fresh Polynesian OIB have low abundances of B and Li and low B/Be (2–5) and Li/Be (2.5–5) ratios compared with volcanic arc rocks, marine sediments and altered oceanic crust. Various OIB including even those which have HIMU- and EM-affinities have similar overlapping B/Be and Li/Be ratios. Both B and Li are probably stripped from a lithospheric slab during subduction-related metamorphism and are, thus, not involved in deep mantle recycling. The mantle-normalized trace element abundances of MORB and OIB usually display patterns characterized by negative B, Pb and Li anomalies. The patterns of continental crust and crustal rocks have distinct positive anomalies for these elements whereas continental basaltic rocks have variable relative abundances of B, Pb and Li. The anomalies of these elements in basalts can be useful in discriminating their tectonic setting and constraining the mantle source regions of basalts.