Microstructural analyses of a giant quartz reef in south China reveal episodic brittle-ductile fluid transfer

Tannock, Lisa; Herwegh, Marco; Berger, Alfons; Liu, Jie; Lanari, Pierre; Regenauer-Lieb, Klaus (2019). Microstructural analyses of a giant quartz reef in south China reveal episodic brittle-ductile fluid transfer. Journal of structural geology, 130, p. 103911. Elsevier 10.1016/j.jsg.2019.103911

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A long-lived hydrothermal system at the Heyuan fault, South China, has led to the development of a giant quartz reef, now partially exhumed along its length for more than 40 km. Systematic analyses and focused microstructural studies have been undertaken to unravel a complex formation history of repeated fracturing, hydrothermal fluid flow and sealing cycles, resulting in a dynamic permeability across the fault zone. The change in morphology and decreasing grain-size with time further indicates the move from slow ductile opening to fast seismic events. Quartz reef formation has been estimated to occur within a range of ~200-350°C, based on evaluation of (i) quartz deformation microstructures; (ii) chlorite and mica geothermometry; and (iii) review of comparable quartz reef studies. Additionally, a set of physico-chemical formation conditions have been identified which compose the ‘quartz reef window’. These are: (i) significant volume of fluid; (ii) fluid sources from meteoric, metamorphic and/or from mantle origin; (iii) considerable Time-Integrated Fluid Fluxes; (iv) SiO2 oversaturation due to (a) temperature change, (b) sudden pressure drop, or (c) chemical change e.g. fluid mixing; (v) accommodation space to ‘grow’ the reef; (vi) channel permeability; and (vii) cap rock/seal to trap the fluid flow. The mechanism of quartz reef growth is here interpreted as the brittleductile analogue of the brittle fault-valve model.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Herwegh, Marco; Berger, Alfons and Lanari, Pierre


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology








Marco Herwegh

Date Deposited:

18 Nov 2019 12:26

Last Modified:

18 Oct 2021 02:30

Publisher DOI:






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