Thermochemical structure and evolution of cratonic lithosphere in central and southern Africa

J.C. Afonso*, Walid Ben-Mansour, Suzanne Y. O’Reilly, William L. Griffin, Farshad Salajeghegh, Stephen Foley, Graham Begg, Kate Selway, Andrew Macdonald, Nicole Januszczak, Ilya Fomin, Andrew A. Nyblade, Yingjie Yang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
165 Downloads (Pure)


The thermochemical structure of the subcontinental mantle holds information on its origin and evolution that can inform energy and mineral exploration strategies, natural hazard mitigation and evolutionary models of Earth. However, imaging the fine-scale thermochemical structure of continental lithosphere remains a major challenge. Here we combine multiple land and satellite datasets via thermodynamically constrained inversions to obtain a high-resolution thermochemical model of central and southern Africa. Results reveal diverse structures and compositions for cratons, indicating distinct evolutions and responses to geodynamic processes. While much of the Kaapvaal lithosphere retained its cratonic features, the western Angolan–Kasai Shield and the Rehoboth Block have lost their cratonic keels. The lithosphere of the Congo Craton has been affected by metasomatism, increasing its density and inducing its conspicuous low-topography, geoid and magnetic anomalies. Our results reconcile mantle structure with the causes and location of volcanism within and around the Tanzanian Craton, whereas the absence of volcanism towards the north is due to local asthenospheric downwellings, not to a previously proposed lithospheric root connecting with the Congo Craton. Our study offers improved integration of mantle structure, magmatism and the evolution and destruction of cratonic lithosphere, and lays the groundwork for future lithospheric evolutionary models and exploration frameworks for Earth and other terrestrial planets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-410
Number of pages6
JournalNature geoscience
Early online date18 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


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