Zircon age peaks are commonly interpreted either as crustal production peaks or as selective preservation peaks of subduction-produced crust selectively preserved during continent-continent collision. We contribute to this ongoing debate, using the Nd isotopic compositions of felsic igneous rocks and their distribution during the accretionary and collisional phases of orogens. The proportion of juvenile input into the continental crust is estimated with a mixing model using arc-like mantle and reworked continental crust end members. Orogen length and duration proxies for juvenile crustal volume show that the amount of juvenile crust produced and preserved at zircon age peaks during the accretionary phase of orogens is ≥3 times that preserved during the collisional phase of orogens. The fact that most juvenile crust is both produced and preserved during the accretionary phase of orogens does not require craton collisions for its preservation, thus favoring the interpretation of zircon age peaks as crustal production peaks. Most juvenile continental crust older than 600 Ma is produced and preserved before final supercontinent assembly and does not require supercontinent assembly for its preservation. Episodic destabilization of a compositionally heterogeneous layer at the base of the mantle may produce mantle plume events leading to enhanced subduction and crustal production. Our Nd isotope model for cumulative continental growth based on juvenile crust proxies for the past 2.5 b.y. suggests a step-like growth curve with rapid growth in accretionary orogens at the times of zircon age peaks.
- Received 17 May 2016.
- Revision received 27 October 2016.
- Accepted 22 December 2016.
- © 2017 Geological Society of America