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Non-Hawaiian lithostratigraphy of Louisville seamounts and the formation of high-latitude oceanic islands and guyots

Buchs, David M.; Williams, Rebecca; Sano, Shin-ichi; Wright, V. Paul


David M. Buchs

Shin-ichi Sano

V. Paul Wright


Guyots are large seamounts with a flat summit that is generally believed to form due to constructional biogenic and/or erosional processes during the formation of volcanic islands. However, despite their large abundance in the oceans, there are still very few direct constraints on the nature and formation of guyots, in particular those formed at high latitude that lack a thick cap of shallow-marine carbonate rocks. It is largely accepted based on geophysical constraints and surficial observations/sampling that the summit platform of these guyots is shaped by wave abrasion during post-volcanic subsidence of volcanic islands. Here we provide novel constraints on this hypothesis and the summit geology of guyots with a lithostratigraphic analysis of cores from three Louisville seamounts (South Pacific) collected during Expedition 330 of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP). Thirteen lithofacies of sedimentary and volcanic deposits are described, which include facies not previously recognized on the top of guyots, and offer a new insight into the formation of high-latitude oceanic islands on a fast-moving plate. Our results reveal that the lithostratigraphy of Louisville seamounts preserves a very consistent record of the formation and drowning of volcanic islands, with from bottom to top: (i) volcaniclastic sequences with abundant lava-fed delta deposits, (ii) submarine to subaerial shield lava flows, (iii) post-volcanic shallow to deeper marine sedimentary rocks lacking thick reef deposits, (iv) post-erosional rejuvenated volcanic rocks, and (v) pelagic sediments. Recognition of erosional boundaries between subaerial lava flows and shallow-marine sedimentary rocks provides novel support for post-volcanic wave planation of guyots. However, the summit geology of Louisville seamounts is dissimilar to that of high-latitude Hawaiian-Emperor guyots that have emplaced in a similar tectonic and environmental setting and that include thicker lava stacks with apparently little lava-fed delta deposits. To explain observed lithostratigraphic discrepancy we propose that Louisville seamounts represent a distinct type of intraplate ocean volcano characterized by formation of a smaller island, with a central shield volcano surrounded by extended shallow-marine shelves formed by lava-fed deltas. In this interpretation the summit platform of Louisville-type guyots results from early (syn-volcanic) subaerial to shallow-marine constructional volcanic processes and marine erosion, enhanced by later (post-volcanic) wave planation. This contrasts with larger Hawaiian edifices that are capped by thicker shield volcanoes, and that develop an extended wave planation surface during post-volcanic subsidence (in the absence of efficient coral growth). The difference between Hawaiian- and Louisville-type volcanic islands and guyots can be explained by contrasted dynamic disequilibrium between magmatic growth, erosion, and subsidence during the island-building stage. Unlike Hawaiian-type volcanoes, Louisville seamounts are characterized by alkaline magmatism that extends from the late seamount to island stages. This supports more limited magmatic growth during the formation of Louisville islands, and we hypothesize that this promotes the formation of ephemeral shallow-marine platforms and extended lava-fed deltas. Hawaiian-type volcanoes and guyots are unusually large in the population of intraplate ocean volcanoes. Louisville-type guyots as defined in this study could therefore represent a very common but yet poorly documented mode of oceanic island formation in the Pacific Ocean and other similar fast-moving plate settings.


Buchs, D. M., Williams, R., Sano, S., & Wright, V. P. (2018). Non-Hawaiian lithostratigraphy of Louisville seamounts and the formation of high-latitude oceanic islands and guyots. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 356, 1-23.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 21, 2017
Online Publication Date Jan 2, 2018
Publication Date May 1, 2018
Deposit Date May 8, 2018
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Print ISSN 0377-0273
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 356
Pages 1-23
Keywords Geochemistry and Petrology; Geophysics
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Additional Information This is an author accepted manuscript for an article published in Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, doi: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2017.12.019.


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