2010 Volume 119 Issue 6 Pages 963-998
This is a brief review of tectonic erosion originally proposed by von Huene and Scholl (1991) who have spent most of their academic careers studying marine geophysics along the circum-Pacific subduction zone.
Accretionary complex is considered to be formed by trench turbidite resting on the subducting oceanic plate that accretes against a hanging wall at a shallow or deep crustal level due to off-scraping or underplating. This concept was introduced to Japan in the early 1970s and was developed in great detail to propose a new paradigm for accretionary geology that involves ocean-plate stratigraphy. Later, identification of accretionary complex on-land in Japan became the mainstream. A new idea refutes the common occurrence of an on-going accretion process forming accretionary complexes along the circum-Pacific subduction zone. Instead, the concept of tectonic erosion has emerged to explain extensive crustal thinning and subsidence as an on-going process destroying the hanging wall of an older subduction complex or even the basement of the overriding plate at more than half of the active trench.
During the past three decades, marine geophysicists and geologists have documented tectonic erosion as a more common process than the formation of an accretional complex in subduction zones, and supeculate that a large volume of the continental crust is subducted into the mantle at both accretionary and erosive convergent margins. A simple calculation of the amount of subducting continental material versus arc producted at the subduction zone suggests a balance, resulting in no growth of continental crust at present (e.g. Clift and Vannuchi, 2004; Scholl and von Huene, 2007). However, considering direct subduction of intra-oceanic arcs and foundering of the continental lower crust into the mantle, we must conclude there is negative growth of the continental crust on the Earth at present.