The bulk composition of the continental crust throughout geological history is thought by most previous workers to be andesitic. This assumption of an andesitic bulk composition led to an early hypothesis by Taylor (1967) that the continental crust was created by arc magmatism. This hypothesis for the origin of continental crust was challenged by several authors because: (i) the mean rate of arc crust addition obtained by Reymer and Schubert (1984) is too small to account for some certain phases of rapid crustal growth; and (ii) the bulk composition of ocean island arcs, the main contributor to the Archean and early Proterozoic crust, is basaltic rather than andesitic (Arculus 1981; Pearce et al. 1992). New data from the Northern Izu-Bonin arc are presented here which support the Taylor (1967) hypothesis for the origin of the continental crust by andesitic arc magma. A geological interpretation of P wave crustal structure obtained from the Northern Izu-Bonin arc by Suyehiro et al. (1996) indicates that the arc crust has four distinctive lithologic layers: from top to bottom: (i) a 0.5-2-km-thick layer of basic to intermediate volcaniclastic, lava and hemipelagite (layer A); (ii) a 2-5-km-thick basic to intermediate volcaniclastics, lavas and intrusive layer (layer B); (iii) a 2-7-km-thick layer of felsic (tonalitic) rocks (layer C); and (iv) a 4-7-km-thick layer of mafic igneous rocks (layer D). The chemical composition of the upper and middle part of the northern Izu-Bonin arc is estimated to be similar to the average continental crust by Taylor and McLennan (1985). The rate of igneous addition of the Northern Izu-Bonin arc since its initial 45-Ma magmatism was calculated as 80 km3/km per million years. This rate of addition is considered to be a reasonable estimate for all arcs in the western Pacific. Using this rate, the global rate of crustal growth is estimated to be 2.96 km3/year which exceeds the average rate of crustal growth since the formation of the Earth (1.76 km3/year). Based on this estimate of continental growth and the previously documented sediment subduction and tectonic erosion rate (1.8 km3/year, von Heune and School 1991), several examples of growth curves of the continental crust are presented here. These growth curves suggest that at least 50% of the present volume of the continental crust can be explained by arc magmatism. This conclusion indicates that arc magmatism is the most important contributor to the formation of continental crust, especially at the upper crustal level.
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