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Abstract

This study presents an integrated provenance record for ancient forearc strata in southern Alaska. Paleocene–Eocene sedimentary and volcanic strata >2000 m thick in the southern Talkeetna Mountains record nonmarine sediment accumulation in a remnant forearc basin. In these strata, igneous detritus dominates conglomerate and sandstone detrital modes, including plutonic and volcanic clasts, plagioclase feldspar, and monocrystalline quartz. Volcanic detritus is more abundant and increases upsection in eastern sandstone and conglomerate. U-Pb ages of >1600 detrital zircons from 19 sandstone samples document three main populations: 60–48 Ma (late Paleocene–Eocene; 14% of all grains), 85–60 Ma (late Cretaceous–early Paleocene; 64%) and 200–100 Ma (Jurassic–Early Cretaceous; 11%). Eastern sections exhibit the broadest distribution of detrital ages, including a principal population of late Paleocene–Eocene ages. In contrast, central and western sections yield mainly late Cretaceous–early Paleocene detrital ages. Collectively, our results permit reconstruction of individual fluvial drainages oriented transverse to a dissected arc. Specifically, new data suggest: (1) Detritus was eroded from volcanic-plutonic sources exposed along the arcward margin of the sampled forearc basin fill, primarily Jurassic–Paleocene magmatic-arc plutons and spatially limited late Paleocene–Eocene volcanic centers; (2) Eastern deposystems received higher proportions of juvenile volcanic detritus through time from late Paleocene–Eocene volcanic centers, consistent with emplacement of a slab window beneath the northeastern part of the basin during spreading-ridge subduction; (3) Western deposystems transported volcanic-plutonic detritus from Jurassic–Paleocene remnant arc plutons and local eruptive centers that flanked the northwestern part of the basin; (4) Diagnostic evidence of sediment derivation from accretionary-prism strata exposed trenchward of the basin fill is lacking. Our results provide geologic evidence for latest Cretaceous–early Paleocene exhumation of arc plutons and marine forearc strata followed by nonmarine sediment accumulation and slab-window magmatism. This inferred history supports models that invoke spreading-ridge subduction beneath southern Alaska during Paleogene time, providing a framework for understanding a mature continental-arc/forearc-basin system modified by ridge subduction. Conventional provenance models predict reduced input of volcanic detritus to forearc basins during progressive exhumation of the volcanic edifice and increasing exposure of subvolcanic plutons. In contrast, our results show that forearc basins influenced by ridge subduction may record localized increases in juvenile volcanic detritus during late-stage evolution in response to accumulation of volcanic sequences formed from slab-window eruptive centers.