Lithic-volcanic sandstones derived from oceanic crust in the Franciscan Complex of California: ‘sedimental memories’ of source rock geochemistry



The Permanente terrane, part of the Franciscan accretionary complex of California, contains an unusual fault-bounded packet bearing lithic-volcanic sandstones and conglomerates. Based on petrographical, sedimentological, stratigraphical and geochemical studies, it is concluded that these rocks were deposited on the flank of an oceanic rise or plateau by sediment gravity flows probably below the carbonate compensation depth. The bulk geochemistry of the sandstones is similar to the chemistry of greenstones in the Permanente terrane, suggesting that the greenstones or rocks similar to them represent the source of the lithic-volcanic sandstones, and that the sandstones geochemically ‘remember’ the chemistry of their source rocks. This ‘sedimental memory’ is impressive: geochemical variation in the sandstones is co-linear with presumable magmatic variation trends in the greenstones. Sandstone geochemistry, plotted on Zr/Y vs. Y and V vs. Ti diagrams, shows that compositions occupy similar fields as greenstones in the Permanente terrane and oceanic crustal compositions in general.

Because oceanic crustal sequences can become accreted to continental margins, oceanic crust should be considered a potential source of sediment, especially in continental margin settings. However, differentiating sandstones derived from oceanic arcs and from oceanic crust is extremely difficult unless discriminating geochemical criteria are used.