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Editorial: The Early Earth Crust and Its Formation

Abstract : Editorial on the Research Topic The Early Earth Crust and Its Formation The geochemical and petrological nature of the early Earth crust, and the processes involved in its formation and stabilization, are critical questions to understand the earliest evolution of our planet, and have yet to be resolved. The ancient rock archives in stable cratons provide the foundation for our understanding of the early formation and evolution of Earth's crust, but it is unlikely that these archives are representative of average early crustal composition or its evolution. Geodynamic modeling and isotope tracers provide key complementary constraints, as well as tests for hypotheses proposed based on the rock record. One of the most fundamental questions that is still unresolved is the timing of the onset of plate tectonics, which is a feature that is unique to the Earth among the known rocky planets. Subduction zones represent the geological environment in which crustal fractionation currently takes place, but it could be argued that this particular setting is not conducive to the long-term preservation of crust due to recycling. Moreover, the style of subduction, or horizontal tectonics more broadly, may have changed during early Earth history, and hence the nature of crusts generated over time. Additionally, the onset of subduction could well have pre-dated global plate tectonics, as the required assemblage of global plates may not have been a stable configuration on the hot young Earth. Interpretations of the ancient rock record are strongly debated and divided among those who support horizontal plate tectonic processes throughout the Archean Eon, and those who invoke a plume-dominated, stagnant lid scenario and infracrustal differentiation with a transition (gradual or abrupt) to modern-style plate tectonics, likely towards the end of the Archean. This Research Topic brings together articles that explore the earliest part of Earth's geological history; from mantle-derived magmas and their fractionation, all the way through partial melting and crustal differentiation to form stable continental crust. The invited review by Hawkesworth et al. comprehensively combines observations from metamorphism, tectonics, geochemistry, petrology and geophysics to infer the nature and secular evolution of the continental crust, and its implications for the onset of plate tectonics. They purposely provide a global picture, which advocates for a transition in the nature of the crust towards a more felsic flavor, coincidental with a proposed onset of plate tectonics at ∼3.0 Ga. The formation and evolution of the early Earth's crust is further evaluated by Garde et al. who reviewed the geological history of the North Atlantic craton of West Greenland and present their conclusions regarding the geodynamical context of its construction from the Eoarchean to Mesoarchean. The authors conclusions advocate for the existence of horizontal tectonics since the Eoarchean.
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Martin Guitreau, Kristoffer Szilas, Vincent van Hinsberg. Editorial: The Early Earth Crust and Its Formation. Frontiers in Earth Science, Frontiers Media, 2021, 9, ⟨10.3389/feart.2021.650114⟩. ⟨hal-03533775⟩

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