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Professor Zheng-Xiang Li Professor Zheng-Xiang Li
From the Special Topic of Zircon Dating. Professor Zheng-Xiang Li has also sent along images of his work.

According to our February 2008 Special Topic on Zircon Dating, one of the core papers in the Research Front Map on Zircon Geochronology and Isotope Geochemistry is, "Geochronology of Neoproterozoic syn-rift magmatism in the Yangtze Craton, South China and correlations with other continents: evidence for a mantle superplume that broke up Rodinia," (Li ZX, et al., Precambrian Res. 112[1-4]: 85-109, SI 10 April 2003), with 116 citations.


The lead author of this paper is Professor Zheng-Xiang Li. According to Essential Science IndicatorsSM from Thomson Scientific, Prof. Li’s record in the field of Geosciences includes 66 papers cited 1,231 times from January 1, 1997 to October 31, 2007, placing him in the top 1% of scientists in this field.

Professor Li is currently a professor in the Department of Applied Geology and the Institute of Geoscience Research (TIGeR) at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia.

In the interview below, talks with Professor Li about his highly cited paper.

  Would you please describe the significance of your paper and why it is highly cited?

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This paper was the first to comprehensively present the Rodinia superplume model (Figure 1), based on geological, geochemical, and geochronological data, and global synthesis. It proposed that, like the younger supercontinent Pangaea, the formation of the supercontinent Rodinia by ca. 900 million years ago was also followed by the formation of a mantle superplume beneath it, which eventually caused the breakup of the supercontinent.

The significance of the model is threefold. Firstly, it links the formation of superplumes to the evolution history of supercontinents, which is contrary to the commonly accepted idea that plumes or superplumes form primarily due to thermal anomalies at the core-mantle boundary. Second, it draws parallels with the Pangean history in that a superplume event led to the breakup of the supercontinent Rodinia. Third, it recognizes global episodes of anorogenic, bimodal, but often predominantly felsic, magmatism spread over a long interval of ca. 100 million years between ca. 860 and 750 million years ago (Fig. 2), and provides a geologically, petrologically (Fig. 3) and geodynamically plausible explanation for such widespread magmatism.

  How did you become involved in this research, and were there any particular successes or obstacles that stand out?

This work was part of a 10-year research program funded by the Australian Research Council through the Tectonics Special Research Centre to investigate the evolution history of supercontinents, and was also part of the International Geological Correlation Program (IGCP, project No 440, 1999-2004). Few reliable ages were available for Neoproterozoic igneous rocks in South China when we started the research, and similar rocks in both South China and elsewhere were widely believed to be related to orogenic events.

"Our work thus involved multidisciplinary investigations including field geology, geochronology, geochemistry, and petrology."

Our work thus involved multidisciplinary investigations including field geology, geochronology, geochemistry, and petrology. We benefited greatly from close collaborations between Australian and Chinese scientists, and received strong support from both the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

  Where do you see your research and the broader field leading in the future?

I have been working on supercontinent evolution since my Ph.D. days in the ‘80s, starting from palaeomagnetism but now moving more towards global geodynamics. My recent research involves examining possible genetic links between supercontinent evolution, superplume formation, true polar wander events, and extreme global climatic events. Key questions that I wish to help answer are:

  • Do continents roam around the globe randomly and only occasionally form supercontinents by accident, or was the Earth’s history dominated by supercontinent cycles?

  • Does the formation of mantle plumes/superplumes have anything to do with plate dynamics (i.e., plume drives plate, vice versa, or both)?

  • Are mantle plumes fixed relative to the Earth’s rotation axis? Can the Earth’s entire mantle and its lithosphere rotate relative to its core and rotation axis?

  What are the implications of your work for this field?

My work, through extensive multidisciplinary and multinational collaborations, firstly helps to recognize global geodynamic events as recorded in the Earth’s history. We then try to examine possible links between such events. Such work helps to better understand the inner works of the Earth’s dynamic system and how it impacts on surface processes and climate.

Z.X. Li, Professor 
The Institute of Geoscience Research (TIGeR)
Department of Applied Geology
Curtin University of Technology
Perth, WA, Australia

Professor Zheng-Xiang Li's most-cited paper with 144 cites to date:
Li ZX, et al., “The breakup of Rodinia; Did it start with a mantle plume beneath South China?” Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 173(3): 171-81, 30 November 1999.

Source: Essential Science IndicatorsSM from Thomson Scientific.

Special Topics : Zircon Dating : Professor Zheng-Xiang Li - Special Topic of Zircin Dating