AUTHOR COMMENTARIES - From Special Topics
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
The lead author of this paper is Professor Zheng-Xiang Li. According to
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,
ScienceWatch.com talks with Professor
Li about his highly cited paper.
Would you please describe the significance
of your paper and why it is highly cited?
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
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
How did you become involved in this research, and
were there any particular successes or obstacles that stand
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
"Our work thus involved
multidisciplinary investigations including field
geology, geochronology, geochemistry, and
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
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
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
Li's most-cited paper with 144 cites
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
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