K-40-Ar-40 constraints on recycling continental crust into the mantle
Extraction of potassium into magmas and outgassing of argon during melting constrain the relative amounts of potassium in the crust with respect to those of argon in the atmosphere. No more than 30% of the modern mass of the continents was subducted back into the mantle during Earth's history. It is estimated that 50 to 70% of the subducted sediments are reincorporated into the deep continental crust. A consequence of the limited exchange between the continental crust and the upper mantle is that the chemistry of the upper mantle is driven by exchange of material with the deep mantle.