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Stable isotopes are a powerful tool for deciphering the fluid histories of metamorphic terranes. The nature of fluid flow, fluid sources, and fluid fluxes can be delineated in well-constrained studies. Observed isotopic gradients in metamorphic rocks and minerals can thus shed light on many processes involved in mass-transport including diffusion, recrystallization, fluid infiltration, volatilization, metasomatism, and heat flow. Modeling of fluid flow and mineral exchange kinetics offers greatly enhanced understanding of metamorphic processes that can be tested and refined by application of new micro-analytical techniques. This review will concentrate on the principles of stable isotope fluid-rock interaction with an emphasis on fluid-rock interaction and fluid flow in contact metamorphism. Earlier reviews discuss some aspects of regional metamorphism and hydrothermal systems (Valley 1986; Kerrich 1987; Nabelek 1991; Young 1995; Ferry and Gerdes 1998; Bowman 1998).
Isotopic studies are especially useful for defining the scale of fluid migration. The intensity of interaction between fluids and the minerals in rocks can be assessed. During metamorphism, the scale of isotopic exchange can vary from less than a micrometer to over 10 kilometers. Many fluid-driven processes are characterized by the degree to which fluid flow is concentrated into zones of high permeability. Thus, the definition of two end-member situations is useful. The flow of a pervasive fluid is distributed throughout the pores in a rock. Pervasive flow can be along grain boundaries or fine-scale crack networks and the effect is to homogenize the chemical potential of all components, including stable isotopes, at a macroscopic scale. In contrast, the flow of a channeled fluid is along vein systems, shear zones or other channelways such as rock contacts or more permeable lithologic units. Channeled flow leads to local chemical heterogeneity, allowing some rocks to remain unaffected while others are extensively infiltrated …