The Payenia Basaltic Province (PBP) is located 450 km east of the Chile–Peru trench in central west Argentina, behind the Andean arc front, constituting the back-arc. In order to evaluate the influence of the subducting slab as well as the magmatic source of this region, two volcanic fields located at comparable distance to the trench, having abundant basaltic products and similar eruptive timeframes were chosen. The Llancanelo (LLVF) and the Payún Matrú (PMVF) volcanic fields are part of the PBP and exhibit abundant basaltic activity during the Pleistocene. The geochemical data suggest that the LLVF has some arc signatures which have been described as weak as they are not as pronounced as in the Andean arc. The weak arc signature is not derived from slab dehydration as high Th enrichment relative to U cannot be explained by this process. We relate the Th enrichment as well as the lack of large residual garnet signatures, to slab sediments in the source. In the case of the PMVF, no arc signature has been inferred despite being only 30 km south of the LLVF. However the PMVF has a composition similar to that of the local intraplate end member, represented by the Rio Colorado volcanic field. The two volcanic fields, LLVF and PMVF, show indications of lower crustal assimilation as they trend towards the lower continental crust end member in Nb/U vs Ce/Pb and Nb/Yb vs Th/Yb diagrams.
The geochemical differences between the LLVF and the PMVF as well as between several volcanic fields are illustrated using spatial distribution maps of geochemical ratios. Using this new approach, the decrease in arc signature can be traced in the back-arc and the higher enrichment in high field strength elements (HFSE) relative to large ion lithophile elements (LILE) in the PMVF compared to the LLVF is explicitly shown. These geospatial maps provide a graphical manner to illustrate the presence of two distinct types of volcanism (OIB-like and arc-like) occurring in the same Quaternary basaltic province.