Oceanic lithosphere is produced at mid-ocean ridges and reinjected into the mantle at convergent plate boundaries. During subduction, this lithosphere goes through a series of progressive dehydration and melting events. Initial dehydration of the slab occurs during low pressure metamorphism of the oceanic crust and involves significant dewatering and loss of labile elements. At depths of 80-120 km water release by the slab is believed to lead to partial melting of the oceanic crust. These melts, enriched in incompatible elements (excepting Nb, Ta and Ti), fertilize the overlying mantle wedge and produce the enriched peridotitic sources of island arc basalts. Retention of Nb, Ta and Ti by a residual mineral (e.g. in a rutile phase) in a refractory eclogitic lithology within the sinking slab are considered to cause their characteristic depletions in island arc basalts. These refractory eclogitic lithologies, enriched in Nb, Ta and Ti, accumulate at depth in the mantle. The continued isolation of this eclogitic residuum in the deep mantle over Earth's history produces a reservoir which contains a significant proportion of the Earth's Ti, Nb and Ta budget. Both the continental crust and depleted mantle have subchondritic Nb/La and Ti/Zr ratios and thus they cannot be viewed strictly as complementary geochemical reservoirs. This lack of complementarity between the continental crust and depleted mantle can be balanced by a refractory eclogitic reservoir deep in the mantle, which is enriched in Nb, Ta and Ti. A refractory eclogitic reservoir amounting to ca. 2% of the mass of the silicate Earth would also contain significant amounts of Ca and Al and may explain the superchondritic Ca/Al value of the depleted mantle.