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Hydrothermal contributions to global biogeochemical cycles: Insights from the Macquarie Island ophiolite

Hydrothermal contributions to global biogeochemical cycles: Insights from the Macquarie Island ophiolite
Hydrothermal contributions to global biogeochemical cycles: Insights from the Macquarie Island ophiolite
Hydrothermal circulation is a fundamental process in the formation and aging of the ocean crust, with the resultant chemical exchange between the crust and oceans comprising a key component of global biogeochemical cycles. Sections of hydrothermally altered ocean crust provide time-integrated records of this chemical exchange. Unfortunately, our knowledge of the nature and extent of hydrothermal exchange is limited by the absence of complete oceanic crustal sections from either submarine exposures or drill core. Sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island comprises ~ 10 Ma ocean crust formed at a slow spreading ridge, and is the only sub-aerial exposure of a complete section of ocean crust in the ocean basin in which it formed. Hydrothermally altered rocks from Macquarie Island therefore provide a unique opportunity to evaluate the chemical changes due to fluid–rock exchange through a complete section of ocean crust. Here we exploit the immobile behavior of some elements during hydrothermal alteration to determine the precursor compositions to altered Macquarie whole rock samples, and evaluate the changes in bulk rock chemistry due to fluid–rock interaction throughout the Macquarie crust. The extent to which elements are enriched or depleted in each sample depends upon the secondary mineral assemblage developed, and hence the modal abundances of the primary minerals in the rocks and the alteration conditions, such as temperature, fluid composition, and water:rock ratios. Consequently the chemical changes vary with depth, most notably within the lava–dike transition zone where enrichments in K, S, Rb, Ba, and Zn are observed. Our results indicate that hydrothermal alteration of the Macquarie crust resulted in a net flux of Si, Ti, Al, and Ca to the oceans, whereas the crust was a net sink for H2O, Mg, Na, K, and S. Our results also demonstrate the importance of including the contribution of elemental uptake by veins for some elements (e.g., Si, Fe, Mg, S). Extrapolation of our results, assuming a crustal production rate of 3 km2/yr, yields estimates of the hydrothermal contribution to global geochemical cycles. For example, the Mg flux to the crust is estimated to be 3.3 ± 1.1 × 1012 mol/year, sufficient to balance the riverine Mg input to the oceans given the uncertainties involved. However, the relationship between spreading rate and hydrothermal chemical exchange fluxes remains poorly understood, and the approach described here should be applied to crust produced at a range of spreading rates to refine the global hydrothermal flux estimates.
Ocean crust, Hydrothermal alteration, Biogeochemical cycles, Macquarie Island, Ophiolite
0024-4937
329-347
Coggon, Rosalind
09488aad-f9e1-47b6-9c62-1da33541b4a4
Teagle, Damon
396539c5-acbe-4dfa-bb9b-94af878fe286
Harris, Michelle
2ea5985e-614c-4d8a-9cb0-82d9590d4ebc
Davidson, Garry. J
1db3e91d-b0f9-48a3-8f3f-e202ed9b3c73
Alt, Jeffrey C.
d2e22a46-a2e0-4d56-abbb-37199de80dbc
Brewer, Timothy S.
067ad9af-1c1f-4dab-9e0b-d8b20d1a0199
Coggon, Rosalind
09488aad-f9e1-47b6-9c62-1da33541b4a4
Teagle, Damon
396539c5-acbe-4dfa-bb9b-94af878fe286
Harris, Michelle
2ea5985e-614c-4d8a-9cb0-82d9590d4ebc
Davidson, Garry. J
1db3e91d-b0f9-48a3-8f3f-e202ed9b3c73
Alt, Jeffrey C.
d2e22a46-a2e0-4d56-abbb-37199de80dbc
Brewer, Timothy S.
067ad9af-1c1f-4dab-9e0b-d8b20d1a0199

Coggon, Rosalind, Teagle, Damon, Harris, Michelle, Davidson, Garry. J, Alt, Jeffrey C. and Brewer, Timothy S. (2016) Hydrothermal contributions to global biogeochemical cycles: Insights from the Macquarie Island ophiolite. Lithos, 264, 329-347. (doi:10.1016/j.lithos.2016.08.024).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Hydrothermal circulation is a fundamental process in the formation and aging of the ocean crust, with the resultant chemical exchange between the crust and oceans comprising a key component of global biogeochemical cycles. Sections of hydrothermally altered ocean crust provide time-integrated records of this chemical exchange. Unfortunately, our knowledge of the nature and extent of hydrothermal exchange is limited by the absence of complete oceanic crustal sections from either submarine exposures or drill core. Sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island comprises ~ 10 Ma ocean crust formed at a slow spreading ridge, and is the only sub-aerial exposure of a complete section of ocean crust in the ocean basin in which it formed. Hydrothermally altered rocks from Macquarie Island therefore provide a unique opportunity to evaluate the chemical changes due to fluid–rock exchange through a complete section of ocean crust. Here we exploit the immobile behavior of some elements during hydrothermal alteration to determine the precursor compositions to altered Macquarie whole rock samples, and evaluate the changes in bulk rock chemistry due to fluid–rock interaction throughout the Macquarie crust. The extent to which elements are enriched or depleted in each sample depends upon the secondary mineral assemblage developed, and hence the modal abundances of the primary minerals in the rocks and the alteration conditions, such as temperature, fluid composition, and water:rock ratios. Consequently the chemical changes vary with depth, most notably within the lava–dike transition zone where enrichments in K, S, Rb, Ba, and Zn are observed. Our results indicate that hydrothermal alteration of the Macquarie crust resulted in a net flux of Si, Ti, Al, and Ca to the oceans, whereas the crust was a net sink for H2O, Mg, Na, K, and S. Our results also demonstrate the importance of including the contribution of elemental uptake by veins for some elements (e.g., Si, Fe, Mg, S). Extrapolation of our results, assuming a crustal production rate of 3 km2/yr, yields estimates of the hydrothermal contribution to global geochemical cycles. For example, the Mg flux to the crust is estimated to be 3.3 ± 1.1 × 1012 mol/year, sufficient to balance the riverine Mg input to the oceans given the uncertainties involved. However, the relationship between spreading rate and hydrothermal chemical exchange fluxes remains poorly understood, and the approach described here should be applied to crust produced at a range of spreading rates to refine the global hydrothermal flux estimates.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 17 August 2016
e-pub ahead of print date: 30 August 2016
Published date: 1 November 2016
Keywords: Ocean crust, Hydrothermal alteration, Biogeochemical cycles, Macquarie Island, Ophiolite
Organisations: Geochemistry

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 401353
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/401353
ISSN: 0024-4937
PURE UUID: 921b5563-7ca7-4e0a-a613-a9b370bf421b
ORCID for Rosalind Coggon: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-9228-9707
ORCID for Damon Teagle: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-4416-8409

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 12 Oct 2016 08:35
Last modified: 15 Aug 2019 05:17

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