Geochemical Evidence for Recent Hydrothermal Alteration of Marine Sediments in Mid-Okinawa Trough, Southwest Japan

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Atushi Tanaka, Toho University, Chiba, Japan, Gou Abe, Japan Chemical Analysis Center, Chiba, Japan and Kosei E Yamaguchi, Toho University, Department of Chemistry, Chiba, Japan
Recent studies have shown that submarine hydrothermal system supports diverse microbial life. Bio-essential metals supporting such microbial communities were released from basalts by high-temperature water-rock interaction in deeper part of the oceanic crust and carried by submarine fluid flow. Its total quantity in global hydrothermal settings has been estimated to be on the order of ~1019 g/yr, which is surprisingly on the same order of the total river flows (Urabe et al., 2011). Therefore, it is important to explore how submarine river system works, i.e., to understand mechanism and extent of elemental transport, which should lead to understanding of the roles of hydrothermal circulation in oceanic crust in controlling elemental budget in the global ocean and geochemical conditions to support deep hot biosphere.

 We performed REE analysis of marine sediments influenced by submarine hydrothermal activity in Mid-Okinawa Trough. The sediment samples used in this study are from IODP site at Iheya North region and JADE site at Izena region. The samples show alternation between volcanic and clastic sediments. Hydrothermal fluids of this area contain elevated concentrations of volatile components such as H2, CO2, CH4, NH4+, and H2S, supporting diverse chemoautotrophic microbial community (Nakagawa et al., 2005). The purpose of this study is to examine the effect of hydrothermal activity on the REE signature of the sediments. Chondrite-normalized REE patterns of the samples show relative enrichment of light over heavy REEs, weak positive Ce anomalies, and variable degrees of negative Eu anomalies. The REE patterns suggest the sediments source was mainly basalt, suggesting insignificant input of continental materials. Negative Eu anomalies found in the IODP site become more pronounced with increasing depth, suggesting progressive increase of hydrothermal alteration where Eu was reductively dissolved into fluids by decomposition of feldspars. Contrary, at the JADE site, magnitude of negative Eu anomalies was variable independent of the sediment depth. This suggests changes in the redox conditions, most likely due to occasional invasions of O2-bearing seawater into sediments. Different regimes of hydrothermal fluid flows govern the chemical environments of marine sediments in active hydrothermal areas.