Uptake and fractionation of rare earth elements on hydrothermal plume particles at 9°45'N, East Pacific Rise

Robert M. Sherrell, M. Paul Field, Greg Ravizza

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Particulate samples (>0.45 μm) from a neutrally buoyant hydrothermal plume at 9°45'N on the northern East Pacific Rise were collected using large volume in situ filtration and analyzed for Fe, Al, Mn, Ni, and fourteen rare earth elements (REE). The Sm/Fe ratio (a proxy for overall REE/Fe) and Nd/Er (light/heavy REE fractionation) increased moderately with decreasing particulate Fe. Chemically, the sense of these relationships matched that documented previously in the TAG plume on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (German et al., 1990), although particulate Fe was about 10 fold lower at 9°45'N. Spatial trends relative to the vent source, however, were opposite of expectation because slow Fe(II) oxidation and Fe(III) colloid aggregation over this interval led to increased particulate Fe (10-26 nM) with distance from source (Field and Sherrell, submitted). After subtraction of non-plume background particle composition, plume particles at 9°45'N and TAG had indistinguishable ranges of light REE-enriched fractionation relative to ambient seawater and had very similar Sm/Fe (therefore Kd for Fe oxyhydroxides), demonstrating that plume particles in both oceans reflect to a first degree the local seawater REE composition. Within-plume REE variations at 9°45'N were investigated using a simple mixing model which accounts for the bulk Fe-Al-Mn variations in the plume using two endmembers: fresh hydrothermal oxyhydroxide precipitates and ridge-crest background particles (composed largely of locally resuspended sediment). Sm/Fe and Nd/Er plot linearly with mixing ratio (R > 0.96), implying that the observed REE trends result from mixing of these two endmembers. Extrapolation to the composition of pure hydrothermal precipitates suggests that Nd/Er is fractionated relative to seawater by a factor of 1.8 during adsorption onto fresh Fe oxyhydroxide particles. The ridge-crest background particles are 5 fold higher in Sm/Fe and Nd/Er is 2.49 relative to seawater, partly a result of enriched terrigenous component in the resuspended matter. A reinterpretation of REE at TAG reveals that positive curvature in REE vs. Fe plots, argued previously to reflect continuous REE uptake (i.e., increasing Kd; German et al., 1990), may result from local depletion of the dissolved REE pool by partitioning onto Fe particles at Fe > 100 nM. Similar drawdown effects could contribute to the variable degrees of curvature observed for all seawater-source particle-reactive species in plumes that are sampled at high particulate Fe concentration. In sum, REE behavior in hydrothermal plumes is more consistent with equilibrium adsorption and mixing of distinct particle types, than with kinetic uptake control. Precise measurements of REEs in modern ridge-crest metalliferous sediments could be compared to the endmember composition calculated from the plume data to evaluate long-term changes in REE of the hydrothermal component.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1709-1722
Number of pages14
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Jun 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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