University of Cambridge > > Department of Earth Sciences Seminars (downtown) > Hydrothermal sediments are a source of water column Fe and Mn in the Bransfield Strait, Antarctica

Hydrothermal sediments are a source of water column Fe and Mn in the Bransfield Strait, Antarctica

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Sediments from the top of Hook Ridge, a submarine volcanic edifice in the Central Basin of the Bransfield Strait, Antarctica, supply significant Fe and Mn to the overlying water column. Low-temperature hydrothermal fluids advect through these sediments and, in places, subsurface H2S is present at high enough concentrations to support abundant Sclerolinum sp., an infaunal tubeworm that hosts symbiotic thiotrophic bacteria. Pore water Fe and Mn content is high within the subsurface ferruginous zone; 14-18 times higher than values measured at a nearby, background site of equivalent water depth. Sequential extraction of the sediment demonstrates that there is a significant enrichment in a suite of reactive, authigenic Fe minerals in the upper 0-5 cm of sediment at one site. At a site with only minor authigenic mineral surface enrichment we infer that leakage of pore water Fe and Mn from the sediment leads to enriched total dissolvable Fe and Mn in bottom waters, which have a distinct Eh signature over several km laterally at the depth of Hook Ridge. We hypothesize that the main mechanism for Fe and Mn efflux from the sediment is breach of the surface oxic layer by the abundant Sclerolinum sp., supplemented by episodic enhancements by physical mixing and resuspension of sediment in this dynamic volcanic environment. We propose that Hook Ridge sediments are an important source of Fe and Mn to the deep waters of the Central Basin in the Bransfield Strait, where concentrations are sustained by the benthic flux, and that Fe is stabilised in the water column as either colloidal phases or ligand- bound dissolved species. Entrainment of this water mass into the Drake Passage and thereby the Antarctic Circumpolar Current could provide a significant metal source to this HNLC region of the Southern Ocean if mixing and upwelling occurs before removal of this metal pool to underlying sediments. Sediment-covered volcanic ridges are common within rifted margins, and may play a previously overlooked role in the global Fe cycle.

This talk is part of the Department of Earth Sciences Seminars (downtown) series.

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