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Coupled Ge/Si and Ge isotope ratios as geochemical tracers of seafloor hydrothermal systems: Case studies at Loihi Seamount and East Pacific Rise 9°50′N

Abstract : Germanium (Ge) and Silicon (Si) exhibit similar geochemical behavior in marine environments but are variably enriched in seafloor hydrothermal fluids relative to seawater. In this study, Ge isotope and Ge/Si ratio systematics were investigated in low temperature hydrothermal vents from Loihi Seamount (Pacific Ocean, 18°54′N, 155°15′W) and results were compared to high-temperature vents from the East Pacific Rise (EPR) at 9°50′N. Loihi offers the opportunity to understand contrasting Ge and Si behavior in low temperature seafloor hydrothermal systems characterized by abundant Fe oxyhydroxide deposition at the seafloor. The results show that both Ge/Si and δ74/70Ge in hydrothermal fluids are fractionated relative to the basaltic host rocks. The enrichment in Ge vs. Si relative to fresh basalts, together with Ge isotope fractionation (Δ74/70Gefluid-basalt up to 1.15‰ at EPR 9°50′N and 1.64‰ at Loihi) are best explained by the precipitation of minerals (e.g. quartz and Fe-sulfides) during higher temperature seawater–rock reactions in the subsurface. The study of Fe-rich hydrothermal deposits at Loihi, largely composed of Fe-oxyhydroxides, shows that Ge isotopes are also fractionated upon mineral precipitation at the seafloor. We obtained an average Ge isotope fractionation factor between Fe-oxyhydroxide (ferrihydrite) and dissolved Ge in the fluid of −2.0 ± 0.6‰ (2sd), and a maximum value of −3.6 ± 0.6‰ (2sd), which is consistent with recent theoretical and experimental studies. The study of a hydrothermal chimney at Bio 9 vent at EPR 9°50′N also demonstrates that Ge isotopes are fractionated by approximately −5.6 ± 0.6‰ (2sd) during precipitation of metal sulfides under hydrothermal conditions. Using combined Ge/Si and estimated Ge isotope signatures of Ge sinks and sources in seawater, we propose a preliminary oceanic budget of Ge which reveals that an important sink, referred as the “missing Ge sink”, may correspond to Ge sequestration into authigenic Fe-oxyhydroxides in marine sediments. This study shows that combining Ge/Si and δ74/70Ge systematics provides a useful tool to trace hydrothermal Ge and Si sources in marine environments and to understand formation processes of seafloor hydrothermal deposits.
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Raphaelle Escoube, Olivier Rouxel, Katrina Edwards, Brian Glazer, Olivier F.X. Donard. Coupled Ge/Si and Ge isotope ratios as geochemical tracers of seafloor hydrothermal systems: Case studies at Loihi Seamount and East Pacific Rise 9°50′N. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Elsevier, 2015, 167, pp.93-112. ⟨10.1016/j.gca.2015.06.025⟩. ⟨insu-01184921⟩



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