Rare earth element abundances in hydrothermal fluids from the Manus Basin, Papua New Guinea: Indicators of sub-seafloor hydrothermal processes in back-arc basins Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Rare earth element (REE) concentrations are reported for a large suite of seafloor vent fluids from four hydrothermal systems in the Manus back–arc basin (Vienna Woods, PACMANUS, DESMOS and SuSu Knolls vent areas). Sampled vent fluids show a wide range of absolute REE concentrations and chondrite–normalized (REEN) distribution patterns (LaN/SmN ~ 0.6 – 11; LaN/YbN ~ 0.6 – 71; EuN/Eu*N ~ 1 – 55). REEN distribution patterns in different vent fluids range from light–REE enriched, to mid– and heavy–REE enriched, to flat, and have a range of positive Eu–anomalies. This heterogeneity contrasts markedly with relatively uniform REEN distribution patterns of mid–ocean ridge hydrothermal fluids. In Manus Basin fluids, aqueous REE compositions do not inherit directly or show a clear relationship with the REE compositions of primary crustal rocks with which hydrothermal fluids interact. These results suggest that the REEs are less sensitive indicators of primary crustal rock composition despite crustal rocks being the dominant source of REEs in submarine hydrothermal fluids. In contrast, differences in aqueous REE compositions are consistently correlated with differences in fluid pH and ligand (chloride, fluoride and sulfate) concentrations. Our results suggest that the REEs can be used as an indicator of the type of magmatic acid volatile (i.e., presence of HF, SO2) degassing in submarine hydrothermal systems. Additional fluid data suggest that near seafloor mixing between high–temperature hydrothermal fluid and locally entrained seawater at many vent areas in the Manus Basin causes anhydrite precipitation. Anhydrite effectively incorporates REE and likely affects measured fluid REE concentrations, but does not affect their relative distributions.

publication date

  • October 2010