The geochemical consequences of late-stage low-grade alteration of lower ocean crust at the SW Indian Ridge: results from ODP Hole 735B (Leg 176) Academic Article uri icon


  • Chemical exchange between oceanic lithosphere and seawater is important in setting the chemical composition of the oceans. In the past, budgets for chemical flux in the flanks of mid-ocean ridges have only considered exchange between basalt and seawater. Recent studies have shown that lower crustal and upper mantle lithologies make up a significant fraction of sea floor produced at the global mid-ocean ridge system. Moreover, the rugged topography of slow spread crust exposing lower crust and upper mantle facilitates prolonged fluid circulation, whereas volcanic ridge flanks are more rapidly isolated from the ocean by a sediment seal. Hence, elemental fluxes during lower crust-seawater reactions must be assessed to determine their role in global geochemical budgets. ODP Hole 735B penetrates more than 1500 m into lower ocean crust that was generated at the very slow spreading Southwest Indian Ridge and later formed the 5-km-high Atlantis Bank on the inside corner high of the Atlantis H Fracture Zone. The gabbroic rocks recovered from Hole 735B preserve a complex record of plastic and brittle deformation and hydrothermal alteration. High-temperature alteration is rare below 600 m below seafloor (mbsf), but the lowermost section of the hole (500-1500 mbsf) has been affected by a complex arid multistage low-temperature (< 250 degreesC) alteration history probably related to the tectonic uplift of the basement. This low-T alteration is localized and typically confined to fractured regions where intense alteration of the host rocks can be observed adjacent to veins/veinlets filled with smectite, smectite-chlorite mixed layer minerals, or chlorite +/- calcite +/- zeolite +/- sulfide +/- Fe-oxyhydroxide. We have determined the bulk chemistry and O and Sr isotope compositions of fresh/altered rock pairs to estimate the chemical fluxes associated with low-temperature interaction between the uplifted and fractured a gabbroic crust and circulating seawater. The locally abundant low-temperature alteration in crust at Site 735 has significantly changed the overall chemical composition of the basement. The direction of these changes is similar to that defined for volcanic ridge flanks, with low-temperature alteration of gabbroic crust acting as a sink for the alkalis, H2O, C, U, P, O-18, and Sr-87. The magnitudes of element fluxes are similar to volcanic ridge flanks for some components (C, P, Na) but are one or two orders of,magnitude lower for others. The flux calculations suggest that low-temperature fluid circulation in gabbro massifs can result in S uptake (3% of riverine sulfate input) in contrast to the S losses deduced for volcanic ridge flanks. Copyright (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd.

publication date

  • October 2001