Sr behaviour during hydrothermal alteration of oceanic gabbros exposed at Hess Deep : implications for 87SR/86SR compositions as a proxy for fluid-rock interaction.




Kirchner, Timo

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal systems are known to extend to deep levels of the oceanic crust, including the plutonic section, but little is known about the timing and nature of fluid-rock interactions at these levels. To investigate the temporal and spatial characteristics of hydrothermal alteration in the lower crust, this study investigates a suite of hydrothermally altered (<5 to >20% hydrous alteration) gabbroic rocks recovered from the Hess Deep Rift, where 1.2 Ma fast-spreading East Pacific Rise crust is well-exposed. These samples were altered to amphibole-dominated assemblages with chlorite-rich samples occurring in a restricted region of the field area. Hornfels, indicative of reheated, previously altered rocks, are clustered in the central part of the field area. The entire sample suite has elevated 87Sr/86Sr (mean: 0.70257±0.00007 (2σ), n=16) with respect to fresh rock (0.7024). Bulk rock 87Sr/86Sr is strongly correlated with percentage of hydrous alteration and weakly correlated with bulk rock Sr content. The distribution of Sr in igneous and metamorphic minerals suggests that greenshist-facies alteration assemblages (chlorite, actinolitic amphibole, albitic plagioclase) lose Sr to the fluid while amphibolite-facies secondary assemblages (secondary hornblende, anorthitic plagioclase) take up Sr. The temperature-dependent mobilization of Sr in hydrothermal systems has implications for the 87Sr/86Sr and ultimately fluid/rock ratio calculations based on the assessed 87Sr/86Sr systematics. Considering Sr behaviour, minimum fluid/rock ratios of ~1 were calculated for the plutonic section. Due to the large uncertainty regarding fluid Sr composition at depth and the sensitivity of fluid/rock ratio calculations on this parameter, a model combining the sheeted dike complex and the plutonic section to one hydrothermal system is introduced, yielding a fluid/rock ratio of 0.5. This value may be more realistic since the fluid composition entering and exiting the sheeted dike complex is better constrained. The regional distribution of hornfelsed material with elevated 87Sr/86Sr suggests that fluid ingress into the upper plutonics at Hess Deep occurred on-axis in a dynamic interface of a vertically migrating axial magma chamber (AMC) and the base of the hydrothermal system.



mid-ocean ridge, hydrothermal systems, gabbro, East Pacific Rise, Cocos-Nazca spreading center, Sr, Sr isotopes, amphibolite, hornfels, magma chamber, lower oceanic crust, oceanic crust, plutonic section, gabbroic section, amphibole, chlorite, plagioclase, heat flux, fluid flux, hydrothermal fluid, water-rock interaction, fluid-rock interaction, metamorphism, geochemistry