Barium isotopes in mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal vent fluids: A source of isotopically heavy Ba to the ocean

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Hsieh, YT 
Scheuermann, PP 
Seyfried, WE 
Henderson, GM 

Mid-ocean ridge (MOR) hydrothermal vent fluids are enriched with dissolved barium, but due to barite (BaSO4) precipitation during mixing between Ba-bearing vent fluids and SO4-bearing seawater, the magnitude of hydrothermal Ba input to the ocean remains uncertain. Deep-ocean Ba isotopes show evidence for non-conservative behavior, which might be explained by input of isotopically heavy hydrothermal Ba. In this study we present the first Ba isotope data in mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal vent fluids and particles from systems on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (Rainbow 36oN and TAG 26oN), the East Pacific Rise (EPR9-10oN and 13oN) and the Juan de Fuca Ridge (MEF and ASHES). The vent fluids display a wide range of dissolved Ba concentrations from 0.43 to 97.9 μmol/kg and δ138/134Ba values from -0.26 to +0.91 ‰, but are modified relative to initial composition due to precipitation of barite. Calculated endmember vent fluid δ138/134Ba values, prior to barite precipitation, are between -0.17 and +0.09 ‰, consistent with the values observed in oceanic basalts and pelagic sediments. Water-rock interaction inside the hydrothermal system appears to occur without isotope fractionation. During subsequent venting and mixing with seawater, barite precipitation preferentially removes isotopically light Ba from vent fluids with a fractionation factor of Δ138/134Bahyd-barite-fluid = -0.35 ± 0.10 ‰ (2SE, n=2). Based on knowledge of barite saturation and isotope fractionation during precipitation, the effective hydrothermal Ba component that mixes with seawater after all barite precipitation has taken place can be calculated: δ138/134Bahyd = +1.7 ± 0.7 ‰ (2SD). This value is isotopically heavier than deep ocean waters and may explain the observed non-conservative of Ba isotopes. These new constraints on hydrothermal Ba compositions enable the hydrothermal input of Ba to Atlantic deep waters to be assessed at ≈ 3 – 9 % of the observed Ba. Barium isotopes might be used as a tracer to reconstruct the history of hydrothermal Ba inputs and seawater SO4 concentrations in the past.

Ba isotopes, Mid-ocean ridge, Hydrothermal, Barite, Isotopic fractionation
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Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
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Elsevier BV
US NSF grants: 0549547, 0751771, 0813861, 0961188 and 1736679