Oceanography The Official Magazine of
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Volume 25 Issue 01

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Volume 25, No. 1
Pages 234 - 245


Chemistry, Temperature, and Faunal Distributions at Diffuse-Flow Hydrothermal Vents: Comparison of Two Geologically Distinct Ridge Systems

By George W. Luther III , Amy Gartman, Mustafa Yücel , Andrew S. Madison, Tommy S. Moore , Heather A. Nees , Donald B. Nuzzio, Arunima Sen, Richard A. Lutz , Timothy M. Shank, and Charles R. Fisher 
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Article Abstract

Diffuse-flow, low-temperature areas near hydrothermal vents support life via chemosynthesis: hydrogen sulfide (and other reduced chemical compounds) emanating from the subsurface is oxidized with bottom-water oxygen through bacterial mediation to fix carbon dioxide and produce biomass. This article reviews the in situ diffuse-flow chemistry (mainly H2S and O2) and temperature data collected in 2006 and 2009 along the Eastern Lau Spreading Center (ELSC), and from 2004 to 2008 at 9°N along the East Pacific Rise (9 N EPR), predominantly around macrofauna that contain endosymbionts at these two hydrothermal vent regions. More than 48,000 and 20,000 distinct chemical and temperature data points were collected with a multi-analyte electrochemical analyzer in the diffuse-flow waters at 9 N EPR and the ELSC, respectively. Despite their different geological settings and different macrofauna (two different species of snails and mussels at the ELSC versus two different species of tubeworms and mussels at 9 N EPR), there are similarities in the temperature and chemistry data, as well as in the distributions of organisms. The pattern of water chemistry preferred by the provannid snails (Alviniconcha spp., Ifremeria nautilei) and Bathymodiolus brevior at the ELSC is similar to the water chemistry pattern found for the siboglinid tubeworms (Tevnia jerichonana, Riftia pachyptila) and the Bathymodiolus thermophilus mussels at 9 N EPR. The eruptions at 9 N EPR in 2005 and 2006 resulted in increased H2S concentrations, increased H2S/T ratios, and an initial change in the dominant tubeworm species from Riftia pachyptila to Tevnia jerichonana after the eruption created new vent habitats. In 2005, two sites at 9 N EPR showed major increases in the H2S/T ratio from 2004, which suggested a probable eruption in this basalt-dominated system. At the ELSC, there was a decrease in the H2S/T ratio from northern to southern sites, which reflects the change in geological setting from basalt to andesite and the shallower water depths at the southern sites.


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