Dissolved iron anomaly in the deep tropical-subtropical Pacific: Evidence for long-range transport of hydrothermal iron

Jingfeng Wu, Mark L. Wells, Robert Rember

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87 Scopus citations


Dissolved iron profiles along a north-south transect along 158°W in the tropical Pacific show evidence of two deepwater anomalies. The first extends from Station ALOHA (22.78°N) to the equator at ∼1000-1500m and lies below the maximum apparent oxygen utilization and nutrient (N, P) concentrations. The feature is not supported by vertical export processes, but instead corresponds with the lateral dilution field of δ3He derived from the Loihi seamount, Hawaii, though a sediment source associated with the Hawaiian Island Chain cannot be entirely ruled out. The second, deeper (2000-3000m) anomaly occurs in tropical South Pacific waters (7°S) and also does not correlate with the depths of maximum nutrient concentrations or apparent oxygen utilization, but it does coincide closely with δ3He emanating from the East Pacific Rise, more than 5000km to the east. We hypothesize that these anomalies represent the long-range (>2000km) transport of hydrothermal iron residuals, stabilized against scavenging by complexation with excess organic ligands in the plume source regions. Such trace leakage of hydrothermal iron to distal plume regions would have been difficult to identify in most hydrothermal vent mapping studies because low analytical detection limits were not needed for the proximal plume regions. These findings suggest that hydrothermal activity may represent a major source of dissolved iron throughout the South Pacific deep basin today, as well as other regions having high mid-ocean spreading rates in the geologic past. In particular, we hypothesize that high spreading rates along the South Atlantic and Southern Ocean mid-oceanic ridges, combined with the upwelling ventilation of these distal hydrothermal plumes, may have increased ocean productivity and carbon export in the Southern Ocean. Assessing the magnitude and persistence of dissolved hydrothermal iron in basin scale deep waters will be important for understanding the marine biogeochemistry of iron and, potentially, on ocean productivity and climate change during the geologic past.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)460-468
Number of pages9
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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