Intense hydrothermal scavenging of 230Th and 231Pa in the deep Southeast Pacific

Frank Pavia, Robert Anderson, Sebastian Vivancos, Martin Fleisher, Phoebe Lam, Yanbin Lu, Hai Cheng, Pu Zhang, R. Lawrence Edwards

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32 Scopus citations


Hydrothermal circulation and subsequent eruption of seawater at mid-ocean ridges and back-arc basins has great potential to modulate deep ocean biogeochemistry, acting as both a source and a sink for many trace elements and their isotopes. The influence of hydrothermal vents as a source of iron and manganese has been demonstrated in all ocean basins. However, the long-range impact of scavenging by hydrothermal particles has yet to be documented in detail. We use dissolved and particulate measurements of long-lived radiogenic (230Th, 231Pa) and primordial (232Th) radionuclides to investigate the nature and geographic scale of scavenging processes occurring within a hydrothermal plume in the Southeast Pacific Ocean sampled during the GEOTRACES GP16 section. Due to their radioactive disequilibrium with respect to production by their parent uranium isotopes, 230Th and 231Pa provide unique insights into the rates of scavenging. We find strong deficits in 230Th and 231Pa coincident with elevated particulate Mn and Fe(OH)3, indicating that trace metal scavenging is widespread and likely the result of the strong affinity of trace metals for nanoparticulate metal surface sites. The chemical composition of the particulate material is closely linked to the scavenging intensity of 230Th and 231Pa, expressed as distribution coefficients between solid and solution. A comparison of 230Th and 231Pa inventories with mantle-derived 3He as well as a mass balance of 230Th and 231Pa suggests continuous scavenging removal over the course of the entire 4000 km transect. Unlike the two radiogenic isotopes, 232Th is enriched above what would be expected from assuming identical scavenging behavior to 230Th, indicating a hydrothermal source of colloidal, unreactive 232Th.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)212-228
Number of pages17
JournalMarine Chemistry
StatePublished - Apr 20 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Science Foundation ( OCE-1233688 to LDEO, OCE-1233903 to UMN, and OCE-518110 to UCSC), as well as an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to F.J.P ( DGE-16-44869 ). Thanks go to the captain, crew, and scientists aboard the R/V Thomas G. Thompson, in particular the bottle and pump teams. We thank Bill Jenkins for making 3 He data available prior to its publication. We also thank Gisela Winckler, Kassandra Costa, and Terry Plank for insightful discussions. Comments by Walter Geibert and an anonymous reviewer greatly improved the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.


  • East Pacific Rise
  • Hydrothermal
  • Protactinium
  • Scavenging
  • Thorium


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