Diversity of magmatism, hydrothermal processes and microbial interactions at mid-ocean ridges

TitleDiversity of magmatism, hydrothermal processes and microbial interactions at mid-ocean ridges
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsFrüh-Green, GL, Kelley, DS, Lilley, MD, Cannat, M, Chavagnac, V, Baross, JA
JournalNature Reviews Earth & Environment
KeywordsElement cycles, Geochemistry, Marine biology, Tectonics

Hydrothermal circulation and alteration at mid-ocean ridges and ridge flanks have a key role in regulating seawater chemistry and global chemical fluxes, and support diverse ecosystems in the absence of light. In this Review, we outline tectonic, magmatic and hydrothermal processes that govern crustal architecture, alteration and biogeochemical cycles along mid-ocean ridges with different spreading rates. In general, hydrothermal systems vary from those that are magmatic-dominated with low-pH fluids >300 °C to serpentinizing systems with alkaline fluids <120 °C. Typically, slow-spreading ridges (rates <40 mm yr−1) have greater variability in magmatism, lithology and vent chemistry, which are influenced by detachment faults that expose lower-crustal and serpentinized mantle rocks. Hydrothermal alteration is an important sink for magnesium, sodium, sulfate and bicarbonate, and a net source of volatiles, iron and other nutrients to the deep ocean and vent ecosystems. Magmatic hydrothermal systems sustain a vast, hot and diverse microbial biosphere that represents a deep organic carbon source to ocean carbon budgets. In contrast, high-pH serpentinizing hydrothermal systems harbour a more limited microbial community consisting primarily of methane-metabolizing archaea. Continued advances in monitoring and analytical capabilities coupled with developments in metagenomic technologies will guide future investigations and discoveries in hydrothermal systems.