Serpentinization and life; motivations for drilling the Atlantis Massif

Author(s): Frueh-Green, G. L.; Lang, S. Q.; Brazelton, W. J.; Schrenk, M. O.
Author Affiliation(s): Primary:
ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
University of South Carolina Columbia, Columbia, SC, United States
University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, United States
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, United States
Volume Title: AGU 2014 fall meeting
Source: American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, Vol.2014; American Geophysical Union 2014 fall meeting, San Francisco, CA, Dec. 15-19, 2014. Publisher: American Geophysical Union, Washington, DC, United States
Note: In English
Summary: The Atlantis Massif, located at the intersection of the Atlantis transform fault and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge at 30°N, is one of the best-studied oceanic core complexes (OCCs) and is the target of IODP Expedition 357 late 2015. Drilling will address two exciting discoveries in ridge research: off-axis, serpentinite-hosted hydrothermal activity and carbonate precipitation, exemplified by the Lost City hydrothermal field, and the significance of tectono-magmatic processes in forming heterogeneous and variably serpentinized lithosphere as key components of slow spreading ridges. Serpentinization reactions at moderate- to low-temperatures result in alkaline fluids, characterized by elevated concentrations of abiotic hydrogen, methane and low molecular weight hydrocarbons, and which lead to precipitation of carbonate and brucite upon mixing with seawater. These highly reactive systems have major consequences for lithospheric cooling, global geochemical cycles, carbon sequestration and microbial activity. However, little is known about the nature and distribution of microbial communities in subsurface ultramafic environments and the potential for a hydrogen-based deep biosphere in areas of active serpentinization and fluid circulation. The continuous flux of reduced compounds provides abundant thermodynamic energy to drive chemolithoautotrophy, however, carbon availability may be limited in these high pH environments and represent a challenge for microbial growth. Here we review serpentinization processes as fundamental to understanding the evolution of oceanic lithosphere and discuss open questions related to the impact of serpentinization on the subsurface biosphere. Motivations for drilling the shallow subseafloor of the Atlantis Massif include: (1) exploring the extent and activity of the subsurface biosphere in young ultramafic and mafic seafloor; (2) quantifying the role of serpentinization in driving hydrothermal systems, in sustaining microbiological communities and in the sequestration of carbon in ultramafic rocks; (3) assessing how abiotic and biotic processes change with aging of the lithosphere and with variations in rock type; and (4) characterizing tectono-magmatic processes at OCCs and the evolution of hydrothermal activity associated with detachment faulting.
Year of Publication: 2014
Research Program: IODP2 International Ocean Discovery Program
Key Words: 05 Petrology, Igneous and Metamorphic; Atlantic Ocean; Atlantis Massif; Expedition 357; International Ocean Discovery Program; Mid-Atlantic Ridge; North Atlantic
Record ID: 2016012341
Copyright Information: GeoRef, Copyright 2019 American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data supplied by, and/or abstract, Copyright, American Geophysical Union, Washington, DC, United States

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