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Geochemical Journal, Vol. 41 (No. 1), pp. 1-15, 2007

Rare Earth Elements in the hydrothermal system at Okinawa Trough back-arc basin

Yayoi Hongo,1,4 Hajime Obata,1 Toshitaka Gamo,1 Miwako Nakaseama,2 Junichiro Ishibashi,2 Uta Konno,3 Shunsuke Saegusa,3 Satoru Ohkubo3 and Urumu Tsunogai3

1Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo, Japan
2Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Kyushu University, Japan
3Division of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Hokkaido University, Japan
4RIKEN, The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, Japan

(Received July 22, 2005; Accepted September 19, 2006)

Abstract: We present novel data sets of rare earth element (REE) distributions in a hydrothermal vent field at Yonaguni Knoll IV in the Okinawa Trough. Vertical REE profiles in three water columns showed horizontal variation of REE concentrations within 1000-1200 m. Hydrothermal plumes were discovered by anomalous values of methane, manganese and transmissometry at that site. Europium anomalies in the North Pacific deep water (NPDW) (Nozaki et al., 1999) normalized pattern decreased with distance from the hydrothermal vent site, indicating that the dilution of hydrothermal fluid in the plume can be traced using REE. The horizontal variation of negative Ce-anomalies represents the continuous scavenging of REE by suspended matter in the plume. In addition, we measured nine hydrothermal fluid samples. The REE geochemistry of hydrothermal vent systems had been investigated intensively at sediment-starved mid-oceanic ridges, but few studies had examined sediment-hosted hydrothermal systems like those of the Okinawa Trough. The chondrite-normalized REE patterns of the fluids collected at Yonaguni Knoll IV show typical lighter rare earth elements (LREE) and Eu enrichment similar to at the Mid-ocean Ridge sites. A remarkable characteristic of the Yonaguni Knoll IV fluid pattern is its higher concentrations of heavier rare earth elements (HREE) and La composition than the hydrothermal fluids of the sediment-starved East Pacific Rise and Trans-Atlantic Geotraverse. Such a feature is explainable by influences of covering sediments in the back-arc basin Okinawa Trough. At the hydrothermal vent, lighter REE (LREE) in the fluid was reduced systematically during fluid mixing with seawater within the chimney. Light REE elimination resembles fractionation caused by particle scavenging within the water column. However, the lack of Ce depletion, which is a typical REE feature in the water column, along with distinctive Eu reduction, were unique in the Yonaguni Knoll IV fluid, suggesting that fluid REE fractionation at the vent site was induced predominantly by coprecipitation with hydrothermally originated minerals (e.g. sulfate and carbonate), not by adhesive removal by Fe and/or Mn oxide particles. Previous studies had shown that REE removal and fractionation of the hydrothermal system were observed only in deposit samples. Results of this study elucidated REE fractionation in fluid samples using previous analytical data. We were also able to distinguish REE removal mechanisms occurring at the vent site and water column using REE pattern characteristics.
Key words: Okinawa Trough, sediment-hosted hydrothermal activity, rare earth elements, hydrothermal fluid, hydrothermal plume


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