Iron ligands and isotopes in hydrothermal plumes over backarc volcanoes in the Northeast Lau Basin, Southwest Pacific Ocean

Hu Wang*, Wenpeng Wang, Meitong Liu, Huaiyang Zhou, Michael J. Ellwood, David A. Butterfield, Nathaniel J. Buck, Joseph A. Resing

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Deep-sea hydrothermal venting is an important source of dissolved iron (dFe) to the oceans. Fe isotopes can be used as a potential tool to trace the dispersal of hydrothermal plumes. However, Fe isotope fractionation and its relation with Fe speciation as hydrothermal plumes disperse is still poorly constrained. In this study, we determined the Fe speciation and total and dissolved Fe isotope composition (δ56tFe, δ56dFe) for several hydrothermal plumes from backarc volcanoes in the Northeast Lau Basin. This combined approach provides important insights into the evolution of Fe isotopes in hydrothermal plumes. The results suggest δ56tFe variation in plumes is related to the loss of particulate Fe-sulfides or Fe-oxyhydroxides (FeOOH), both of which are dependant on the H2S concentrations and Fe/H2S in the source hydrothermal fluids. δ56dFe compositions in the hydrothermal plumes increase during plume dispersal/dilution and can be as high as 0.85 ‰, demonstrating that hydrothermal plumes can export dissolved Fe with a significantly heavier δ56dFe than hydrothermal fluids. The reasons may be ascribed to the organic Fe complexes (FeL) and colloidal FeOOH in the dissolved phase. Another interpretation might be associated with the low pH in volcanic arc hydrothermal systems rich in magmatic CO2 and SO2, which decreases the Fe(II) oxidation rate. Further, we demonstrate for the first time that the δ56dFe is positively correlated with the conditional stability constants of FeL (logKʹFeL). A Rayleigh distillation model is presented based on the mass balance of the determined FeL, and colloidal FeOOH in hydrothermal plumes, which can explain the observed Fe isotope compositions in hydrothermal plumes. Our data show how Fe isotopes are transformed within a hydrothermal plume above arc volcanoes and how these may differ from that of the original vent fluids. It adds to our understanding of the processes that have an impact on the Fe speciation and isotope composition in deep-sea hydrothermal plumes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-352
Number of pages12
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022


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