Lithium isotope geochemistry of sediments and hydrothermal fluids of the Guaymas Basin, Gulf of California

Chan Lui-Heung, Joris M. Gieskes, You Chen-Feng, John M. Edmond

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145 Citations (Scopus)


Lithium isotopic compositions of hydrothermally altered sediments of Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) site 477/477A, as well as high temperature vent fluids of the Guaymas Basin, have been determined to gain an understanding of lithium exchange during fluid-sediment interaction at this sediment-covered spreading center. Unaltered turbidite of the basin has a δ6Li value of -10%., 5-7%. heavier than fresh oceanic basalts. Contact metamorphism induced by a shallow sill intrusion results in a decrease of the lithium content of the adjacent sediments and a lighter isotopic value (-8%.). Below the sill, sediments altered by a deep-seated hydrothermal system show strong depletions in lithium, while lithium isotopic compositions vary greatly, ranging from -11 to +1 %.. The shift to lighter composition is the result of preferential retention of the lighter isotope in recrystallized phases after destruction of the primary minerals. The complexity of the isotope profile is attributed to inhomogeneity in mineral composition, the tortuous pathway of fluids and the temperature effect on isotopic fractionation. The range of lithium concentration and δ6Li values for the vent fluids sampled in 1982 and 1985 overlaps with that of the sediment-free mid-ocean ridge systems. The lack of a distinct expression of sediment input is explained in terms of a flow-through system with continuous water recharge. The observations on the natural system agree well with the results of laboratory hydrothermal experiments. The experimental study demonstrates the importance of temperature, pressure, water/rock ratio, substrate composition and reaction time on the lithium isotopic composition of the reacted fluid. High temperature authigenic phases do not seem to constitute an important sink for lithium and sediments of a hydrothermal system such as Guaymas are a source of lithium to the ocean. The ready mobility of lithium in the sediment under elevated temperature and pressure conditions also has important implications for lithium cycling in subduction zones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4443-4454
Number of pages12
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 1994 Oct

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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