Controls on the 129I/I ratio of deep-seated marine interstitial fluids: 'Old' organic versus fissiogenic 129-iodine

Florian Scholz, Christian Hensen, Zunli Lu, Udo Fehn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Iodine and its radioisotope 129I have been successfully used to trace the origin of pore waters in submarine fluid escape structures because of their close association with organic material in deeply buried sediments. We report here halogen concentrations and 129I/I ratios for fluids of five mud volcanoes sampled along an E-W transect across the Gulf of Cadiz in the NE Atlantic Ocean. Concentrations of iodide and bromide increase consistently seaward accompanied by a decrease in 129I/I ratios from 6490×10-15 to 663×10-15. The exceptionally high 129I/I ratios at the near-shore locations reflect the presence of fissiogenic 129I, produced in situ by spontaneous fission of 238U within terrigenous sediments and released into pore water during clay mineral diagenetic processes. The observed 129I/I and halogen trends, together with similar changes in 87Sr/86Sr ratios, indicate a progressive seaward transition from inorganic-terrigenous to organic-marine fluid sources.Comparison of our results with literature data for varying geological settings reveals a general relationship between fissiogenic 129I, radiogenic 87Sr and the lithology or provenance of rocks and sediments, respectively. While 129I/I ratios in continental rock-hosted aquifers and terrigenous sedimentary systems are dominated by in situ production of fissiogenic 129I, iodine isotopes in oceanic settings or volcanogenic marine sediments reflect the release of 'old' iodine from deeply buried organic matter. The Gulf of Cadiz represents the full transition between these continental and oceanic 129I/I and 87Sr/86Sr end members. This is the first systematic investigation of fissiogenic 129I production in marine sedimentary environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-36
Number of pages10
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Halogens
  • I/I ratios
  • Mud volcano
  • Pore water
  • Sediment diagenesis
  • Spontaneous fission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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