Strontium isotopic relations among pore fluids, serpentine matrix, and harzburgite clasts, South Chamorro Seamount, Mariana forearc

M. E. Bickford, Donald I. Siegel, Michael J. Mottl, Barbara M. Hill, Jennifer Shosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Subduction of the Pacific plate beneath the Mariana forearc releases fluids to the overlying mantle wedge that ascend, producing serpentinite "mud" that discharges on the ocean floor. As part of Leg 195 of the Ocean Drilling Program cores were obtained from drill-holes into the mud volcanoes. We report the isotopic composition of Sr in water squeezed from intervals of the cores, in the serpentinite mud, in leaches of the serpentinite mud, and in entrained small harzburgitic clasts. Except in the upper few meters below the seawater-mud interface, where pore water approaches seawater Sr concentration and isotopic ratio, Sr concentration and isotopic composition remain constant at 3-6 μmol/kg and ~ 0.7054. Because the elemental chemistry of the pore water is unlike seawater, this isotopic composition reflects fluids derived from the subducted slab, probably modified by reaction with mantle material during ascent. Higher Sr isotopic ratios, up to 0.7087, - but not with higher Sr concentrations in pore water - occur superimposed on an advection profile at 13-16 mbsf surrounding a thin layer of foraminiferal sand. Since the upward seepage velocity of slab fluids in the mud volcano vents is a few cm/yr, exchange of Sr between these carbonates and the rising fluids must have occurred within a maximum of a few hundred years, essentially instantaneously given the millions, or tens of millions, of years the mud volcanoes have been in existence. In contrast, the strontium isotopic compositions of leached serpentinite mud, and of small harzburgite clasts entrained in the mud, are always significantly greater than that of the pore water. In small harzburgite clasts the ratio reaches 0.7088, almost as high as the seawater value of 0.7092 and much higher than the value of typical mantle-derived strontium of ~ 0.704. The serpentinite muds and harzburgite clasts clearly equilibrated with seawater Sr when they were initially deposited at the surface of the seamount, but following burial they have not fully equilibrated with strontium in the pore water now discharging through the vents. These variations in the strontium isotopic composition of solids and pore waters are more consistent with episodic expulsion of fluids in the subduction zone than steady state flow. Whereas strontium in carbonates equilibrates isotopically within a few hundred years, strontium in buried harzburgite clasts does not equilibrate in the same time, assuming steady state rates of upward fluid flow. By inference, the harzburgite clasts and associated serpentinite mud must have been near the seafloor, unburied, for a yet undetermined but much longer period of time to have equilibrated from ~ 0.704 to 0.709 prior to subsequent burial. It may be possible to characterize at least the periodicity of fluid release in the mud volcano setting by investigating the zonation of strontium isotopic composition of hartzburgite clasts throughout the 60-meter deep composite cores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-32
Number of pages9
JournalChemical Geology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Oct 30 2008


  • Mariana forearc
  • Mud volcanoes
  • Serpentine
  • Sr isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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