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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 20 Jun 2019

Submitted as: research article | 20 Jun 2019

Review status
A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Successional patterns of (trace) metals and microorganisms in the Rainbow hydrothermal vent plume at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

Sabine Haalboom1,*, David M. Price1,*,a, Furu Mienis1, Judith D. L. van Bleijswijk1, Henko C. de Stigter1, Harry J. Witte1, Gert-Jan Reichart1,2, and Gerard C. A. Duineveld1 Sabine Haalboom et al.
  • 1NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, department of Ocean Systems, and Utrecht University, PO Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands
  • 2Utrecht University, Faculty of Geosciences, 3584 CD Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • *These authors contributed equally to this work.
  • acurrent address: University of Southampton, Waterfront Campus, European Way, Southampton, UK, SO14 3ZH

Abstract. Hydrothermal vent fields found at mid-ocean ridges emit hydrothermal fluids which disperse as neutrally buoyant plumes. From these fluids seafloor massive sulfides (SMS) deposits are formed which are being explored as possible new mining sites for (trace) metals and rare earth elements (REE). It has been suggested that during mining activities large amounts of suspended matter will appear in the water column due to excavation processes, and due to discharge of mining waste from the surface vessel. Understanding how natural hydrothermal plumes evolve as they spread away from their source and how they affect their surrounding environment may provide some analogies for the behaviour of the dilute distal part of chemically enriched mining plumes.

This study on the extensive Rainbow hydrothermal plume, observed up to 25 km downstream from the vent site, enabled us to investigate how microbial communities change in the presence of a natural plume. The (trace) metal and REE content of suspended particulate matter (SPM) was determined using HR-ICP mass spectrometry and the microbial communities of the neutrally buoyant plume, above plume-, below plume-, and near-bottom water and sediment were characterised by using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing methods. Both vertically in the water column and horizontally along the neutrally buoyant plume, geochemical and biological changes were evident as the neutrally buoyant plume stood out by its enrichments in (trace) metals and REEs, of which the concentrations changed as the plume aged. This was also reflected in the background pelagic system as Epsilonproteobacteria started to dominate and the biodiversity appeared to reduce with distance away from the Rainbow hydrothermal vent field. The Rainbow hydrothermal plume provides a geochemically enriched natural environment, which is a heterogeneous, dynamic habitat that is conducive to ecological changes in a short time span.

Sabine Haalboom et al.

Interactive discussion

Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment

Sabine Haalboom et al.

Sabine Haalboom et al.


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Short summary
The mining of deep-sea habitats, such as hydrothermal vents, may provoke a large quantity of suspended matter, in the form of plumes. Plumes are difficult to monitor and in this study we test multiple ecological, geochemical and physical monitoring techniques on the natural Rainbow hydrothermal plume, which may provide some analogies for mining plume behaviour. The natural plume provides a heterogeneous, geochemically enriched habitat that is conductive to rapid ecological and chemical changes.
The mining of deep-sea habitats, such as hydrothermal vents, may provoke a large quantity of...