SEAFLOOR HYDROTHERMAL SYSTEMS CONTROL SEAWATER CHEMISTRY: EVIDENCE FROM FLUID INCLUSIONS IN HALITE
Here we present a 350-million-year record of seawater lithium concentrations [Li+]sw from direct measurement of primary fluid inclusions in marine halite using combined LA-ICP-MS and cryo SEM-EDS. We also present a 150 Myr forward model of [Li+]sw.
From 350-0 Ma, the lithium concentration of seawater oscillated systematically, parallel to secular variations of sea level, greenhouse-icehouse climates, and major ion chemistry such as the Mg2+/Ca2+ ratio. Highest seawater Li occurred during the Cretaceous, up to one order of magnitude higher than modern [Li+]sw, which coincides with low seawater Mg2+/Ca2+ ratios, high atmospheric CO2, and Mesozoic-Early Cenozoic Greenhouse climates. Such high Li concentrations require high MOR hydrothermal activity. Conversely, Permian and Cenozoic (35-0 Ma) seawater had relatively low Li, consistent with high Mg2+/Ca2+ ratios, low atmospheric CO2, and late Paleozoic and Cenozoic icehouse periods.
The forward model involves 10 Kyr time steps and variable cycling of hydrothermal fluids through the axial portion of the MOR system and variable rates of low-temperature weathering of seafloor basalts. The model agrees well with paleoseawater fluid inclusion data for Li. The same model parameters, with variable Li isotope fractionation of off-axis oceanic crust, are used to successfully model the 9‰ increase of δ7Li in seawater from 60-0 Ma. Our data and modeling suggest that seafloor hydrothermal systems exerted the dominant control on the [Li+] and δ7Li composition of Phanerozoic seawater. These data will be further used to test the long-term relationships between seafloor MOR activity, the carbon cycle, and climate.