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Keywords:

  • hydrothermal activity;
  • plume incidence;
  • tectonics;
  • Central Indian Ridge;
  • mid-ocean ridge

Abstract

The complex geology and expansive axial valleys typical of slow-spreading ridges makes evaluating their hydrothermal activity a challenge. This challenge has gone largely unmet, as the most undersampled MOR type for hydrothermal activity is slow spreading (20–55 mm/yr). Here we report the first systematic hydrothermal plume survey conducted on the Central Indian Ridge (CIR, 8°S–17°S), the most extensive such survey yet conducted on a slow-spreading ridge. Using a combined CTD/Miniature Autonomous Plume Recorder (MAPR) package, we used 118 vertical casts along seven segments of the CIR (∼700 km of ridge length) to estimate the frequency of hydrothermal activity. Evidence for hydrothermal activity (particle and methane plumes) was found on each of the seven spreading segments, with most plumes found between 3000 and 3500 m, generally <1000 m above bottom. We most commonly found plumes on asymmetric ridge sections where ultramafic massifs formed along one ridge flank near ridge-transform intersections or nontransform offsets. The estimated plume incidence (ph) for axial and wall casts (ph=0.30, 35 of 118 casts) is consistent with the existing global trend, indicating that the long-term magmatic budget on the CIR is the primary control on the spatial frequency of hydrothermal venting. Our results show that the tectonic fabric of the CIR strongly determines where hydrothermal venting is expressed, and that using only near-axial sampling might underestimate hydrothermal activity along slow-spreading and ultraslow-spreading ridges. Serpentinization is a minor contributor to the plume inventory, based on 15 profiles with methane anomalies only, predominantly at depths above the local valley walls.