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Keywords:

  • mid-ocean ridge;
  • ocean drilling;
  • spreading center;
  • ocean crust

Processes that occur within and across the oceanic crust—in particular along mid-ocean ridges and oceanic spreading centers—play a huge role in the dynamics of the Earth. The largest fluxes of heat and material between the Earth's mantle, crust, and seawater occur via magmatic, tectonic, and hydrothermal processes along oceanic spreading centers and their vast flanks. Roughly two thirds of the Earth's surface is accreted through magmatic and tectonic processes along mid-ocean ridges, and subduction of this ocean crust in turn influences mantle compositions. Exchange of elements between ocean crust and seawater strongly influences seawater compositions and leaves a geologic record of fluid-rock reactions in altered ocean crust. Some of these reactions contribute energy to microbial activity of a largely unexplored biosphere. The dynamics of ridge and ocean crustal processes therefore have enormous implications for thermal, chemical, and biological exchanges between the solid Earth and the hydrosphere.