National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2018

Deep-sea volcanic eruptions create unique chemical and biological linkages between the subsurface lithosphere and oceanic hydrosphere

Spietz, R.L., D.A. Butterfield, N.J. Buck, B.I. Larson, W.W. Chadwick, Jr., S.L. Walker, D.S. Kelley, and R.M. Morris

Oceanography, 31(1), 128–135, doi: 10.5670/oceanog.2018.120 (2018)

In April 2015, pressure recorders, seismometers, and hydrophones attached to the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) Cabled Array on Axial Seamount detected, in real time, a volcanic eruption predominantly located along the north rift zone (NRZ). Real-time detection enabled a rapid response cruise to augment OOI data with ship-based physical, chemical, and biological sampling of the eruption and the new lava flows. The combined data set demonstrates the synergistic value of real-time monitoring combined with rapid response efforts that sample beyond the boundaries of a fixed cabled array. These combined data show that the 2015 eruption gave rise to chemically and microbiologically variable hydrothermal plumes over new NRZ lava flows, reflecting chemical and biological linkages between the subsurface lithosphere and the oceanic hydrosphere. The warmest and least diluted plume near the new lava flows was 0.119°C above background seawater and hosted thermophilic and hyperthermophilic taxa that are typically identified in hydrothermal fluids emanating from the warm subsurface. Cooler and more diluted hydrothermal plumes farther from a hydrothermal fluid source were 0.072°–0.078°C above background seawater and hosted mesophilic and psychrophilic taxa that are typically identified in neutrally buoyant plumes at persistent hydrothermal venting sites. Potentially chemosynthetic microbial lineages, including Epsilonproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria, and Methanococcales, were positively correlated with elevated temperature anomalies. These data suggest that hydrothermal fluid flow through new lava flows on the NRZ supported diverse microbial communities for several months following the 2015 eruption and that subsurface heterogeneity contributed to the structure of unique hydrothermal-plume-hosted microbial communities.

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