The distribution of redox?sensitive metals in sediments is potentially a proxy for past ocean ventilation and productivity, but deconvolving these two major controls has proved difficult to date. Here we present a 740 kyr long record of trace element concentrations from an archived sediment core collected at ?15°S on the western flank of the East Pacific Rise (EPR) on 1.1 Myr old crust and underlying the largest known hydrothermal plume in the world ocean. The downcore trace element distribution is controlled by a variable diagenetic overprint of the inferred primary hydrothermal plume input. Two main diagenetic processes are operating at this site: redox cycling of transition metals and ferrihydrite to goethite transition during aging. The depth of oxidation in these sediments is controlled by fluctuations in the relative balance of bottom water oxygen and electron donor input (organic matter and hydrothermal sulfides). These fluctuations induce apparent variations in the accumulation of redox?sensitive species with time. Subsurface U and P peaks in glacial age sediments, in this and other published data sets along the southern EPR, indicate that basin?wide changes in deep ocean ventilation, in particular at glacial?interglacial terminations II, III, IV, and V, alter the depth of the oxidation front in the sediments. These basin?wide changes in the deep Pacific have significant implications for carbon partitioning in the ocean?atmosphere system, and the distribution of redox?sensitive metals in ridge crest sediment can be used to reconstruct past ocean conditions at abyssal depths in the absence of alternative proxy records
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