skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Geological and geochemical controls on subsurface microbial life in the Samail Ophiolite, Oman

Abstract

Microbial abundance and diversity in deep subsurface environments is dependent upon the availability of energy and carbon. However, supplies of oxidants and reductants capable of sustaining life within mafic and ultramafic continental aquifers undergoing low-temperature water-rock reaction are relatively unknown. We conducted an extensive analysis of the geochemistry and microbial communities recovered from fluids sampled from boreholes hosted in peridotite and gabbro in the Tayin block of the Samail Ophiolite in the Sultanate of Oman. The geochemical compositions of subsurface fluids in the ophiolite are highly variable, reflecting differences in host rock composition and the extent of fluid-rock interaction. Principal component analysis of fluid geochemistry and geologic context indicate the presence of at least four fluid types in the Samail Ophiolite (“gabbro,” “alkaline peridotite,” “hyperalkaline peridotite,” and “gabbro/peridotite contact”) that vary strongly in pH and the concentrations of H 2, CH 4, Ca 2+, Mg 2+, NO 3 $-$, SO$$2-\atop{4}$$, trace metals, and DIC. Geochemistry of fluids is strongly correlated with microbial community composition; similar microbial assemblages group according to fluid type. Hyperalkaline fluids exhibit low diversity and are dominated by taxa related to the Deinococcus-Thermus genus Meiothermus, candidate phyla OP1, and the family Thermodesulfovibrionaceae. Gabbro- and alkaline peridotite- aquifers harbor more diverse communities and contain abundant microbial taxa affiliated with Nitrospira, Nitrosospharaceae, OP3, Parvarcheota, and OP1 order Acetothermales. Wells that sit at the contact between gabbro and peridotite host microbial communities distinct from all other fluid types, with an enrichment in betaproteobacterial taxa. Together the taxonomic information and geochemical data suggest that several metabolisms may be operative in subsurface fluids, including methanogenesis, acetogenesis, and fermentation, as well as the oxidation of methane, hydrogen and small molecular weight organic acids utilizing nitrate and sulfate as electron acceptors. Dynamic nitrogen cycling may be especially prevalent in gabbro and alkaline peridotite fluids. As a result, these data suggest water-rock reaction, as controlled by lithology and hydrogeology, constrains the distribution of life in terrestrial ophiolites.

Authors:
 [1];  [1];  [2];  [1];  [2];  [3];  [1];  [1]
  1. Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO (United States)
  2. Univ. of Southampton, Southampton (United Kingdom)
  3. Columbia Univ., Palisades, NY (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
OSTI Identifier:
1347526
Grant/Contract Number:
SC0006886
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Frontiers in Microbiology
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 8; Journal ID: ISSN 1664-302X
Publisher:
Frontiers Research Foundation
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
58 GEOSCIENCES; serpentinization; water-rock interactions; deep subsurface biosphere; Samail Ophiolite; gabbro; peridotite; hyperalkaline

Citation Formats

Rempfert, Kaitlin R., Miller, Hannah M., Bompard, Nicolas, Nothaft, Daniel, Matter, Juerg M., Kelemen, Peter, Fierer, Noah, and Templeton, Alexis S. Geological and geochemical controls on subsurface microbial life in the Samail Ophiolite, Oman. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2017.00056.
Rempfert, Kaitlin R., Miller, Hannah M., Bompard, Nicolas, Nothaft, Daniel, Matter, Juerg M., Kelemen, Peter, Fierer, Noah, & Templeton, Alexis S. Geological and geochemical controls on subsurface microbial life in the Samail Ophiolite, Oman. United States. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2017.00056.
Rempfert, Kaitlin R., Miller, Hannah M., Bompard, Nicolas, Nothaft, Daniel, Matter, Juerg M., Kelemen, Peter, Fierer, Noah, and Templeton, Alexis S. Tue . "Geological and geochemical controls on subsurface microbial life in the Samail Ophiolite, Oman". United States. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2017.00056. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1347526.
@article{osti_1347526,
title = {Geological and geochemical controls on subsurface microbial life in the Samail Ophiolite, Oman},
author = {Rempfert, Kaitlin R. and Miller, Hannah M. and Bompard, Nicolas and Nothaft, Daniel and Matter, Juerg M. and Kelemen, Peter and Fierer, Noah and Templeton, Alexis S.},
abstractNote = {Microbial abundance and diversity in deep subsurface environments is dependent upon the availability of energy and carbon. However, supplies of oxidants and reductants capable of sustaining life within mafic and ultramafic continental aquifers undergoing low-temperature water-rock reaction are relatively unknown. We conducted an extensive analysis of the geochemistry and microbial communities recovered from fluids sampled from boreholes hosted in peridotite and gabbro in the Tayin block of the Samail Ophiolite in the Sultanate of Oman. The geochemical compositions of subsurface fluids in the ophiolite are highly variable, reflecting differences in host rock composition and the extent of fluid-rock interaction. Principal component analysis of fluid geochemistry and geologic context indicate the presence of at least four fluid types in the Samail Ophiolite (“gabbro,” “alkaline peridotite,” “hyperalkaline peridotite,” and “gabbro/peridotite contact”) that vary strongly in pH and the concentrations of H2, CH4, Ca2+, Mg2+, NO3$-$, SO$2-\atop{4}$, trace metals, and DIC. Geochemistry of fluids is strongly correlated with microbial community composition; similar microbial assemblages group according to fluid type. Hyperalkaline fluids exhibit low diversity and are dominated by taxa related to the Deinococcus-Thermus genus Meiothermus, candidate phyla OP1, and the family Thermodesulfovibrionaceae. Gabbro- and alkaline peridotite- aquifers harbor more diverse communities and contain abundant microbial taxa affiliated with Nitrospira, Nitrosospharaceae, OP3, Parvarcheota, and OP1 order Acetothermales. Wells that sit at the contact between gabbro and peridotite host microbial communities distinct from all other fluid types, with an enrichment in betaproteobacterial taxa. Together the taxonomic information and geochemical data suggest that several metabolisms may be operative in subsurface fluids, including methanogenesis, acetogenesis, and fermentation, as well as the oxidation of methane, hydrogen and small molecular weight organic acids utilizing nitrate and sulfate as electron acceptors. Dynamic nitrogen cycling may be especially prevalent in gabbro and alkaline peridotite fluids. As a result, these data suggest water-rock reaction, as controlled by lithology and hydrogeology, constrains the distribution of life in terrestrial ophiolites.},
doi = {10.3389/fmicb.2017.00056},
journal = {Frontiers in Microbiology},
number = ,
volume = 8,
place = {United States},
year = {Tue Feb 07 00:00:00 EST 2017},
month = {Tue Feb 07 00:00:00 EST 2017}
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
Publisher's Version of Record

Citation Metrics:
Cited by: 3works
Citation information provided by
Web of Science

Save / Share:
  • Plagiogranites are a minor but widespread component of the Samail ophiolite plutonic member. They crystallized from the most fractionated melts generated by magmatic crystallization and differentiation of a steady state magma chamber beneath the Tethyan spreading ocean ridge, and their ages are thought to mark the time of ocean crust formation. Isotopic U--Pb ages of zircons from 13 plagiogranites collected along a 270-km segment of the Samail ophiolite subparallel to the regional trend of the sheeted dike complex (the former spreading ridge axis direction) define a narrow time interval of 93.5--97.9 m.y., with a pronounced clustering about 95 m.y. Themore » zircon ages of the plagiogranites agree remarkably well with the early Cenomanian to early Turonian biostratigraphic ages of sediments that are intercalated within the ophiolite pillow lavas and that lie just above them (Tippit et al., 1981). The agreement of radiometric and biostratigraphic ages provides strong support for the conclusion that the plagiogranite U--Pb ages closely date the time span of ocean crust formation. No step changes in age patterns are observed along the ridge axis (sheeted dike) direction, suggesting that there are no major internal offsets of the ophiolite by transform or other faults along most of the traverse. One possible exception occurs at the southeastern end of the sampled interval (Ibra area), where a 3 m.y. discontinuity might be caused by an unmapped fault. Assuming that the regional trend of the sheeted dikes (N10 /sup 0/--25 /sup 0/W) marks the direction of the former spreading ridge axis, the present array of sample localities spans a distance of 130 to 195 km normal to that axis (i.e., in the spreading direction). The data as a whole do not define a clear-cut age trend normal to the spreading axis, but by eliminating samples that may be aberrant due to faulting, the data array suggests a pattern of increasing ages from east to west.« less
  • We have measured Rb and Sr concentrations and Sr isotopic compositions in 41 whole-rock samples and 12 mineral separates from units of the Samail ophiolite, including peridotite, gabbro, plagiogranite diabase dikes, and gabbro and websterite dikes within the metamorphic peridotite. Ten samples of cummulate gabbro from the Wadir Kadir section and nine samples from the Wadi Khafifah section have mean /sup 87/Sr//sup 86/Sr ratios and standard deviations of 0.70314 +- 0.00030 and 0.70306 +- 0.00034, respectively. The dispersion in Sr isotopic composition may reflect real heterogeneities in the magma source region. The average Sr isotopic composition of cumulate gabbro fallsmore » in the range of isotopic compositions of modern midocean ridge basalt. The /sup 87/Sr//sup 86/Sr ratios of noncumulate gabbro, plagiogranite, and diabase dikes range from 0.7034 to 0.7047, 0.7038 to 0.7046, and 0.7037 to 0.7061, respectively. These higher /sup 87/Sr//sup 86/Sr ratios are due to alteration of initial magmatic compositions by hydrothermal exchange with seawater. Mineral separates from dikes that cut harzburgite tectonite have Sr isotopic compositions which agree with that of cumulate gabbro. These data indicate that the cumulate gabbro and the different dikes were derived from partial melting of source regions that had similar long-term histories and chemical compositions.« less
  • The isotopic composition of Pb and the concentrations of U, Th, and Pb have been determined for samples from various lithologic units and massive sulfides of the Samail ophiolite. The observed /sup 206/Pb//sup 204/Pb ratios range from 17.90 to 19.06, /sup 207/Pb//sup 204/Pb ratios from 15.43 to 15.63, and /sup 208/Pb//sup 204/Pb from 37.66 to 38.78. In Pb isotopic evolution diagrams, the initial Pb isotopic compositions of most of the samples from the Samail ophiolite plot within the field of oceanic basalt, clearly distinct from island arc data, and define some of the least radiogenic Pb observed from oceanic rocks.more » Lead data from the Samail are compatible with a model involving magma generation from an oceanic mantle source and formation of the ophiolite at an oceanic spreading center. U--Th--Pb isotopic systematics demonstrate that vertical heterogeneity in the oceanic crust can be created through differential concentration of U, Th, and Pb during crystal fractionation and alteration at, or near, the spreading ridge. Calcite form amygdules in the ophiolite basalt has similar Pb isotopic composition to the igneous rocks, suggesting precipitation of the calcite from seawater which contained Pb derived mostly from the oceanic crust. Lead isotopic data on Fe--Cu sulfides are also similar to the results from the igneous suite suggesting that the source of the sulfides is predominently from the oceanic crust. Lead data from serpentinized peridotite and a galena sample from below the ophiolite suggest that part of the serpentinization process and the formation of galena could involve addition of radiogenic Pb from either a continental source or from oceanic sediments.« less
  • Hornblendes from amphiobolities in the sheet of metamorphic rocks beneath the peridotite member of the Samail ophiolite and phyllites farther from the peridotite contact have weighted mean /sup 40/Ar//sup 39/Ar total fusion ages of 90.0 +- 3.0 m.y. and 79.5 +- 3.0 m.y., respectively. The amphibolities represent the first tectonic slice welded to the base of the Samail ophiolite after it was detached from the Tethyan oceanic crust. Formation of the amphiobolities occurred no more than 3 to 7 m.y. after crystallization of plagiogranite in the ophiolite. The phyllites represent another tectonic slice of ocean floor sediments welded to themore » ophiolite as it was transported further from the Tethyan spreading axis. The K-Ar ages suggest, assuming a half-spreading rate of 2 to 5 cm/yr, that detachment of the Samail ophiolite and formation of amphibolite facies rocks occurred no more than 60 to 350 km from spreading center. Using the same spreading rate, one can calculate a minimum half width of 300 to 750 km for the Tethyan Ocean during the Late Cretaceous.« less