Articles | Volume 15
Sci. Dril., 15, 4–10, 2013
Sci. Dril., 15, 4–10, 2013

  01 Mar 2013

01 Mar 2013

IODP Expedition 329: Life and Habitability Beneath the Seafloor of the South Pacific Gyre

S. D'Hondt1, F. Inagaki2, C. Alvarez Zarikian3, and the IODP Expedition 329 Scientific Party S. D'Hondt et al.
  • 1Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, 100A, Horn Building, 215 South Ferry Road, Narragansett, RI 02882, USA
  • 2Kochi Institute for Core Sample Research, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), 200 Monobe Otsu, Nankoku City, Kochi, 783-8502, Japan
  • 3Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, Texas A&M University, 1000 Discovery Drive, College Station, TX 77845-9547, USA

Abstract. Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition 329 made major strides toward fulfilling its objectives. Shipboard studies documented (1) fundamental aspects of habitability and life in this very low activity subseafloor sedimentary ecosystem and (2) first-order patterns of habitability within the igneous basement. A broad range of postexpedition studies will complete the expedition objectives. Throughout the South Pacific Gyre (SPG; Sites U1365–U1370), dissolved oxygen and nitrate are present throughout the entire sediment sequence, and sedimentary microbial cell counts are lower than at all previously drilled IODP/ Ocean Drilling Program (ODP)/Deep Sea Drilling Program (DSDP) sites. In contrast, at Site U1371 in the upwelling zone just south of the gyre, detectable oxygen and nitrate are limited to the top and bottom of the sediment column, manganese reduction is a prominent electron-accepting process, and cell concentrations are higher than at the same depths in the SPG sites throughout the sediment column. Geographic variation in subseafloor profiles of dissolved and solid-phase chemicals are consistent with the magnitude of organic-fueled subseafloor respiration declining from outside the gyre to the gyre center.

Chemical profiles in the sedimentary pore water and secondary mineral distributions in the basaltic basement indicate that basement alteration continues on the timescale of formation fluid replacement, even at the sites with the oldest basement (84–120 Ma at Sites U1365 and U1366).