Dissolved silica (Si) and inorganic germanium (Ge) concentrations were measured in hydrothermal fluids from black smoker vents on the East Pacific Rise (21°N EPR) and the Southern Juan de Fuca Ridge (45°N SJdFR: North and South Cleft Sites, Axial Volcano). These typically display end-member concentrations ranging from 16 to 23 mM (Si) and 150 to 280 nM (Ge), and end-member Ge/Si ratios clustering between 8 and 14 × 10−6, more than 10-fold greater than the ratio entering the ocean via rivers (0.54 × 10−6) and being recycled in seawater (0.7 × 10−6).
‘Excess’ concentrations of dissolved Si and Ge above oceanic background are observed in mid-water hydrothermal plumes over mid-ocean ridge (MOR) spreading centers on the Southern EPR (SEPR) (10°–20°S) and the SJdFR. The largest Si and Ge concentration anomalies occur over the North Cleft Segment of the SJdFR. These are a factor of three greater than anomalies over the SEPR (10°–20°S). Excess Ge correlates with excess3He in plumes at a Ge/3He molar ratio of about 1 × 104, approximately the same ratio as in black smokers. These observations, combined with low abundances of Ge in Fesingle bondMn-rich metalliferous sediments, suggest that Ge (and Si) behave conservatively in mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal plumes. A simple ocean Si and Ge balance, constrained by the global river silica flux and Ge/Si ratios in hydrothermal vents, rivers and biogenic silica, suggests that the global hydrothermal silica flux is about 1–4 × 1011 mole yr−1, much lower than that estimated from3He. Either (1) 70–80% of the Ge flux to the ocean is removed in as-yet undiscovered sinks (not opal), or (2) only 10% of the mantle to ocean3He and heat fluxes is associated with MOR hydrothermal convection through the 350°C isotherm (90% is off-ridge), or (3) the oceanic Ge/Si,3He/ (and87Sr86Sr) balances today are far from steady-state.