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2014 Bioenergetics

2012 Crustal Processes Meeting

Ocean Crust Processes and Consequences for Life

Theme: Processes in the ocean crust, from formation to subduction, and consequences for ocean-crust exchange budgets and subseafloor life
Date: 2012 June 7-9
Host: Center for Marine Environmental Sciences (MARUM), University of Bremen, Germany (UB)
Organizers: Heiner Villinger, Ulla Röhl, and Wolfgang Bach (all at UB)

Ocean crust is generated at mid-ocean ridges at a rate of 20 km3 per year, but production rates vary strongly on regional scales, which leads to pronounced differences in crustal architecture and lithology. The ocean crust is in exchange with the oceans throughout much of its lifetime. At any point in time, 1-2% of the global volume of seawater resides within oceanic basement, and it takes only a few 100,000s of years for the entire volume of the oceans to circulate through the rocky seabed. The ocean crust has been hypothesized to be the Earth's largest aquifer and microbial habitat, yet the mechanisms and rates of interactions between rocks, fluids, and microorganisms are still largely unconstrained. Marine surveys and ocean drilling allow us to examine crustal formation processes and plate-scale fluid flow. In recent years, new strides have been made in addressing the interrelations between seawater circulation, rock alteration and microbial activity. Recent advances in subseafloor observatory science (Juan de Fuca, South Chamorro, North Pond) have been central in advancing our ability to gain critical new insights. Likewise, tremendous progress has been achieved by using spectroscopic and isotopic techniques for examining secondary mineral formation and its relation to microbial activity.

The science conference part of the Bremen meeting provided a forum for presenting and discussing the most recent results in ocean crust processes and identifying the most pressing challenges that lie ahead. Specific focus was on (1) crustal heterogeneity and fluid flow, (2) ocean-crust interactions, and (3) role of microbes in rock alteration.

Preliminary Program. The 3-day meeting had equal time for a science conference and a training workshop. Both parts were focused on recent developments in understanding ocean crust formation and evolution, ocean-crust exchange, and detection of subbasement life and microbe-rock interactions. The conference portion provided a forum to present research activities and findings to a broadly trained, but scientifically focused audience. The training workshop served as a means to further educate scientists and students. The aim was to present key research techniques and methods commonly employed, to discuss the pros and cons for specific applications, to produce consensus recommendations, and to make available detailed lab and field protocols. A visit to the IODP core repository on campus showed first-hand the rock samples currently available for study. In analogy to the ECORD summer school on the Deep Biosphere in September 2008, we provided a "virtual ship" experience in the facilities of the IODP core repository in Bremen. Workshop participants learned details of shipboard core recovery, sampling, and other techniques pertinent to subseafloor biosphere expeditions.

Support for this meeting was also provided by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German IODP at BGR.


> See the 2012 workshop summary report


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