The calculation of water-rock ratios using trace element (Li, B) stable isotopes
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The amount of aqueous fluids circulating into the oceanic crust can be estimated using mass balance equations based on stable isotope exchange between rock and water. Unlike oxygen and strontium, isotopic exchange of trace elements (such as B or Li) between fluids and rocks, operates along with a chemical evolution of the rocks (e.g. a large enrichment of B or Li) that must be integrated into any model of water-rock interaction. We propose a general dimensionless mass balance equation for single-pass open systems that describes the equilibrium elemental distribution and the isotopic composition of reacting rocks as a function of the amount of circulating water. Water-rock ratios calculated from B compositions of hydrothermally-altered basalts range from 8 to 100. They are lower than those previously published (most W/R > 300) but comparable to those inferred from Sr isotope ratios measured in the same samples (3 < W/R < 30). Similar low water-rock ratios from 2 to 20 are calculated from Li isotope compositions of altered basalts and serpentinized peridotites.
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