Mud Volcano Biogeochemistry

  • Helge NiemannEmail author
Living reference work entry
Part of the Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology book series (HHLM)


Mud volcanoes are frequently encountered geo-structures at active and passive continental margins. In contrast to magmatic volcanoes, mud volcanoes are marine or terrestrial, topographic elevation built from vertically rising fluidized mud or mud breccia. Commonly, these structures have a crater, hummocky rim, and caldera. Mud volcanism is triggered by various geological processes which lead to a high pore fluid pressure at great depth, sediment instabilities, and a subsequent discharge of mud, fluids, and gases such as hydrocarbons (mostly the greenhouse gas methane). Although global estimates of methane emissions from mud volcanoes vary over two orders of magnitude, mud volcanism could be an important source for atmospheric methane. However, a substantial fraction of the hydrocarbons are retained in the mud volcanoes surface sediments or, in the particular case of marine mud volcanoes, are consumed by microbes in the water column. In sediments, the upwelled hydrocarbons fuel a variety of free-living and symbiotic, chemosynthetic communities that oxidize these with electron acceptors such as oxygen or sulfate from the water column or the atmosphere. The activity of the chemosynthetic communities is regulated by the availability of either electron donors (hydrocarbons) or acceptors which, in return, is determined by mass transport processes. Most important in this context are the magnitudes of upward advection of electron donors and the influx of electron acceptors due to diffusion and bioirrigation.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Marine Microbiology & Biogeochemistry, and Utrecht UniversityNIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research’t HorntjeThe Netherlands
  2. 2.CAGE – Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate, Department of GeologyUiT the Arctic University of NorwayTromsøNorway

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