Marine Cold Seeps: Background and Recent Advances

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

Abstract

Marine cold seeps are windows into different depth levels of the submerged geosphere. Subduction zones and organic-rich passive margins host most of the world’s cold seeps. The source of seep fluids ranges from 10s of meters (groundwater aquifers) to 10s of km (subducted oceanic plates) below the seafloor. Seeps transport dissolved and gaseous compounds upward and sustain oasis-type ecosystems at the seafloor. Hereby the single most important reaction is anoxic oxidation of methane (AOM) by Archaea. Subsequent reactions involve sulfur biogeochemistry and carbonate mineral precipitation generating an association of methane, metazoans, microbes, and minerals – a biogeochemical footprint. Currently 100s of cold seeps are known globally. Elucidating function, structure, and composition of the characteristic association are high-priority topics of cold seep research. Ancient seep sites are identified with increasing frequency as the libraries of biomarkers and fossilized microbial bodies grow aided by their fortuitous preservation as they become encased in carbonate precipitates. Seep footprints provide clues as to source depth, fluid-sediment/rock interaction during ascent, lifetime, and cyclicity of seepage events. The Gulf of Mexico, the Black Sea, and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea are sites of classic and ongoing seep studies.

Notes

Acknowledgments

This contribution is an expanded and updated version of earlier publications (Suess 2010, 2014) by Springer Science+Business Media New York, 2003. I thank editors and publication staff for permission to use these previously published materials from which all illustrations are updated and/or redrawn to accommodate major advances in marine cold seep research. One last time, many thanks to Zona Bolton-Suess who helped – not just with the intricacies of the English language – but provided encouragement, genuine interest, and sustained support in my scientific pursuits. I acknowledge the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, for the courtesy appointment extended to me and the associated use of facilities.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marine BiogeochemistryGEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research KielKielGermany
  2. 2.College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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