Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 22 Issue 01

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Volume 22, No. 1
Pages 92 - 109


Structure and Drivers of Cold Seep Ecosystems

Jean-Paul Foucher Graham K. WestbrookAntje Boetius Silvia Ceramicola Stéphanie Dupré Jean Mascle Jürgen MienertOlaf Pfannkuche Catherine PierreDaniel Praeg
Article Abstract

Submarine hydrocarbon seeps are geologically driven “hotspots” of increased biological activity on the seabed. As part of the HERMES project, several sites of natural hydrocarbon seepage in the European seas were investigated in detail, including mud volcanoes and pockmarks, in study areas extending from the Nordic margin, to the Gulf of Cádiz, to the Mediterranean and Black seas. High-resolution seabed maps and the main properties of key seep sites are presented here. Individual seeps show ecosystem zonation related to the strength of the methane flux and distinct biogeochemical processes in surface sediments. A feature common to many seeps is the formation of authigenic carbonate constructions. These constructions exhibit various morphologies ranging from large pavements and fragmented slabs to chimneys and mushroom-shaped mounds, and they form hard substrates colonized by fixed fauna. Gas hydrate dissociation could contribute to sustain seep chemosynthetic communities over several thousand years following large gas-release events.


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