Oceanography The Official Magazine of
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Volume 23 Issue 01

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Volume 23, No. 1
Pages 58 - 71


The Geological History of Deep-Sea Volcanoes: Biosphere, Hydrosphere, and Lithosphere Interactions

By Hubert Staudigel  and David A. Clague  
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Article Abstract

The geological evolution of seamounts has distinct influence on their interactions with the ocean, their hydrology, geochemical fluxes, biology, resources, and geohazards. There are six geological evolutionary stages of seamounts: (1) small seamounts (100–1000-m height), (2) mid-sized seamounts (>1000-m height, > 700-m eruption depth), (3) explosive seamounts (< 700-m eruption depth), (4) ocean islands, (5) extinct seamounts, and (6) subducting seamounts. Throughout their lifetimes, seamounts offer major passageways for fluid circulation that promotes geochemical exchange between seawater and the volcanic oceanic crust, and seamounts likely host significant microbial communities. Water circulation may be promoted by hydrothermal siphons in conjunction with the underlying oceanic crust, or it may be driven by intrusions inside seamounts from Stage 2 onward. Geochemical fluxes are likely to be very large, primarily because of the very large number of Stage 1 seamounts. Intrusive growth of seamounts also initiates internal deformation that ultimately may trigger volcano sector collapse that likely peaks at the end of the main volcanic activity at large seamounts or islands. Explosive activity at seamounts may begin at abyssal depth, but it is most pronounced at eruption depths shallower than 700 m. Wave erosion inhibits the emergence of islands and shortens their lifespans before they subside due to lithosphere cooling. Once volcanism ends and a seamount is submerged, seamounts are largely unaffected by collapse or erosion. Throughout their histories, seamounts offer habitats for diverse micro- and macrobiological communities, culminating with the formation of coral reefs in tropical latitudes. Geological hazards associated with seamounts are responsible for some of the largest natural disasters recorded in history and include major explosive eruptions and large-scale landslides that may trigger tsunamis.


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