Biologic Indicators of Seabed Methane Venting Along the US Mid-Atlantic Margin

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Nancy Prouty1, E Brendan Roark2, Amanda W Demopoulos3, Daniel James Condon4, Kelsi Davis2, Steve Ross5 and Sandra Brooke6, (1)USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, Santa Cruz, CA, United States, (2)Texas A&M University, College Station, CA, United States, (3)USGS Southeast Ecological Science Center, Gainesville, FL, United States, (4)NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory, Keyworth, United Kingdom, (5)University of North Carolina, Wilmington, Center for Marine Science, Wilmington, NC, United States, (6)Florida State University, Coastal and Marine Lab, St Teresa, FL, United States
Evidence of seabed methane venting along the US Mid-Atlantic Margin is confirmed by the presence of authigenic carbonates and methantrophic deep-sea mussels, Bathymodiolus childressi, collected near areas of methane seepage. The biological indicators of methane venting presented here expand the understanding of widespread seepage identified by previous geophysical data. Both dead and living chemosynthetic mussels as well as authigenic carbonate samples were collected from Baltimore Canyon (360-430 m) and on the Virginia outer continental shelf (1600-1475 m). Stable isotope (carbon and sulfur) composition of mussel tissue material illustrates that the chemosynthetic communities are metabolically-dependent on methane rather than sulphide-oxidizing microbial symbionts. Average δ13C from tissue material was -62.80 ‰ and average δ34S was 12.58 ‰. Shell δ13C values were depleted relative to seawater dissolved inorganic carbon, highlighting the influence of methane concentration from cold seeps on shell growth. Lighter stable oxygen isotope values from shells collected at Baltimore Canyon reflect warmer temperatures relative to the colder and deeper Virginia seep site. However, at both sites isotopic disequilibrium relative to seawater δ18O suggests influence of enriched δ18O pore water. The chemical composition of the authigenic carbonates at both sites is dominated by aragonite rather than calcite, with an average δ13C signature of -46 ‰, a value expected from the microbially driven anaerobic oxidation of methane-rich fluids occurring at or near the sediment-water interface. This interpretation is supported by strontium isotope values close to modern seawater values. U/Th data are also reported from the authigenic carbonate stratigraphy to assess the timing and duration of methane venting along the US Mid-Atlantic Margin.