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Microbial methane turnover at mud volcanoes of the Gulf of Cadiz

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Niemann,  H.
HGF MPG Joint Research Group for Deep Sea Ecology & Technology, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Duarte,  J.
Microbial Habitat Group, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Omoregie,  E.
Microbial Habitat Group, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Elvert,  M.
Department of Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Kopf,  A.
Microbial Genomics Group, Department of Molecular Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Boetius,  A.
HGF MPG Joint Research Group for Deep Sea Ecology & Technology, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Niemann, H., Duarte, J., Hensen, C., Omoregie, E., Magalhaes, V. H., Elvert, M., et al. (2006). Microbial methane turnover at mud volcanoes of the Gulf of Cadiz. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 70(21), 5336-5355.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-CEFE-A
Abstract
The Gulf of Cadiz is a tectonically active area of the European continental margin and characterised by a high abundance of mud volcanoes, diapirs, pockmarks and carbonate chimneys. During the R/V SONNE expedition “GAP–Gibraltar Arc Processes (SO-175)” in December 2003, several mud volcanoes were surveyed for gas seepage and associated microbial methane turnover. Pore water analyses and methane oxidation measurements on sediment cores recovered from the centres of the mud volcanoes Captain Arutyunov, Bonjardim, Ginsburg, Gemini and a newly discovered, mud volcano-like structure called “No Name” show that thermogenic methane and associated higher hydrocarbons rising from deeper sediment strata are completely consumed within the seabed. The presence of a distinct sulphate–methane transition zone (SMT) overlapping with high sulphide concentrations suggests that methane oxidation is mediated under anaerobic conditions with sulphate as the electron acceptor. Anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) and sulphate reduction (SR) rates show maxima at the SMT, which was found between 20 and 200 cm below seafloor at the different mud volcanoes. In comparison to other methane seeps, AOM activity (<383 mmol m−2 year−1) and diffusive methane fluxes (<321 mmol m−2 year−1) in mud volcano sediments of the Gulf of Cadiz are low to mid range. Corresponding lipid biomarker and 16S rDNA clone library analysis give evidence that AOM is mediated by a mixed community of anaerobic methanotrophic archaea and associated sulphate reducing bacteria (SRB) in the studied mud volcanoes. Little is known about the variability of methane fluxes in this environment. Carbonate crusts littering the seafloor of mud volcanoes in the northern part of the Gulf of Cadiz had strongly 13C-depleted lipid signatures indicative of higher seepage activities in the past. However, actual seafloor video observations showed only scarce traces of methane seepage and associated biological processes at the seafloor. No active fluid or free gas escape to the hydrosphere was observed visually at any of the surveyed mud volcanoes, and biogeochemical measurements indicate a complete methane consumption in the seafloor. Our observations suggest that the emission of methane to the hydrosphere from the mud volcano structures studied here may be insignificant at present.