Gas hydrate decomposition recorded by authigenic barite at pockmark sites of the northern Congo Fan.

Kasten, Sabine, Nöthen, Kerstin, Hensen, Christian, Spieß, Volkhard, Blumenberg, Martin and Schneider, Ralph R. (2012) Gas hydrate decomposition recorded by authigenic barite at pockmark sites of the northern Congo Fan. Geo-Marine Letters, 32 (5/6). pp. 515-524. DOI 10.1007/s00367-012-0288-9.

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Abstract

The geochemical cycling of barium was investigated in sediments of pockmarks of the northern Congo Fan, characterized by surface and subsurface gas hydrates, chemosynthetic fauna, and authigenic carbonates. Two gravity cores retrieved from the so-called Hydrate Hole and Worm Hole pockmarks were examined using high-resolution pore-water and solid-phase analyses. The results indicate that, although gas hydrates in the study area are stable with respect to pressure and temperature, they are and have been subject to dissolution due to methane-undersaturated pore waters. The process significantly driving dissolution is the anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) above the shallowest hydrate-bearing sediment layer. It is suggested that episodic seep events temporarily increase the upward flux of methane, and induce hydrate formation close to the sediment surface. AOM establishes at a sediment depth where the upward flux of methane from the uppermost hydrate layer counterbalances the downward flux of seawater sulfate. After seepage ceases, AOM continues to consume methane at the sulfate/methane transition (SMT) above the hydrates, thereby driving the progressive dissolution of the hydrates “from above”. As a result the SMT migrates downward, leaving behind enrichments of authigenic barite and carbonates that typically precipitate at this biogeochemical reaction front. Calculation of the time needed to produce the observed solid-phase barium enrichments above the present-day depths of the SMT served to track the net downward migration of the SMT and to estimate the total time of hydrate dissolution in the recovered sediments. Methane fluxes were higher, and the SMT was located closer to the sediment surface in the past at both sites. Active seepage and hydrate formation are inferred to have occurred only a few thousands of years ago at the Hydrate Hole site. By contrast, AOM-driven hydrate dissolution as a consequence of an overall net decrease in upward methane flux seems to have persisted for a considerably longer time at the Worm Hole site, amounting to a few tens of thousands of years.

Document Type: Article
Additional Information: WOS:000311025300014
Keywords: Gas hydrate, fluid flow, pore water geochemistry, barite, pockmark, Congo Fan; CONTINENTAL-MARGIN SEDIMENTS; ANAEROBIC METHANE OXIDATION; GLOBAL CARBON-CYCLE; SEA-FLOOR POCKMARKS; GULF-OF-MEXICO; PORE-WATER; ORGANIC-MATTER; SULFATE REDUCTION; MARINE-SEDIMENTS; DISSOLVED BARIUM
Research affiliation: Kiel University
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB2 Marine Biogeochemistry > FB2-MG Marine Geosystems
AWI
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.: 10.1007/s00367-012-0288-9
ISSN: 0276-0460
Expeditions/Models/Experiments:
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2012 08:13
Last Modified: 19 May 2017 11:48
URI: http://oceanrep.geomar.de/id/eprint/19454

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