Methane seepage along the Hikurangi Margin, New Zealand : overview of studies in 2006 and 2007 and new evidence from visual, bathymetric and hydroacoustic investigations.

Greinert, Jens, Lewis, K. B., Bialas, Jörg, Pecher, Ingo A., Rowden, A., Bowden, D. A., D Batist, M. and Linke, Peter (2010) Methane seepage along the Hikurangi Margin, New Zealand : overview of studies in 2006 and 2007 and new evidence from visual, bathymetric and hydroacoustic investigations. Marine Geology, 272 . pp. 6-25. DOI 10.1016/j.margeo.2010.01.017.

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Abstract

This paper is an introduction to and an overview of papers presented in the Special Issue of Marine Geology “Methane seeps at the Hikurangi Margin, New Zealand”. In 2006 and 2007, three research cruises to the Hikurangi Margin at the east coast of New Zealand's North Island were dedicated to studying methane seepage and gas hydrates in an area where early reports suggested they were widespread. Two cruises were carried out on RV TANGAROA and one on RV SONNE using the complete spectrum of state-of-the-art equipment for geophysics (seismic, sidescan, controlled source electromagnetics, ocean bottom seismometers and hydrophones, singlebeam and multibeam), seafloor observations (towed camera systems, ROV), sediment and biological sampling (TV-guided multi-corer, gravity-corer, grab, epibenthic sled), deployment of in-situ observatories (landers) as well as water column sampling and oceanographic studies (CTD, moorings). The scientific disciplines involved ranged from geology, geophysics, petrography, geochemistry, to oceanography, biology and microbiology.

These cruises confirmed that a significant part of the Hikurangi Margin has been active with locally intense methane seepage at present and in the past, with the widespread occurrence of dead seep faunas and knoll-forming carbonate precipitations offshore and on the adjacent land. A close link to seismically detected fluid systems and the outcropping of the base of the gas hydrate stability zone can be found at some places. Pore fluid and free gas release were found to be linked to tides. Currents as well as density layers modulate the methane distribution in the water column.

The paper introduces the six working areas on the Hikurangi Margin, and compiles all seep locations based on newly processed multibeam and multibeam backscatter data, water column hydroacoustic and visual data that are combined with results presented elsewhere in this Special Issue. In total, 32 new seep sites were detected that commonly show chemoherm-type carbonates or carbonate cemented sediment with fissures and cracks in which calyptogenid clams and bathymodiolid mussels together with sibloglinid tube worms live. White bacterial mats of the genus Beggiatoa and dark gray beds of heterotrophic ampharetid polychaetes typically occur at active sites. Bubble release has frequently been observed visually as well as hydroacoustically (flares) and geochemical analyses show that biogenic methane is released. All seep sites, bubbling or not, were inside the gas hydrate stability zone. Gas hydrate itself was recovered at three sites from the seafloor surface or 2.5 m core depth as fist-sized chunks or centimeter thick veins. The strong carbonate cementation that in some cases forms 50 m high knolls as well as some very large areas being paved with clam shells indicates very strong and long lasting seep activity in the past. This activity seems to be less at present but nevertheless makes the Hikurangi Margin an ideal place for methane-related seep studies in the SW-Pacific.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Oceanography; Geochemistry; Methane seepage, gas hydrate, multibeam mapping, hydroacoustic flares, Hikurangi Margin, New Zealand
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB2 Marine Biogeochemistry > FB2-MG Marine Geosystems
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB4 Dynamics of the Ocean Floor > FB4-GDY Marine Geodynamics
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.: 10.1016/j.margeo.2010.01.017
ISSN: 0025-3227
Expeditions/Models/Experiments:
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2010 14:21
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2017 08:01
URI: http://oceanrep.geomar.de/id/eprint/5240

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