Chemical and isotopic compositions of pore fluids document upward flow through communities of vesicomyid clams in Monterey Bay, California. Within the clam communities, the sulfate reduction zone is only 10 cm thick, and Ca and Mg concentrations decrease to values as low as 2.2 mM and 34.5 mM, respectively, at depths less than 30 cm below the sediment-water interface. Less than 5 m outside the communities, the base of the sulfate reduction zone is deeper than the greatest penetration of the cores (-30 cm), and Ca and Mg exhibit only minor changes from seawater values. The sediment exhibits no significant variation in grain size, mineralogy, organic carbon, nitrogen, or carbonate content throughout the region. The composition of pore fluid within clam communities results from upward flow of altered fluid rather than different diagenetic reactions within and outside the communities. Isotopically light dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), with ??13C values ranging from -3.2 to -54.1???, could reflect carbon sources from either oxidized thermogenic methane and/or a mixture of oxidized microbial methane and solid organic carbon. The C1/(C2+C3) ratios (ranging from 34 to 1142) and the hydrogen and carbon isotopic compositions of methane (??D values of -109 to -156???; ??13C values of -30.6 to -86.6???) suggest that methane is primarily microbial but that a minor component could be thermally generated. Any thermogenic methane would have migrated from great depths, possibly >2 km. The presence of methane is likely to contribute to fluid flow by reducing the density of the fluids. Past fluid migration and venting are reflected by widespread carbonate mineralization at the sediment-water interface. This mineralization and the geographic distribution and proportions of microbial and thermogenic methane suggest that vent sites migrate when permeability is reduced during carbonate cementation. These results demonstrate that along with convergent and divergent plate boundaries, transform plate boundaries are characterized by fluid flow and that the flow may be widespread, occurring at sites away from fault zones.
Additional Publication Details
Chemical and isotopic evidence of gas-influenced flow at a transform plate boundary: Monterey Bay, California