Relationships among seep community biomass, diversity, and physiographic controls such as underlying geology are not well understood. Previous efforts to constrain these relationships at the Blake Ridge Diapir were limited to observations from piloted deep-submergence vehicles. In August 2012, the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) Sentry collected geophysical and photographic data over a 0.131 km2 area at the Blake Ridge Diapir seeps. A nested survey approach was used that began with a regional or reconnaissance-style survey using sub-bottom mapping systems to locate and identify seeps and underlying conduits. This survey was followed by AUV-mounted sidescan sonar and multibeam echosounder systems mapping on a mesoscale to characterize the seabed physiography. At the most detailed survey level, digital photographic imaging was used to resolve sub-meter characteristics of the biology. Four pockmarks (25–70 m diameter) were documented, each supporting chemosynthetic communities. Concentric zonation of mussels and clams suggests the influence of chemical gradients on megafaunal distribution. Data collection and analytical techniques used here yield high-resolution habitat maps that can serve as baselines to constrain temporal evolution of seafloor seeps, and to inform ecological niche modeling and resource management.
Additional Publication Details
Cold-seep habitat mapping: high-resolution spatial characterization of the Blake Ridge Diapir seep field
Deep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography