Cold-seep carbonates of the middle and lower continental slope, northern Gulf of Mexico

Document Type


Publication Date



Authigenic carbonates from cold seeps on the middle and lower continental slope of the northern Gulf of Mexico (GOM) exhibit a wide range of mineralogical and stable isotopic compositions. These carbonates consist of concretions and nodules in surface sediments, hardgrounds of crusts and isolated slabs, and mounded buildups of blocks and slabs of up to over 10 meters in relief above the surrounding seafloor. Mineralogically, the carbonates are dominated by high-Mg calcite (HMC) and aragonite. However, low levels (<5wt%) of dolomite are present in most samples. Petrographically, Mg-calcite peloidal matrix and acicular to botryoidal aragonitic void-filling cements are the most frequent associations. The carbon isotopic compositions of the carbonates range from -60.8 to 14.0%PDB, indicating complex carbon sources that include C-depleted biogenic and thermogenic methane, biodegraded crude oil, seawater CO , and C-enriched residual CO from methanogenesis. A similarly large variability in δ O values (2.5 to 6.7%PDB) demonstrates the geochemical complexity of the slope, with some samples pointing toward an O-enriched oxygen source that is possibly related to advection of O-enriched formation water and/or to the decomposition of gas hydrate.A considerable range of mineralogical and isotopic variations in cold-seep carbonate composition was noted even within individual study sites. However, common trends occur across multiple geographic areas. This situation suggests that local controls on fluid and gas flux, types of seep hydrocarbons, the presence or absence of gas hydrate in the near-surface sediment, and chemosynthetic communities, as well as the temporal evolution of the local hydrocarbon reservoir, all may play a part in determining carbonate mineralogy and isotope geochemistry. The carbon isotope data clearly indicate that between-site variation is greater than within-site variation. Seep carbonates formed on the middle and lower continental slope of the GOM do not appear to be substantially different from those found on the upper slope (<1000-m water depth). The highly variable fluids and gases that leave their geochemical imprints on seep carbonate of the middle and lower continental slope are similar to their outer shelf and upper slope counterparts. © Elsevier Ltd. 13 13 18 18 18 2 2

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Deep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography

First Page


Last Page


This document is currently not available here.