Geo-Marine Letters

, Volume 27, Issue 2–4, pp 237–247 | Cite as

Sea-floor features related to hydrocarbon seeps in deepwater carbonate-mud mounds of the Gulf of Cádiz: from mud flows to carbonate precipitates

  • R. LeónEmail author
  • L. Somoza
  • T. Medialdea
  • F. J. González
  • V. Díaz-del-Río
  • M. C. Fernández-Puga
  • A. Maestro
  • M. P. Mata


Underwater images taken from deepwater carbonate-mud mounds located along the continental margin of the Gulf of Cádiz (eastern Central Atlantic) have identified a great variety of hydrocarbon seep-related geomorphic features that exist on the sea floor. An extensive photographic survey was made along the Guadalquivir Diapiric Ridge, after detailed examination of the main mounds identified on previous swath bathymetry coverage, high-resolution seismic imagery, dredge and gravity core data. Recognised fluid-induced geomorphic features include seep precipitates, named here generically as hydrocarbon-derived authigenic carbonates (HDACs), mud-breccia flows and piping/rills, at scales ranging from metres to centimetres. Based on the viscosity, texture, morphology, and the nature of observed features, we have categorized the geomorphic seeps into the following types: mud-breccia flows and liquid seepages, which can be grouped as highly viscous and viscous mud-breccia flows, gassy mud-breccia flows, and small-scale piping/rills; HDACs types, including massive crusts, “honeycombed” carbonate crusts, nodular aggregated crusts, steeply dipping to vertical slabs, and pipe-like formations (chimneys). These widespread geomorphic features observed along the carbonate-mud mounds reveal alternate periods of (1) active mud-flow extrusion (mud-volcano formation), (2) reduced seepage activity, with the formation of extensive carbonate features by chemosynthetic organisms, and (3) formation of hardgrounds and colonisation by non-chemosynthetic organisms such as deepwater corals (e.g. Lophelia pertusa, Madrepora oculata). The formation of large amounts of HDACs is related to the microbially mediated oxidation of hydrocarbon fluids (biogenic and thermogenic) during periods of slower fluid venting. This has led to the hypothesis that these carbonate-mud mounds could be built up by alternating episodes of varying fluid-venting rates, with peaks that may have been triggered by tectonic events (e.g. high-seismicity periods) and slower rates controlled by climate/oceanographic factors (e.g. glacial to interglacial climatic transitions, increasing shallow subsurface hydrate formation, and sealing of sea-floor fluid venting).


Mediterranean Outflow Water Carbonate Crust Hydrocarbon Fluid Underwater Camera Swath Bathymetry 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Alan Judd, Soledad García-Gil, Robert Garrison and Jean Pierre Henriet for providing corrections and constructive comments that significantly improved the manuscript. We are especially grateful to all those who participated in the research cruises of the TASYO project, the captains and crews of both research vessels B/O Cornide de Saavedra and B/O Hespérides, especially to Francisco González for technical support. We also thank Achim Kopf (GAP Project), and Michael Ivanov and Luis Pinheiro for their helpful cooperation (TTR IOC/UNESCO Programme). This research was funded by the Spanish Marine Science and Technology Program under the TASYO Project (MAR 98-0209) and the ESF EuroCORE-EuroMARGINS projects MVSEIS (O1-LEC-EMA24F, REN2002-11669-E-MAR) and MOUNDFORCE (O1-LEC-EMA06F, REN2002-11668-E-MAR). It is a contribution to the project CONSOLIDER-INGENIO 2010 CSD2006-0041-TOPOIBERIA.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. León
    • 1
    Email author
  • L. Somoza
    • 1
  • T. Medialdea
    • 1
  • F. J. González
    • 1
  • V. Díaz-del-Río
    • 2
  • M. C. Fernández-Puga
    • 1
  • A. Maestro
    • 1
  • M. P. Mata
    • 3
  1. 1.Marine Geology DivisionGeological Survey of Spain (IGME)MadridSpain
  2. 2.Centro Oceanográfico de MálagaInstituto Español de OceanografíaMálagaSpain
  3. 3.Facultad de Ciencias del MarUniversidad de Cádiz, Puerto RealCádizSpain

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