Geo-Marine Letters

, Volume 34, Issue 2–3, pp 111–129 | Cite as

Seafloor distribution and last glacial to postglacial activity of mud volcanoes on the Calabrian accretionary prism, Ionian Sea

  • Silvia CeramicolaEmail author
  • Daniel Praeg
  • Andrea Cova
  • Daniela Accettella
  • Massimo Zecchin


Mud volcanoes (MVs) are abundant along the eastern Mediterranean subduction zones, recording mud breccia extrusion over long timescales (106 years), but to date relatively few have been recognised in the northern Ionian Sea on the Calabrian accretionary prism (CAP). In the present study, the seafloor distribution and recent activity of MVs is investigated across a 35,600 km2 sector of the CAP using a regional acoustic dataset (multibeam bathymetric and backscatter imagery, integrated with subbottom profiles) locally ground-truthed by sediment cores. A total of 54 MVs are identified across water depths of 150–2,750 m using up to four geophysical criteria: distinctive morphology, high backscatter, unstratified subbottom facies and, in one case, a hydroacoustic flare. Fourteen MVs are identified from 3–4 criteria, of which five have been previously proven by cores containing mud breccia beneath up to 1.6 m of hemipelagic sediments (Madonna dello Ionio MVs 1–3, Pythagoras MV and the newly named Sartori MV), while nine others are identified for the first time (Athena, Catanzaro, Cerere, Diana, Giunone, Minerva, ‘right foot’, Venere 1 and 2). Forty other as yet unnamed MVs are inferred from 1–2 geophysical criteria (three from distinctive morphology alone). All but one possible MV lie on the inner plateau of the CAP, landwards of the Calabrian Escarpment in a zone up to 120 km wide that includes the inner pre-Messinian wedge and the fore-arc basins, where they are interpreted to record the ascent from depth of overpressured fluids that interacted with tectonic structures and with evaporitic or shale seals within the fore-arc basins. The rise of fluids may have been triggered by post-Messinian out-of-sequence tectonism that affected the entire pre-Messinian prism, but Plio-Quaternary sedimentation rates and depositional styles support the inference that significant mud volcanism has taken place only on the inner plateau. Sedimentation rates across the CAP applied to a 12 khz sonar detection depth of 225 cm imply that all MVs with backscatter signatures (50 of 54) have erupted mud breccias within the last 56 ka, and within the last 12.5 ka in the fore-arc basins. Ages of eruption estimated from the depth of cored mud breccias at five MVs, and a seismo-stratigraphic relationship at a sixth, indicate episodes at the last glacial maximum ca. 20 ka BP and during the postglacial period. Eruptive episodes within the Calabrian MV province constitute recurrent geohazards, separated by longer periods of quiescent (subdued) fluid seepage that are likely to support gas hydrate formation and chemosynthetic ecosystems.


Last Glacial Maximum Accretionary Prism High Backscatter Hemipelagic Sediment Mediterranean Ridge 
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.



The seafloor dynamics of the CAP presented in this paper have been examined within the context of four projects: the EC integrated project HERMES (Hotspot Ecosystem Research along the Margins of European Seas), the EC Marie Curie project HYDRAMED (Assessment of Gas Hydrates in the Mediterranean Sea), and the Italian projects MAGIC (MArine Geohazards along the Italian Coasts), funded by the Civil Protection Department, and Ritmare (La ricerca italiana per il mare) funded by the Ministry of University and Research (MIUR). Data were acquired during two OGS-funded campaigns of the R/V OGS Explora: HERMES-HYDRAMED in 2005, and MAGIC in 2009. Cores were acquired during HERMES campaigns of the FS Meteor in 2006 and the R/V Pourquoi pas? in 2007. We thank the chief scientists Andre Freiwald and Catherine Pierre, along with the ships’ crews and scientific parties of all campaigns, Riccardo Ramella for facilitating the two OGS campaigns, Paolo Diviacco and Jacques Centonze for help in digital processing of subbottom data using Kingdom Suite (provided via an academic grant), and Edy Forlin for processing the Catanzaro MV DEM. Also gratefully acknowledged are Emmanuelle Ducassou for helpful discussions regarding the dating of Mediterranean cores and Renata Lucchi for discussions of core CALA 21. Constructive comments by Jean Mascle, an anonymous reviewer and the editors proved useful in improving the article.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Silvia Ceramicola
    • 1
    Email author
  • Daniel Praeg
    • 1
  • Andrea Cova
    • 1
  • Daniela Accettella
    • 1
  • Massimo Zecchin
    • 1
  1. 1.OGS, Istituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e di Geofisica SperimentaleTriesteItaly

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