Oregon Subduction Zone: Venting, Fauna, and Carbonates

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  07 Feb 1986:
Vol. 231, Issue 4738, pp. 561-566
DOI: 10.1126/science.231.4738.561


Transects of the submersible Alvin across rock outcrops in the Oregon subduction zone have furnished information on the structural and stratigraphic framework of this accretionary complex. Communities of clams and tube worms, and authigenic carbonate mineral precipitates, are associated with venting sites of cool fluids located on a fault-bend anticline at a water depth of 2036 meters. The distribution of animals and carbonates suggests up-dip migration of fluids from both shallow and deep sources along permeable strata or fault zones within these clastic deposits. Methane is enriched in the water column over one vent site, and carbonate minerals and animal tissues are highly enriched in carbon-12. The animals use methane as an energy and food source in symbiosis with microorganisms. Oxidized methane is also the carbon source for the authigenic carbonates that cement the sediments of the accretionary complex. The animal communities and carbonates observed in the Oregon subduction zone occur in strata as old as 2.0 million years and provide criteria for identifying other localities where modern and ancient accreted deposits have vented methane, hydrocarbons, and other nutrient-bearing fluids.