Articles | Volume 12, issue 22
Research article
25 Nov 2015
Research article |  | 25 Nov 2015

Efficiency and adaptability of the benthic methane filter at Quepos Slide cold seeps, offshore of Costa Rica

P. Steeb, S. Krause, P. Linke, C. Hensen, A. W. Dale, M. Nuzzo, and T. Treude

Abstract. Large amounts of methane are delivered by fluids through the erosive forearc of the convergent margin offshore of Costa Rica and lead to the formation of cold seeps at the sediment surface. Besides mud extrusion, numerous cold seeps are created by landslides induced by seamount subduction or fluid migration along major faults. Most of the dissolved methane migrating through the sediments of cold seeps is oxidized within the benthic microbial methane filter by anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM). Measurements of AOM and sulfate reduction as well as numerical modeling of porewater profiles revealed a highly active and efficient benthic methane filter at the Quepos Slide site, a landslide on the continental slope between the Nicoya and Osa Peninsula. Integrated areal rates of AOM ranged from 12.9 ± 6.0 to 45.2 ± 11.5 mmol m−2 d−1, with only 1 to 2.5 % of the upward methane flux being released into the water column.

Additionally, two parallel sediment cores from Quepos Slide were used for in vitro experiments in a recently developed sediment-flow-through (SLOT) system to simulate an increased fluid and methane flux from the bottom of the sediment core. The benthic methane filter revealed a high adaptability whereby the methane oxidation efficiency responded to the increased fluid flow within ca. 170 d. To our knowledge, this study provides the first estimation of the natural biogeochemical response of seep sediments to changes in fluid flow.

Short summary
We combined field, laboratory (sediment-flow-through system) and numerical modeling work to investigate cold seep sediments at Quespos Slide, offshore of Costa Rica. The results demonstrated the efficiency of the benthic methane filter and provided an estimate for its response time (ca. 170 days) to changes in fluid fluxes.
Final-revised paper