Fluid venting in the eastern Aleutian Subduction Zone


  • Erwin Suess,

  • Gerhard Bohrmann,

  • Roland von Huene,

  • Peter Linke,

  • Klaus Wallmann,

  • Stephan Lammers,

  • Heiko Sahling,

  • Gisela Winckler,

  • Richard A. Lutz,

  • Daniel Orange


Fluid venting has been observed along 800 km of the Alaska convergent margin. The fluid venting sites are located near the deformation front, are controlled by subsurface structures, and exhibit the characteristics of cold seeps seen in other convergent margins. The more important characteristics include (1) methane plumes in the lower water column with maxima above the seafloor which are traceable to the initial deformation ridges; (2) prolific colonies of vent biota aligned and distributed in patches controlled by fault scarps, over-steepened folds or outcrops of bedding planes; (3) calcium carbonate and barite precipitates at the surface and subsurface of vents; and (4) carbon isotope evidence from tissue and skeletal hard parts of biota, as well as from carbonate precipitates, that vents expel either methane- or sulfide-dominated fluids. A biogeochemical approach toward estimating fluid flow rates from individual vents based on oxygen flux measurements and vent fluid analysis indicates a mean value of 5.5±0.7 L m−2 d−1 for tectonics-induced water flow [Wallmann et al., 1997b]. A geophysical estimate of dewatering from the same area [von Huene et al., 1997] based on sediment porosity reduction shows a fluid loss of 0.02 L m−2 d−1 for a 5.5 km wide converged segment near the deformation front. Our video-guided surveys have documented vent biota across a minimum of 0.1% of the area of the convergent segment off Kodiak Island; hence an average rate of 0.006 L m−2 d−1 is estimated from the biogeochemical approach. The two estimates for tectonics-induced water flow from the accretionary prism are in surprisingly good agreement.