High-resolution shallow seismic identification of gas escape features in the sediments of Loch Tay, Scotland: tectonic and microbiological associations



High-resolution seismic reflection profiles (3·5 kHz) have revealed the presence of extensive interstitial gas accumulation within the sedimentary sequences of Loch Tay, Scotland, as identified by acoustic turbidity masking the seismic stratigraphy. Within the central section of the loch, in the deepest water area directly above the zone of the seismically active Loch Tay Fault, focused flows of gas through the sediment pile to the loch bed via chimneys and pockmarks, together with gas seeps within the water column, have been identified. Microbiological observations indicate that the gas is biogenic CH4, produced by both chemoautotrophic (which use CO2 as a source of carbon and H2 as a source of energy) and aceticlastic species (which use acetate as a source of carbon and energy) of methanogens in the fine-grained, organic rich deposits that have been focused into the zone of accumulation in the deep central part of the loch. The spatial distribution of the gas escape features suggests that earthquake movements along the Loch Tay Fault are responsible for facilitating focused gas escape in this part of the loch, by the creation of new pathways and conduits through the sediment pile, along which gas can migrate upwards and exit into the water column. Relict pockmarks and associated chimneys identified in the seismic records indicate that gas escape has been taking place since Pleistocene times though the precise timings cannot be ascertained. This is the first time that such features have been reported from a lake in the UK.