Seafloor fluid seeps on Kimki Ridge, offshore southern California: Links to active strike-slip faulting

TitleSeafloor fluid seeps on Kimki Ridge, offshore southern California: Links to active strike-slip faulting
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsConrad, JE, Prouty, NG, Walton, MAL, Kluesner, JW, Maier, KL, McGann, M, Brothers, DS, Roland, EC, Dartnell, P
JournalDeep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
Pagination82 - 91
Date PublishedJan-04-2018
KeywordsCalifornia Inner Continental Borderland, E/V Nautilus, Faulting, methane, Seepages

The Kimki Ridge fluid seeps are located in western Catalina Basin about 60 km southwest of the southern California mainland and at a water depth of approximately 1100 m. Multichannel seismic reflection profiles collected by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in 2014 show acoustic transparency within the Kimki Ridge, suggesting the possibility of fluid seeps and possible sub-seafloor fluid pathways. Subsequent multibeam bathymetric and backscatter intensity data collected during a cooperative University of Washington/USGS cruise in early 2016 show subtle seafloor buildups with high acoustic backscatter (reflectivity) in three places along Kimki Ridge, supporting the existence of fluid seepage. A Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) dive, conducted as part of the Nautilus Exploration Program, took place in August 2016 to confirm the presence of these previously unknown seeps and document their characteristics as well as those of any associated biological communities. Two of the three seeps were explored by ROV, and showed abundant evidence of fluid seepage, including characteristic algal mats, chemosynthetic clams, and authigenic carbonate formation. The seeps are comprised of carbonate buildups 1–3 m thick and 300–500 m across. Within these areas, we interpret broad crater-like depressions 30–50 m across and 1–2 m deep to be individual seep vents. The seep areas appear to be broad zones of diffuse seepage that support chemosynthetic biologic communities; however, active venting was not observed. Geochemical analyses of rock samples collected from the seeps indicate microbially driven anaerobic oxidation of methane at or near the sediment water interface. Seismic-reflection profiles show chimney-like fluid pathways along the limbs and in the axis of the fold forming Kimki Ridge, and evidence of methane in shallow sediments can be traced into the adjacent Catalina Basin. A system of closely spaced faults located at the axis of the Kimki Ridge anticline may serve as pathways to allow fluid flow to the seafloor. Our data are consistent with other studies that suggest that transpression is an important component in the formation and localization of fluid seeps in a strike-slip setting, implying that seep formation may be a common occurrence at fault stepovers or transpressional bends in strike-slip systems.