Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/2122/5540
AuthorsEtiope, G.* 
Savini, A.* 
Lo Bue, N.* 
Favali, P.* 
Corselli, C.* 
TitleDeep-sea survey for the detection of methane at the ‘‘Santa Maria di Leuca’’ cold-water coral mounds ( Ionian Sea, South Italy)
Issue DateAug-2009
DOI10.1016/j.dsr2.2009.08.020
URIhttp://hdl.handle.net/2122/5540
KeywordsMethane
Corals
Seepage
Marine geology
Subject Classification03. Hydrosphere::03.04. Chemical and biological::03.04.02. Carbon cycling 
03. Hydrosphere::03.04. Chemical and biological::03.04.05. Gases 
AbstractThe ‘‘Santa Maria di Leuca" Cold-Water Coral (CWC) province (northern Ionian Sea) was investigated for the first time to detect eventual occurrence of methane anomalies as a possible indication of hydrocarbon seepage stimulating the coral growth. Most coral mounds have developed in correspondence with tectonic scarps and faults, orthogonal to the southern margin and trending NW-SE, which could be potential sites of gas escape. A visual and instrumental inspection was performed by using a new deep-sea probe equipped with video-cameras, sonar, CTD, methane sensors, and a water sampler. Eight areas were explored by 10 surveys, depths ranging from 380 to 1100 m, for a total of more than 26h of continuous video and instrumental recording. Sediments were also sampled by gravity corers and analysed in laboratory. The images allowed to assess distribution, abundance and geometry of the colonies, most of which are developed on morphological highs often characterised by tectonic scarps. All data indicate however the lack of a significant occurrence of methane, both in seawater and sediments. No direct or indirect expressions of gas seepage were recognised on the seabed. Weak methane anomalies were detected only in seawater at the base of some fault-linked scarps, where more reducing conditions and bacterial methanogenesis are possibly enhanced by less water circulation. The faults are not fluid-bearing as previously suggested by high-resolution geophysical signatures. The development of the coral colonies thus cannot be attributed to seeping fluids, but to a favourable physiographic position with exposure to nutrient-rich currents.
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