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U-Th stratigraphy of a cold seep carbonate crust

Abstract : On continental margins, oxidation of methane-rich fluids from the sediment often leads to formation of authigenic carbonate pavements on the seafloor. The biogeochemical processes involved during this carbonate precipitation are increasingly understood, but little is known about the duration or mode of carbonate crust formation. Here, we report uranium and thorium concentrations and isotope compositions for a set of 14 samples drilled across an authigenic carbonate pavement, which provide the first stratigraphy for a cold-seep carbonate crust. The 5.5-cm thick crust (NL7-CC2) was collected by submersible on the Nile deep-sea fan in an area of active fluid venting. U-Th analyses must be corrected for initial Th and measurement of co-existing sediments indicates the presence of both scavenged and detrital initial 230Th, which must be considered during this correction. The calculated 230Th/U age-depth profile for NL7-CC2 provides evidence for continuous downward carbonate precipitation at the studied location over the last ~ 5000 years. Three distinct phases can be distinguished from top to bottom with average growth rates of ~ 0.4, 5 and 0.8 cm/kyr, respectively, corresponding to carbonate precipitation rates ranging from ~ 7 to 92 µmol m2 h− 1 (rates consistent with previous estimates). High-resolution δ13C profiles [Gontharet, S., Pierre, C., Blanc-Valleron, M.-M., Rouchy, J.M., Fouquet, Y., Bayon, G., Foucher, J.P., Woodside, J., Mascle, J., The Nautinil Scientific Party, 2007. Nature and origin of diagenetic carbonate crusts and concretions from mud volcanoes and pockmarks of the Nile deep-sea fan (eastern Mediterranean Sea). Deep Sea Res. II 54, 1292-1311] and major elements across NL7-CC2 show that the variations in carbonate precipitation rates were also accompanied by changes in carbonate mineralogy and fluid composition. We suggest that these changes primarily reflect modification of the diagenetic environment, i.e. a progressive depletion of dissolved sulphate through anaerobic oxidation of methane, caused by the initial carbonate crust formation and the resulting reduction in bioirrigation. Overall, U-Th dating of cold seep carbonates offers a promising tool to bring new insights into biogeochemical processes at cold seeps and to assess the timing and duration of fluid venting on continental margins.
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G. Bayon, G.M. Henderson, Marcel Bohn. U-Th stratigraphy of a cold seep carbonate crust. Chemical Geology, Elsevier, 2009, 260 (1-2), pp.47-56. ⟨10.1016/j.chemgeo.2008.11.020⟩. ⟨insu-00377423⟩



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