Coffin Richard B.

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Richard B.

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  • Article
    Anaerobic methane oxidation in low-organic content methane seep sediments
    (Elsevier Ltd., 2013-02-04) Pohlman, John W. ; Riedel, Michael ; Bauer, James E. ; Canuel, Elizabeth A. ; Paull, Charles K. ; Lapham, Laura L. ; Grabowski, Kenneth S. ; Coffin, Richard B. ; Spence, George D.
    Sulfate-dependent anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) is the key sedimentary microbial process limiting methane emissions from marine sediments and methane seeps. In this study, we investigate how the presence of low-organic content sediment influences the capacity and efficiency of AOM at Bullseye vent, a gas hydrate-bearing cold seep offshore of Vancouver Island, Canada. The upper 8 m of sediment contains <0.4 wt.% total organic carbon (OC) and primarily consists of glacially-derived material that was deposited 14,900–15,900 yrs BP during the retreat of the late Quaternary Cordilleran Ice Sheet. We hypothesize this aged and exceptionally low-OC content sedimentary OM is biologically refractory, thereby limiting degradation of non-methane OM by sulfate reduction and maximizing methane consumption by sulfate-dependent AOM. A radiocarbon-based dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) isotope mass balance model demonstrates that respired DIC in sediment pore fluids is derived from a fossil carbon source that is devoid of 14C. A fossil origin for the DIC precludes remineralization of non-fossil OM present within the sulfate zone as a significant contributor to pore water DIC, suggesting that nearly all sulfate is available for anaerobic oxidation of fossil seep methane. Methane flux from the SMT to the sediment water interface in a diffusion-dominated flux region of Bullseye vent was, on average, 96% less than at an OM-rich seep in the Gulf of Mexico with a similar methane flux regime. Evidence for enhanced methane oxidation capacity within OM-poor sediments has implications for assessing how climate-sensitive reservoirs of sedimentary methane (e.g., gas hydrate) will respond to ocean warming, particularly along glacially-influenced mid and high latitude continental margins.
  • Article
    Assessing sulfate reduction and methane cycling in a high salinity pore water system in the northern Gulf of Mexico
    (Elsevier B.V., 2008-05-10) Pohlman, John W. ; Ruppel, Carolyn D. ; Hutchinson, Deborah R. ; Downer, R. ; Coffin, Richard B.
    Pore waters extracted from 18 piston cores obtained on and near a salt-cored bathymetric high in Keathley Canyon lease block 151 in the northern Gulf of Mexico contain elevated concentrations of chloride (up to 838 mM) and have pore water chemical concentration profiles that exhibit extensive departures (concavity) from steady-state (linear) diffusive equilibrium with depth. Minimum δ13C dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) values of −55.9‰ to −64.8‰ at the sulfate–methane transition (SMT) strongly suggest active anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) throughout the study region. However, the nonlinear pore water chemistry-depth profiles make it impossible to determine the vertical extent of active AOM or the potential role of alternate sulfate reduction pathways. Here we utilize the conservative (non-reactive) nature of dissolved chloride to differentiate the effects of biogeochemical activity (e.g., AOM and/or organoclastic sulfate reduction) relative to physical mixing in high salinity Keathley Canyon sediments. In most cases, the DIC and sulfate concentrations in pore waters are consistent with a conservative mixing model that uses chloride concentrations at the seafloor and the SMT as endmembers. Conservative mixing of pore water constituents implies that an undetermined physical process is primarily responsible for the nonlinearity of the pore water-depth profiles. In limited cases where the sulfate and DIC concentrations deviated from conservative mixing between the seafloor and SMT, the δ13C-DIC mixing diagrams suggest that the excess DIC is produced from a 13C-depleted source that could only be accounted for by microbial methane, the dominant form of methane identified during this study. We conclude that AOM is the most prevalent sink for sulfate and that it occurs primarily at the SMT at this Keathley Canyon site.
  • Article
    Gas and gas hydrate distribution around seafloor seeps in Mississippi Canyon, Northern Gulf of Mexico, using multi-resolution seismic imagery
    (Elsevier B.V., 2008-05-10) Wood, Warren T. ; Hart, Patrick E. ; Hutchinson, Deborah R. ; Dutta, Nadar ; Snyder, Fred ; Coffin, Richard B. ; Gettrust, Joseph F.
    To determine the impact of seeps and focused flow on the occurrence of shallow gas hydrates, several seafloor mounds in the Atwater Valley lease area of the Gulf of Mexico were surveyed with a wide range of seismic frequencies. Seismic data were acquired with a deep-towed, Helmholz resonator source (220–820 Hz); a high-resolution, Generator-Injector air-gun (30–300 Hz); and an industrial air-gun array (10–130 Hz). Each showed a significantly different response in this weakly reflective, highly faulted area. Seismic modeling and observations of reversed-polarity reflections and small scale diffractions are consistent with a model of methane transport dominated regionally by diffusion but punctuated by intense upward advection responsible for the bathymetric mounds, as well as likely advection along pervasive filamentous fractures away from the mounds.
  • Preprint
    Methane sources in gas hydrate-bearing cold-seeps : evidence from radiocarbon and stable isotopes
    ( 2009-06-16) Pohlman, John W. ; Bauer, James E. ; Canuel, Elizabeth A. ; Grabowski, Kenneth S. ; Knies, D. L. ; Mitchell, C. S. ; Whiticar, M. J. ; Coffin, Richard B.
    Fossil methane from the large and dynamic marine gas hydrate reservoir has the potential to influence oceanic and atmospheric carbon pools. However, natural radiocarbon (14C) measurements of gas hydrate methane have been extremely limited, and their use as a source and process indicator has not yet been systematically established. In this study, gas hydrate-bound and dissolved methane recovered from six geologically and geographically distinct high-gas-flux cold seeps was found to be 98 to 100% fossil based on its 14C content. Given this prevalence of fossil methane and the small contribution of gas hydrate (≤1%) to the present-day atmospheric methane flux, non-fossil contributions of gas hydrate methane to the atmosphere are not likely to be quantitatively significant. This conclusion is consistent with contemporary atmospheric methane budget calculations. In combination with δ13C- and δD-methane measurements, we also determine the extent to which the low, but detectable, amounts of 14C (~ 1-2 percent modern carbon, pMC) in methane from two cold seeps might reflect in situ production from near-seafloor sediment organic carbon (SOC). A 14C mass balance approach using fossil methane and 14C-enriched SOC suggests that as much as 8 to 29% of hydrate-associated methane carbon may originate from SOC contained within the upper 6 meters of sediment. These findings validate the assumption of a predominantly fossil carbon source for marine gas hydrate, but also indicate that structural gas hydrate from at least certain cold seeps contains a component of methane produced during decomposition of non-fossil organic matter in near-surface sediment.
  • Preprint
    Diversity and biogeochemical structuring of bacterial communities across the Porangahau ridge accretionary prism, New Zealand
    ( 2011-07-04) Hamdan, Leila J. ; Gillevet, Patrick M. ; Pohlman, John W. ; Sikaroodi, Masoumeh ; Greinert, Jens ; Coffin, Richard B.
    Sediments from the Porangahau ridge, located off the northeastern coast of New Zealand, were studied to describe bacterial community structure in conjunction with differing biogeochemical regimes across the ridge. Low diversity was observed in sediments from an eroded basin seaward of the ridge and the community was dominated by uncultured members of the Burkholderiales. Chloroflexi/GNS and Deltaproteobacteria were abundant in sediments from a methane seep located landward of the ridge. Gas-charged and organic rich sediments further landward had the highest overall diversity. Surface sediments, with the exception of those from the basin, were dominated by Rhodobacterales sequences associated with organic matter deposition. Taxa related to the Desulfosarcina/Desulfococcus and the JS1 candidates were highly abundant at the sulfate-methane transition zone (SMTZ) at three sites. To determine how community structure was influenced by terrestrial, pelagic, and in situ substrates, sequence data were was statistically analyzed against geochemical data (e.g., sulfate, chloride, nitrogen, phosphorous, methane, bulk inorganic and organic carbon pools) using the Biota-Environmental matching procedure. Landward of the ridge, sulfate was among the most significant structuring factors. Seaward of the ridge, silica and ammonium were important structuring factors. Regardless of the transect location, methane was the principal structuring factor on SMTZ communities.