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Recent investigations are uncovering evidence of past and present offshore fluid flow. These fluid seep sites are identified by the existence of chemosynthetic communities as well as by the buildup of carbonate deposits on the MBNMS seafloor ((Figure 4); Barry et al. 1993, Greene et al. 1993).

Regional geology has been correlated to the faunal composition of cold seeps (Barry et al. 1993; Greene 1990, Greene et al. 1993, 1994; Orange et al. 1993, 1994, 1996, in press). In Monterey Bay at least three lithologically distinct settings provide conditions suitable for the establishment and persistence of chemosynthetic communities. Aquifer-related fluids released at densely-faulted exposures in the Monterey Canyon appears responsible for seeps in the sandstones of the Purisima Formation, as well as in the hydrocarbon-rich Monterey Formation. Tectonic compression of hemipelagic sediment may account for methane- and sulfide-rich fluid expulsion in the Monterey Formation, and outgassing of relict organic debris deposits is hypothesized to support chemosynthetic communities in the canyon axis at the Monterey-Ascension Fan site (Embley et al 1990; Greene 1990; Orange et al. in press).

logo Interstitial fluids which migrate through sediments and seep out along faults exposed on the seafloor (Greene et al. 1993, 1996; Orange et al. 1993, 1994) may be caused by compression, which is in turn due to several interacting forces. The Palo Colorado-San Gregorio fault zone juxtaposes Tertiary marine sedimentary rocks and their underlying Mesozoic basement units. West of the fault zone, continental slope sediments are subjected to transpressional forces associated with the oblique convergence of the Pacific Plate against the North American Plate (Greene 1990). Here an apparently elevated ridge (Smooth Ridge) is being uplifted by the oblique fault motion associated with the Palo Colorado-San Gregorio fault zone (Figure 4).

East of the Palo Colorado-San Gregorio fault zone, evidence of fluids seeping out along faults of the Monterey Bay fault zone consists of bacterial mats and chemosynthetic communities (Barry et al. 1993; Greene et al. 1993). These fluids may be sulphide-rich aquifer waters that originate in the Santa Cruz Mountains northeast of the canyon (Greene et al. 1993). Investigations into the relationship of structure, stratigraphy, hydrology and biology associated with these fluids are underway. The chemistry of these fluids is also being investigated (Feriole et al. 1994, Martin et al. 1995).


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Section IV. Ground Water
 
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