Deep Sulfate-Methane-Transition and sediment diagenesis in the Gulf of Alaska (IODP Site U1417)

Mark Zindorf, Christian März, Thomas Wagner, Sean P. S. Gulick, Harald Strauss, Jeff Benowitz, John Jaeger, Bernhard Schnetger, Laurel Childress, Leah Levay, Cees van der Land, Michelle La Rosa

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8 Citations (Scopus)
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Sediment samples from the Gulf of Alaska (GOA, IODP Expedition 341, Site U1417) have been analyzed to understand present and past diagenetic processes that overprint the primary sediment composition. No Sulfate-Methane Transition Zone (SMTZ) was observed at the zone of sulfate depletion, but a >200 m thick sulfate- and methane-free sediment interval occurred between the depth of sulfate depletion (~200 m) and the onset of methanogenesis (~440 m). We suggest that this apparent gap in biogeochemical processing of organic matter is caused by anaerobic oxidation of methane fueled by sulfate which is released during dissolution of barites at the upper boundary of the methane rich layer. Beneath the methanogenic zone, at ~650 m depth, pore-water sulfate concentrations increase again, indicating sulfate supply from greater depth feeding into a deep, inverse SMTZ. A likely explanation for the availability of sulfate in the deep sub-seafloor at U1417 is the existence of a deep aquifer related to plate bending fractures, which actively transports sulfate-rich water to, and potentially along, the interface between sediments and oceanic crust. Such inverse diagenetic zonations have been previously observed in marine sediments, but have not yet been linked to subduction-related plate bending. With the discovery of a deep inverse SMTZ in an intra-oceanic plate setting and the blocking of upward methane diffusion by sulfate released from authigenic barite dissolution, Site U1417 provides new insights into sub-seafloor pore-fluid and gas dynamics, and their implications for global element cycling and the deep biosphere.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105986
JournalMarine Geology
Early online date22 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • Early diagenesis
  • Gulf of Alaska
  • IODP
  • Inverse diagenetic zonation
  • Sulfate-Methane Transition Zone
  • Sulfur isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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