Cold Seeps, Chemosynthetic Communities

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A cold seep is an ocean floor area closely associated with naturally seeping methane gas, hydrogen sulfide, and hydrocarbon-rich fluid(petroleum, aka crude oil). Note; all of these are deadly poisons to most earth organisms. Cold seeps normally occur in deep water, but are not limited to those areas. Cold seeps should not be confused with Hydro-thermal vents, which are super-heated, chemically-rich, vents, which also support communities of life with normally toxic elements(mostly sulfur related). Cold seeps are...cold, seeping hydrocarbon-based gas and liquids are food for the living organisms. Cold seeps were first discovered in 1983 in the Gulf of Mexico. Other cold seeps have been found off the coasts of Japan, California, Costa Rica, Africa, Alaska, and Antarctica. (ref.)

Chemosynthesis is a process not unlike photosynthesis, but without sunlight. Chemosynthetic communities are often closely associated with cold seeps, as well as hydro-thermal vents, when they occur below 950 feet. Chemosynthetic Communities were first discovered in 1977 and, "This discovery shook the foundations of marine biology. It was called by some, the most important biological discovery of the 20th century."

Petroleum seeps
are a naturally occurring feature. There are thousands in California. The best estimate for North America is 160,000 tonnes/per year. 90% of which is in the Gulf of Mexico. That equals 42,336,000 gallons of naturally leaking oil, in the Gulf. PER YEAR!

"More than 50 communities are now known to exist." "Although a systematic survey has not been done to identify all chemosynthetic communities in the Gulf of Mexico, there is evidence indicating that many more such communities may exist."

Ok, here's the point. Oil is a natural product of the Earth, it just comes bubbling out of the ground all over the place. Deep water communities depend on this leaking oil as an energy source in water depths where the sun doesn't shine. Every year these communities consume dozens of times more than the busted pipe from BP Deep Horizon can possibly spew, right there in the Gulf of Mexico, and they have been for thousands of years, if not millions. Yes, collect as much of the oil on the surface as possible, but quit the panic about the pristine beaches and wetlands, the Earth already has a system of recovery.

There are some neat pictures available here.

If you have a month to kill, and several billion brain cells you no longer care about, here is the official (warning it's a PDF)Gulf of Mexico OCS Oil and
Gas Lease Sales: 2007-2012, Vol. 1, all 788 pages of it
. It is the official environmental impact statement from the former office of MMS

Something a little less taxing is Volume 2 of that report which has the figures and tables, it's only 170 pages.

Something to notice in this report is that the only area subject to even being researched is about 1/4 of the Gulf in the North West corner from the Texas/Mexico border to the Florida state line.

There, that should keep someone busy for a while, I know it did me.