Guaymas Basin Tectonics and Biosphere1
Published December 2020
See the full publication in PDF.
International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 385 drilled organic-rich sediments with sill intrusions on the flanking regions and in the northern axial graben in Guaymas Basin, a young marginal rift basin in the Gulf of California. Guaymas Basin is characterized by a widely distributed, intense heat flow and widespread off-axis magmatism expressed by a dense network of sill intrusions across the flanking regions, which is in contrast to classical mid-ocean ridge spreading centers. The numerous off-axis sills provide multiple transient heat sources that mobilize buried sedimentary carbon, in part as methane and other hydrocarbons, and drive hydrothermal circulation. The resulting thermal and geochemical gradients shape abundance, composition, and activity of the deep subsurface biosphere of the basin.
Drill sites extend over the flanking regions of Guaymas Basin, covering a distance of ~81 km from the from the northwest to the southeast. Adjacent Sites U1545 and U1546 recovered the oldest and thickest sediment successions (to ~540 meters below seafloor [mbsf]; equivalent to the core depth below seafloor, Method A [CSF-A] scale), one with a thin sill (a few meters in thickness) near the drilled bottom (Site U1545), and one with a massive, deeply buried sill (~356–430 mbsf) that chemically and physically affects the surrounding sediments (Site U1546). Sites U1547 and U1548, located in the central part of the northern Guaymas Basin segment, were drilled to investigate a 600 m wide circular mound (bathymetric high) and its periphery. The dome-like structure is outlined by a ring of active vent sites called Ringvent. It is underlain by a remarkably thick sill at shallow depth (Site U1547). Hydrothermal gradients steepen at the Ringvent periphery (Holes U1548A–U1548C), which in turn shifts the zones of authigenic carbonate precipitation and of highest microbial cell abundance toward shallower depths. The Ringvent sill was drilled several times and yielded remarkably diverse igneous rock textures, sediment–sill interfaces, and hydrothermal alteration, reflected by various secondary minerals in veins and vesicles. Thus, the Ringvent sill became the target of an integrated sampling and interdisciplinary research effort that included geological, geochemical, and microbiological specialties. The thermal, lithologic, geochemical, and microbiological contrasts between the two deep northwestern sites (U1545 and U1546) and the Ringvent sites (U1547 and U1548) form the scientific centerpiece of the expedition. These observations are supplemented by results from sites that represent attenuated cold seepage conditions in the central basin (Site U1549), complex and disturbed sediments overlying sills in the northern axial trough (Site U1550), terrigenous sedimentation events on the southeastern flanking regions (Site U1551), and hydrate occurrence in shallow sediments proximal to the Sonora margin (Site U1552).
The scientific outcomes of Expedition 385 will (1) revise long-held assumptions about the role of sill emplacement in subsurface carbon mobilization versus carbon retention, (2) comprehensively examine the subsurface biosphere of Guaymas Basin and its responses and adaptations to hydrothermal conditions, (3) redefine hydrothermal controls of authigenic mineral formation in sediments, and (4) yield new insights into many geochemical and geophysical aspects of both architecture and sill–sediment interaction in a nascent spreading center. The generally high quality and high degree of completeness of the shipboard datasets present opportunities for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary collaborations during shore-based studies. In comparison to Deep Sea Drilling Project Leg 64 to Guaymas Basin in 1979, sophisticated drilling strategies (for example, the advanced piston corer [APC] and half-length APC systems) and numerous analytical innovations have greatly improved sample recovery and scientific yield, particularly in the areas of organic geochemistry and microbiology. For example, microbial genomics did not exist 40 y ago. However, these technical refinements do not change the fact that Expedition 385 will in many respects build on the foundations laid by Leg 64 for understanding Guaymas Basin, regardless of whether adjustments are required in the near future.
1Teske, A., Lizarralde, D., Höfig, T.W., and the Expedition 385 Scientists, 2020. Expedition 385 Preliminary Report: Guaymas Basin Tectonics and Biosphere. International Ocean Discovery Program.