Skip Navigation
DES Centennial Celebration

Environmental Sciences Seminar

DATE/TIME:  Friday, March 4, 2022, 2:30 pm

April Stabbins and Emily Cowell
Temple University

Influence of methane seepage on deep-sea communities along the Costa Rican margin

Methane seeps, also known as cold seeps, are geochemically active areas of the seafloor, where fluids enriched in methane and hydrogen sulfide are emitted into the surrounding environment. They are a widespread, patchy feature along active and passive continental margins globally, where vast deposits of methane are buried in gas hydrates. Emanating seepage at these sites enables the formation of diverse chemosynthetic communities, all supported by chemosynthetic primary productivity. Methanotrophic and thiotrophic microbial assemblages act as food sources for direct grazers and filter feeders or become symbiotic partners for dense aggregations of foundation species such as tubeworms, mussels and clams. High abundances of foundation species in turn create lush areas of biogenic habitats for other species to inhabit. This high organismal biomass sequesters the majority of methane released from the seafloor, therefore providing a direct ecosystem service by preventing potent greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.

We only have a cursory understanding of these environments and with increasing potential for disturbance from anthropogenic pressures the importance of understanding these ecosystems is more important than ever. Our research focuses on methane seeps along the Pacific continental margin of Costa Rica, aiming to better understand the sphere of influence of these systems by identifying the form, extent and nature of the physical, chemical and biological linkages between methane seeps and the surrounding deep-sea ecosystem.