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Habitat characterization of the Vema Fracture Zone and Puerto Rico Trench
Devey, C.W.; Augustin, N.; Brandt, A.; Brenke, N.; Köhler, J.; Lins, L.; Schmidt, C.; Yeo, I.A. (2018). Habitat characterization of the Vema Fracture Zone and Puerto Rico Trench. Deep-Sea Res., Part II, Top. Stud. Oceanogr. 148: 7-20.
In: Deep-Sea Research, Part II. Topical Studies in Oceanography. Pergamon: Oxford. ISSN 0967-0645; e-ISSN 1879-0100
Peer reviewed article  

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Authors  Top 
  • Devey, C.W.
  • Augustin, N.
  • Brandt, A.
  • Brenke, N.
  • Köhler, J.
  • Lins, L.
  • Schmidt, C.
  • Yeo, I.A.

    Although many of the regions on and close to the mid-ocean ridges have been extensively mapped and sampled, the abyssal intraplate regions remain essentially unsampled and unmapped, leaving huge gaps in our understanding of their geologic history and present activity. Prominent bathymetric features in these intraplate regions are fracture zones. Here we present bathymetric and sampling information from a transatlantic transect along the Vema Fracture Zone (ca. 11°N), covering crustal ages from 109 − 0 Ma on the African plate and 0–62 Ma on the South American plate. The Vema Fracture Zone is the intraplate trace of the active Vema Transform plate boundary, which offsets the present-day Mid-Atlantic Ridge by ca. 300 km left-laterally, juxtaposing zero-age crust with crust of 20 million years age. Our results show clear evidence of tectonic activity along most of the Fracture Zone, in most places likely associated with active fluid flow. Within the active Vema Transform at crustal ages of ca. 10 Ma we found clear indications of fluid flow both in the sediments and the overlying water column. This region is > 120 km from the nearest spreading axis and increases by almost an order of magnitude the maximum off-axis distance that active hydrothermal discharge has been found on the oceanic crust. Sampling of the igneous seafloor was possible at all crustal ages and the accretionary fabric imprinted on the plate during its production was prominent everywhere. Seafloor sediments show signs of extensive bioturbation. In one area, high concentrations of spherical Mn-nodules were also found and sampled. At the end of the transect we also mapped and sampled the Puerto Rico Trough, a > 8000 m-deep basin north of the Caribbean arc. Here the seafloor morphology is more complicated and strongly influenced by transpressive tectonics.

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