Bioerosion by chemosynthetic biological communities on Holocene submarine slide scars
Geomorphic, stratigraphic, and faunal observations of submarine slide scars that occur along the flanks of Monterey Canyon in 2.0–2.5 km water depths were made to identify the processes that continue to alter the surface of a submarine landslide scar after the initial slope failure. Deep-sea chemosynthetic biological communities and small caves are common on the sediment-free surfaces of the slide scars, especially along the headwall. The chemosynthetic organisms observed on slide scars in Monterey Canyon undergo a faunal succession based in part on their ability to maintain their access to the redox boundaries in the sediment on which they depend on as an energy source. By burrowing into the seafloor, these organisms are able to follow the retreating redox boundaries as geochemical re-equilibration occurs on the sole of the slide. As these organisms dig into the seafloor on the footwall, they often generate small caves and weaken the remaining seafloor. While chemosynthetic biological communities are typically used as indicators of fluid flow, these communities may be supported by methane and hydrogen sulfide that are diffusing out of the fresh seafloor exposed at the sole of the slide by the slope failure event. If so, these chemosynthetic biological communities may simply mark sites of recent seafloor exhumation, and are not reliable fluid seepage indicators.