Fluid escape structures in the north Sicily continental margin

Attilio Sulli, Valentina Pennino, Francesco Interbartolo, Antonio Caracausi, Fausto Grassa

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11 Citations (Scopus)


High resolution and multichannel seismic profiles coupled with multibeam echosounder (seafloor relief) data, acquired along the northern Sicily continental margin (southern Tyrrhenian Sea), document the occurrence of mound and pockmark features, revealing fluid escape processes. Along this margin, morphology of the high-gradient continental slope is irregular due to the presence of structural highs, slope failures and canyons, and is interrupted by flat areas at a mean depth of 1500 m.Seismostratigraphic analysis tools and methods were used to identify fluid escape structures and to work out a classification on the basis of their morpho-acoustic characteristics. The detailed 3D bathymetric chart was used to define the top view morphologic features and their areal distribution. With the aim to evaluate the geochemical content of fluids, we collected a 2.3 m long sediment core in correspondence of a pockmark at a depth of 414 m. Pore waters were sampled every 10 cm and analysed in relation to their conductivity (EC) and composition (δ18O, δD, Li, Na, K, Mg, F, Cl, Br, NO3, SO4).The new data show the occurrence of different types of structures with highly contrasting seismic and morphologic signatures, both dome-type and concave-upward structures. The latter have a characteristic circular shape and are known as pockmarks. Morphobathymetric, stratigraphic and structural data suggest that these structures occur along fault planes, mainly associated with diagenetic carbonates and fluid venting activity. Pockmarks could be the result of both fault and landslide structures, as they appear aligned along a straight direction and occur in proximity of the slope, and are associated with slope instabilities. The structural features are possibly associated with the recent tectonics mapped on-land as well as the widespread seismicity of the margin.Geochemical features reveal that pore water is slightly enriched in heavy isotopes with respect to Mediterranean seawater, while the distribution profiles of EC, ion concentration (Cl, SO4, Na, K, Mg, Ca), ion/Chloride ratios (Na/Cl, K/Cl, Ca/Cl, Mg/Cl and Alk/Cl) seem to indicate the existence of an external source of fluids and the occurrence of sediment-fluids interaction processes. A possible mechanism causing pore water freshening could be the destabilisation of gas hydrates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-213
Number of pages12
JournalMarine and Petroleum Geology
Publication statusPublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Geophysics
  • Geology
  • Economic Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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