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  1. Abstract

    In the past decade, thousands of previously unknown methane seeps have been identified on continental margins around the world. As we have come to appreciate methane seep habitats to be abundant components of marine ecosystems, we have also realized they are highly dynamic in nature. With a focus on discrete depth ranges across the Cascadia Margin, we work to further unravel the drivers of seep‐associated microbial community structure. We found highly heterogenous environments, with depth as a deterministic factor in community structure. This was associated with multiple variables that covaried with depth, including surface production, prevailing oxygen minimum zones (OMZs), and geologic and hydrographic context. Development of megafaunal seep communities appeared limited in shallow depth zones (~ 200 m). However, this effect did not extend to the structure or function of microbial communities. Siboglinid tubeworms were restricted to water depths > 1000 m, and we posit this deep distribution is driven by the prevailing OMZ limiting dispersal. Microbial community composition and distribution covaried most significantly with depth, but variables including oxygen concentration, habitat type, and organic matter, as well as iron and methane concentration, also explained the distribution of the microbial seep taxa. While members of the core seep microbiome were seen across sites, there was a high abundance of microbial taxa not previously considered within the seep microbiome as well. Our work highlights the multifaceted aspects that drive community composition beyond localized methane flux and depth, where environmental diversity adds to margin biodiversity in seep systems.

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  2. Abstract

    Methane gas plumes have been discovered to issue from the seafloor in the Puget Sound estuary. These gas emission sites are co‐located over traces of three major fault zones that fracture the entire forearc crust of the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Multibeam and single‐beam sonar data from cruises conducted in years 2011, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 identified the acoustic signature of 349 individual bubble plumes. Dissolved CH4gas from the plumes combines to elevate seawater methane concentrations of the entire Puget Sound estuary. Fluid samples from adjacent terrestrial hot springs and deep‐water wells surrounding the estuary contain a helium‐3 isotope signature, suggesting a deep fluid source located near the underlying Cascadia Subduction Zone plate interface. However, limited data from this pilot study suggest that Puget Sound seawater emission sites lack both similar chemical isotope signatures and elevated thermal anomalies that would be expected from association with a deep plate‐interface reservoir. A shallow reservoir within the Holocene sediments that cover the older Puget Sound basement with horizontal transfer to the thinly covered Alki Point and Kingston Arch anticlines is also a possibility, as has been suggested for other methane seep areas. The existence of vigorous marine methane plumes arising from areas of thin sediment cover associated with deeply penetrating forearc fault zones but presenting no thermal or chemical anomalies found in other similar forearc environments, remains an unresolved paradox.

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