This multi-disciplinary proposal addresses the environmental controls, impacts and inter-relations of seafloor methane seeps, authigenic carbonates and deep-sea corals. The recent discovery of proximate seafloor methane seeps and deep-sea corals, both associated with carbonate buildups, in the southeastern Mediterranean Sea provides an exceptional opportunity to investigate their underlying environmental mechanisms. The observations combine active seeps with no coral growth and now inactive sites with evidence of past seepage inhabiting a thriving community of corals and associated fauna. We intend to carry out (for the first time) methodical comparative sampling and investigation of these features in select sites on the two sides of the Levant Basin: the Israeli continental slope and Eratosthenes Seamount. The proposed cruise with RV AEGAEO is aimed as an important component of our multi-disciplinary investigation of the recently discovered but until now poorly investigated or sampled seafloor gas seeps, associated carbonate structures and deep-sea corals on Eratosthenes Seamount and at the Palmahim Disturbance at the Mediterranean continental slope of Israel. It will provide new indications for additional presence of these phenomena. The cruise is intended to carry out detailed controlled sampling of geologic, biologic and sediments samples through the operation of the working class ROV LIROPUS. The proposed sampling aims to define the environmental differences between the two surveyed areas, and constrain the controls and impacts of both systems now and in the recent past. We aim to study (i) the setting and environmental impact of gas seepages, and particularly their relation to the possible current and past presence of methane hydrates, (ii) the particular environmental conditions allowing the growth of deep-sea corals, and (iii) the relations between the two phenomena in the context of recent global and local environmental changes.</p>

Funding: EU – Eurofleets

Staff involved: Andres Rüggeberg, Eline Feenstra, Robin Fentimen, Silvia Spezzaferri (micropaleontology lab) and Anneleen Foubert