Abstract

We report the first quantitative evaluation of the distribution of seafloor chemosynthetic biological communities on a regional scale. The results are based on the analysis of video images and navigation from 792 benthic remotely operated vehicle dives conducted on the continental margin in Monterey Bay, California. These communities are common, occurring within 5% of the 25-m-square grid cells within which there have been bottom observations within 45 km of the bay's head and within 9% of the visited cells that are below 550 m water depth. Although it has been previously assumed that these communities are associated with fluid seepage from faults, they are not more common within known fault zones. Surprisingly, the communities in Monterey Bay occur preferentially on steep slopes, which are commonly sites of recent erosion.

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