Remotely operated vehicle (ROV)-based mapping of tectonic features, zones of anomalous reflectivity, and geomorphic targets in Monterey Bay, California, demonstrates the regional abundance of fluid expulsion along the active transform margin between the Pacific and North American plates. Cold seeps—extant communities characterized by chemosynthetic bivalves, bacterial mats, and rare tubeworms—are the surface manifestations of present-day fluid expulsion of sulfide- and methane-rich fluids, whereas slabs, veins, and chimneys of authigenic carbonate represent regions of either dormant methane-rich fluid expulsion, or areas where the present rate of flow is too low to support chemosynthetic fauna. We have found both active and dormant fluid seepage along fault zones, at the surface expression of mud volcanoes, on organic-rich or permeable substrate, and within headless canyons across a wide range of depths within Monterey Bay. The fluid egress at these sites may be driven by a combination of (1) pore-space reduction caused by rapid sedimentation and/or tectonic compaction related to residual Pacific–North America compression, and (2) increased buoyancy due to a decrease in pore-fluid density related to diagenesis and/or catagenesis at depth. Although provocative, the relationship between topographically driven aquifer discharge and sea-floor fluid expulsion remains speculative for Monterey Bay. The widespread distribution of fluid expulsion features controlled by a variety of conduits in Monterey Bay implies that cold seeps may be common features on translational margins.

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