Significant quantities of fluids and dissolved geochemical components are expelled through the sediment surface in ocean margin and sedimented ridge environments. Recently, significant interest has been generated in constraining hydrological processes in these environments, but direct measurement of fluid flow in the marine environment has proven to be difficult and many aspects of marine hydrogeology remain poorly understood. To address the need for a means to make a significant number of direct measurements in a wide range of low to moderate flow environments, we have developed a new type of benthic aqueous flux meter that is capable of measuring diffuse fluid flow through the sediment surface on the order of 0.1 mm yr(-1)-15 m yr(-1) when the flow is through sediments with permeabilities of less than 10(-8) cm(2) (typical seafloor sediments). The instrument measures fluid flow by determining the degree of dilution of a chemical tracer that is injected by an osmotic pump at a known rate into the fluids venting into or out of a collection chamber situated on the sea bed. The pump also withdraws a subsample of this tracer/fluid mix into sample coils allowing a serial record of the flow rates to be determined. Both upward and downward flow can be measured and, when flux rates are high enough to effectively flush the collecting chamber, the instruments also act as geochemical samplers. Three years of laboratory testing and field use have constrained the effects of (1) temperature, pressure, and deployment duration on osmotic pump performance, (2) dispersion/diffusion in the sample coils, and (3) deflection of flow under a range of sediment permeabilities. Recent deployments on the Kodiak and Cascadia accretionary prisms document the range and capabilities of the instrument in the field. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.