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Provenance analysis of the Late Triassic Yichuan Basin: constraints from zircon U-Pb geochronology

Xianghong Meng / Yu Zhang
  • Corresponding author
  • School of Marine Sciences, Guangxi University, Nanning, 530004, China
  • Guangxi Laboratory on the Study of Coral Reefs in the South China Sea, Nanning, 530004, China
  • Coral Reef Research Center of China, Guangxi University, Nanning, 530004, China
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/ Duoyun Wang / Xue Zhang
Published Online: 2018-03-21 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/geo-2018-0003

Abstract

Laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) U-Pb dating has been performed on detrital zircons from the Chunshuyao Formation sandstone of Yichuan Basin. The ages of 85 detrital zircon grains are divided into three groups: 252-290 Ma, 1740-2000 Ma, and 2400-2600 Ma. The lack of Early Paleozoic and Neoproterozoic U-Pb ages indicates that there is no input from the Qinling Orogen, because the Qinling Orogen is characterized by Paleozoic and Neoproterozoic material. In combination with previous research, we suggest that the source of the Chunshuyao Formation is most likely recycled from previous sedimentary rocks from the North China Craton. In the Late Triassic, the Funiu ancient land was uplifted which prevented source material from the Qinling Orogen. Owing to the Indosinian orogeny, the strata to the east of the North China Craton were uplifted and eroded. The Yichuan Basin received detrital material from the North China Craton.

Keywords: Yichuan Basin; Late Triassic; Detrital zircon; Provenance

1 Introduction

The Triassic is a significant period in the evolution of sedimentary basins in northern China. In the Triassic, the western Henan region was a large depression basin. In the early Cenozoic, due to the differential uplift and fault depression that occurred in the area, several faulted basins were formed on the Triassic prototype basin (Luoyang Basin, Yichuan Basin, Linru Basin). The Yichuan Basin is a part of the Southern North China Basins in the southern margin of the North China Craton (NCC) which exposes some Triassic strata and provides favorable conditions for us to study the Triassic strata in the southern margin of the NCC. At present, study of the Yichuan Basin is mainly confined to the structural characteristics of the source rock properties [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Study of the formation and evolution of the Upper Triassic crushed rock in the Yichuan Basin is limited. There are two main aspects of the study controversy at present: (1) whether the Qinling Orogen is a substantial source of uplift for the Upper Triassic strata; and (2) whether there is a paleo-uplift between the Qinling Orogen and the Yichuan Basin in the Triassic. These controversies limit our understanding of the evolution of the southern margin and Qinling Orogen of the NCC. In this study, the LA-ICP-MS method was used to determine the U-Pb age of zircons from the sandstone of the Upper Triassic Chunshuyao Formation in the Yichuan Basin, western Henan. The age characteristics of the zircons in the Yichuan Basin were analyzed, and a paleogeographic reconstruction was performed.

2 Geological Setting

The Yichuan Basin lies on the western margin of the NCC. It belongs to the Mesozoic inner continental sedimentary basin. The tectonic system changes in the Yichuan Basin are closely related to the Qinling-Dabie Orogenic belt, the Taihang orogen, and the Tanlu fault [5]. As it was in phase with the northern margin of the North China Plate and Yangtze plate, which is the convergent part of a variety of stress produced by the tectonic movement between the Taihang orogenic belt and the east Qinling-Dabie orogenic belt, which resulted in multi-stage tectonic evolution. The Yichuan Basin is a Meso-Cenozoic superimposed basin developed on the North China Platform, showing an overall NW trending. The southwest margin is defined by the Funiushan uplift. The southeast margin is bordered by the Songshan uplift. The basement of the Yichuan Basin is mainly composed of Precambrian metamorphic crystalline basement rock. The strata is well developed. Exposed strata in the study area include the Precambrian, Paleozoic, Triassic, Jurassic, Paleogene, Neogene and Quaternary (Figure 1).

Geological map of Yichuan Basin
Figure 1

Geological map of Yichuan Basin

The Upper Triassic strata are the main target horizons for oil and gas exploration in the Yichuan Basin. The Upper Triassic succession includes the Chunshuyao Formation at the base and the Tanzhuang Formation at the top. The Chunshuyao Formation is a set of lacustrine facies, mainly composed of feldspar sandstone and mudstone (Figure 2). The Tanzhuang Formation is a set of lacustrine-marsh facies, which are mainly composed of yellow-green, purple-red, gray-green clay rock and grayyellow feldspar quartzite. Our study focused on the Upper Triassic Chunshuyao Formation of the Yichuan Basin. A sample of medium to coarse-grained sandstone was collected for detrital zircon age analysis.

Sedimentological profile of the Chunshuyao Formation from Yichuan basin
Figure 2

Sedimentological profile of the Chunshuyao Formation from Yichuan basin

3 Analytical procedures

3.1 Sample preparation

Detrital zircons were separated from a 4 kg rock sample using conventional heavy liquid and magnetic techniques, and then purified by hand-picking under a binocular microscope at the Langfang Regional Geological Survey, Hebei Province, China. The detailed analysis process is as follows: before being comminuted, the rock samples were cleaned by tap water. Then, the samples were broken into pieces of several millimeters in size by using a jaw breaker, and were washed in tap water again and dried in the air. A rotary disc mill was used and the rock pieces were milled into powder and sifted through sieve cloths of ca. 150 μm in pore size. The initial density separation was performed using an oscillating table. Then, using a hand magnet, any highly magnetic grains were removed, followed by magnetic separation using a Frantz isodynamic separator. The zircons were picked up under a binocular microscope. More than 150 grains were randomly selected from the sample, affixed on epoxy resin, together with the standard samples, and polished to about half their thickness.

Zircon Cathodoluminescence (CL) images were obtained at the Beijing Geoanalytical Co., Ltd., Beijing, China, using an Analytical Scanning Electron Microscope (JSM-6510.cl) connected to a GATAN MINICL system, in order to observe internal textures of crystals and to select potential target sites.

3.2 Zircon U-Pb Dating

U-Pb dating of zircon was conducted by the laser inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (LA-ICP-MS) at the State Key Laboratory of Geological Processes and Mineral Resources, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan. Detailed operating conditions for the laser ablation system and the ICP-MS instrument and data reduction are the same as those described by Liu et al. [6, 7, 8]. Laser sampling was conducted using a 193 nm GeoLas 2005 laser-ablation system with a spot size of 32 μm. An Agilent 7500a ICPMS instrument was used to acquire ion-signal intensities. Each analysis incorporated an approximately 20-second background acquisition (gas blank) followed by 50 seconds of data acquisition from the sample. Zircon 91500 [9] was used as the external standard for age calculation and re-analyzed after every 6 analyses of the detrital zircon grains. NISTSRM610 was analyzed twice every 24 analyses for U, Th, and Pb concentration calculations. Off-line selection and integration of background and analyte signals, time-drift correction and quantitative calibration were performed by ICPMSDataCal [6, 7]. Common Pb corrections were done by the following the method of Anderson [10]. Age calculations and the plotting of concordia diagrams were done using ISOPLOT programs [11].

The exact number of grains necessary for a provenance study is a controversial topic. Dodson et al. considered 60 grains to be sufficient [12]. Vermeesch suggested that at least 117 grains should be dated [13], whereas Anderson [10] believed that 35-70 grains would be adequate if the grains are randomly analyzed. In this study, we followed Anderson’s suggestion.

4 Results

The CL images are shown in Figure 3, part of the zircon developing magma-type oscillatory zoning. The zircon grains show a rounded-circular shape, reflecting their long-distance handling and abrasion or multiple-stage depositional recirculation. U-Pb ages have been determined for 96 detrital zircon grains from the BY-6. U-Pb ages are listed in Table 1. Zircon grains are from euhedral prismatic and acicular to subhedral stubby and anhedral elliptical and rounded in morphology, with grain sizes varying from 50 to 150μm (Figure 3). Th/U ratios of zircons range from 0.33 to 1.48, consistent with a magmatic origin [14]. Because 206Pb/238U ages are generally more precise for younger zircons whereas 207Pb/206Pb ages are more precise for older zircons, 206Pb/238U ages were used for grains which are younger than 1000 Ma, and 207Pb/206Pb ages for grains which are older than 1000 Ma [15]. All analyses are shown on concordia plots (Figure 4).

Cathodoluminescence images of selected zircons
Figure 3

Cathodoluminescence images of selected zircons

a: U–Pb concordia diagrams of detrital zircon analyses. b: Tera–Wasserburg concordia diagram of detrital zircon analyses
Figure 4

a: U–Pb concordia diagrams of detrital zircon analyses. b: Tera–Wasserburg concordia diagram of detrital zircon analyses

Table 1

LA-ICP-MS U-Pb analysis of zircons from Chunshuyao Formation sandstone (BY-6) in Yichuan basin

However, analyses yielding data less than 90% concordant were not included in the frequency diagrams (Figure 5). As a result, BY-6 has an available age number of 85. As shown in Figure 5, the detrital zircon U-Pb age patterns show a wide range, indicating that there is a great variety of rocks in the source areas. The age population is grouped into three major age ranges: 290-252 Ma, 2000-1740 Ma, and 2600-2400 Ma.

Comparison of detrital zircon ages from Yichuan basin with counterparts from the North China Craton (Data sources are [50, 51]). A: Relative probability density diagram of ages for the sample BY-6; B: Relative probability density diagram of ages for the Shanxi Formation from the Xishan region; C: Relative probability density diagram of ages for the Shuangquan Formation from the Xishan region; D: Relative probability density diagram of ages for the Permian section from the Daqingshan region
Figure 5

Comparison of detrital zircon ages from Yichuan basin with counterparts from the North China Craton (Data sources are [50, 51]). A: Relative probability density diagram of ages for the sample BY-6; B: Relative probability density diagram of ages for the Shanxi Formation from the Xishan region; C: Relative probability density diagram of ages for the Shuangquan Formation from the Xishan region; D: Relative probability density diagram of ages for the Permian section from the Daqingshan region

5 Discussion

5.1 Potential Source Areas

Since the debris sedimentary rocks cannot produce zircon during the deposition process, the zircon particles mainly come from the weathered parent rock. Based on the accurate measurement of the formation time of the detrital zircons in the basin and the surrounding geological exposition, it is possible to determine the composition information of the rock in the provenance area. The source of the clastic sedimentary rocks mainly includes magmatic rocks, metamorphic rocks and recycled rock complexes of old crustal sections [16,17]. The North China Craton (NCC), the Inner Mongolia Paleo-uplift, the Qinling Orogen, and the pre-Middle Triassic sediments of the North China Craton constitute the potential source areas for the Yichuan Basin during the Late Triassic.

The Qinling Orogen lies to the south of the Yichuan Basin. It is characterized by Lower Paleozoic igneous rocks [18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24]. In addition, there are some Mesozoic and Neoproterozoic rocks [18,25, 26, 27, 28]. The North Qinling Ocean closed in the Early Paleozoic, and an Early Paleozoic volcanic arc was formed along the area from Qinling to Dabie at the southern margin of the NCC [29, 30]. In the Indosinian, the unroofing pattern of Qinling Orogen developed by denudation of sediments from young covers to old basements [31].

In the NCC, 1.8 Ga and 2.5 Ga are the primary age populations. On the basis of our present state of knowledge, the ~2500 and ~1800 Ma tectonothermal events are typically attributed to the NCC [32, 33, 34]. The 2.5 Ga material can be found throughout the NCC. It is a rapid accretionary period of the crustal growth in North China. A large number of magmatic activities occur, which can be used as an important sign of the end of the Archean cratonization in North China [35, 36, 37, 38, 39]. The ~1.8 Ga tectonothermal event may represent the collision between the Eastern and Western blocks to form the NCC [38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43], and it is characterized by anorogenic magmatism, rift-magmatism or volcanism, and retrograde metamorphism [44,45].

Late Paleozoic magmatic activity within the NCC occurs mainly in the Inner Mongolia Palaeo-uplift (IMPU) [46,47]. The IMPU lies in the northern Yichuan Basin. It is a Late Palaeozoic Andean-style continental arc and characterized by Late Paleozoic magmatic activity [46]. During the Late Paleozoic to Early Mesozoic, the differential uplift and exhumation between the IMPU and the Yanshan fold-and-thrust was distinct. The strong uplift and exhumation of the IMPU occurred during the Late Paleozoic to Early Mesozoic. The strong differential uplift and erosion led to the lack of Mesoproterozoic-Paleozoic sedimentary rocks and the exhumation of the basement crystalline rocks [48, 49].

In addition, the pre-Middle Triassic sedimentary rocks of the NCC might be the potential sediment source for the Yichuan Basin in the Middle-Late Triassic. The Carboniferous to Permian strata from the northern margin of the NCC contain three groups of detrital zircons (260-380 Ma, 1500-1950 Ma, and 2400-2700 Ma) [50]. The Upper Carboniferous sandstone from the Ningwu Basin contains three groups of detrital zircons (300-320 Ma, 1600-2200 Ma, and 2300-2600 Ma) [30]. Yang et al. [51] showed that the Carboniferous to Permian strata from the Xishan region had three major groups, 255-400 Ma, 1700-1950 Ma, and 2400-2550 Ma. Darby and Gehrels [33] reported that the upper Proterozoic to Ordovician strata from the northwestern Ordos Basin has two major age clusters, 1.8-2.1 and 2.5-2.8 Ga.

5.2 Detrital Zircon Provenance Analyses

The ages of the BY-6 were grouped into three major age ranges: 290-252 Ma, 2000-1740 Ma, and 2600-2400 Ma. The lack of Early Paleozoic and Neoproterozoic U-Pb ages indicates that there was no input from the Qinling Orogen, because the Qinling Orogen is characterized by Paleozoic and Neoproterozoic rocks [24,25,34,52, 53, 54]. The youngest group of zircons (252-290 Ma) in the Yichuan Basin is concentrated in the Permian, corresponding to the Hercynian period. The Late Paleozoic magmatic activity was extensively developed in the IMPU [46,47].

The youngest detrital zircon age of sample BY-6 is 252 ± 3 Ma, which is obviously older than deposition age of the Chunshuyao Formation (228~200 Ma), which indicates that this group of zircons cannot come from igneous rocks in the IMPU. U-Pb ages of the Phanerozoic zircons from the IMPU range from 395 to 107 Ma [50]; if the debris material comes from the northern margin of North China, its minimum deposition age should be close to the stratigraphic sedimentary age [51]. The composition of the detrital zircons in this study is similar to that of pre-Late Triassic sedimentary rocks, which indicates that the detrital material in the Chunshuyao Formation in the Yichuan Basin may come from pre-Late Triassic sedimentary rocks.

The two old groups are reflective of the provenance from the NCC basement, which records the collision between the Eastern and Western blocks to form the NCC and represents a rapid accretionary period of the crustal growth in North China [37, 38, 39]. The two groups of detrital zircons have been reported in the North China Craton sedimentary strata. Taking into account the zircon morphology (darker and rounded), we infer that the two old age groups were recycled from previous sedimentary rocks.

In the field survey, we measured the paleocurrent of the Chunshuyao Formation in the Yichuan Basin. The average paleocurrent of the sediment in the Yichuan basin was 258°, indicating that the sediments were from the northeastern part of the basin. Previous studies have pointed out that the eastern NCC uplifted and eroded in the Late Triassic due to the collision between the Yangtze Plate and the North China Plate [55, 56, 57]. It is further proved that Yichuan Basin received the recycled sediments from the central-eastern NCC in the Late Triassic. The Qinling Orogen did not provide provenance for the Yichuan Basin in the Late Triassic.

5.3 Tectonic significance

Previous studies showed that the Ordos Basin extended eastward to the western Henan in the Triassic [57, 58, 59]. The detrital zircons U-Pb age from the lower Yanchang Formation in the southern Ordos Basin were grouped into three major age ranges: 363-238 Ma, 2.1-1.5 Ga, 2.6-2.2 Ga, and were mainly derived from recycled sediments [60], which is similar to our study. Accordingly, we can carry out paleogeographic reconstruction. During the Late Triassic, the Ordos Basin and the Yichuan Basin were a unified whole. Owing to the Indosinian movement, the eastern NCC uplifted and eroded in the Late Triassic. The Ordos Basin and the Yichuan Basin both received debris from the eastern NCC.

During the Middle-Late Triassic, the northward scissors-type closure of the Mianlue Ocean resulted in an assembly of the South China Block to the Qinling-Dabie Microplate from west to east [61, 62, 63, 64]. The Qinling Orogeny belt uplifted rapidly at that time, and has become a stable source area for the southern North China Basin. Meanwhile, Ordos Basin, to the north of the Qinling Orogeny, evolved into a large depression lake basin and preserves a lake facies deposit. Liushan Basin, located in the southern part of the Yichuan Basin, received detrital material from the Qinling orogenic belt in the Middle Triassic [65], which indicates that the Qinling Orogen uplifted in the Middle Triassic. However, the uplift rate of the Qinling Orogen is still minimal in the Middle Triassic. There is a relative balance between the uplift of the mountain and basin subsidence, which maintained an effective state of sedimentary compensation. In the Late Triassic, due to the quick uplift of the Qinling Orogen, the lake basin greatly increased and moved southward significantly. In this study, the Qinling Orogen did not provide provenance for the Yichuan Basin in the Late Triassic. Therefore, we infer that the Funiushan ancient land between the Yichuan Basin and the Liushan Basin was uplifted in the Late Triassic, which hindered the Qinling Orogen from providing material for the Yichuan Basin in the Triassic. Although the Qinling Orogen uplifted in the Late Triassic, it did not provide source material to the Yichuan Basin and only provided source material for the fore-mountain basins (such as the Liushan Basin).

6 Conclusion

Laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry U-Pb dating has been performed on detrital zircons from the Late Triassic Chunshuyao Formation in the Yichuan Basin. The results show three major age groups: 290-252 Ma, 2000-1740 Ma, and 2600-2400 Ma. The lack of Early Paleozoic and Neoproterozoic zircons implies that there is no input from the Qinling Orogen. The detrital zircons of the Chunshuyao Formation may be mainly derived from recycled sediments of the NCC. In the Late Triassic, the Funiu ancient land uplifted and hindered the Qinling Orogen from providing material for the Yichuan Basin.

Acknowledgement

This work was financially supported by the PhD research startup foundation of Guangxi University (XBZ170339), special fund for basic scientific research of central colleges, Chang’ an university, China (310827161021). We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers who provided constructive suggestions which led to improvement of the paper.

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About the article

Received: 2017-10-31

Accepted: 2018-01-09

Published Online: 2018-03-21


Citation Information: Open Geosciences, Volume 10, Issue 1, Pages 34–44, ISSN (Online) 2391-5447, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/geo-2018-0003.

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© 2018 X. Meng et al., published by De Gruyter. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

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