The provenance of Western Irish Namurian Basin sedimentary strata inferred using detrital zircon U–Pb LA-ICP-MS geochronology


M. A. Pointon, Department of Geology, School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland. E-mail:


The Western Irish Namurian Basin (WINB) preserves classic examples of basin floor sequences through to slope deposits and deltaic cyclothems. Despite over 50 years of research into the WINB, its sediment provenance remains highly contested. Sedimentological arguments, including palaeocurrent vectors and palaeoslope indicators have been invoked to propose a sediment source from the NW or the west (i.e. from within Laurentia). These same indicators have been subsequently reinterpreted to reflect a southern provenance. It is not clear from sedimentological arguments alone which interpretation more accurately reflects the infilling of the WINB. Regional-scale constraints on WINB provenance may be obtained with detrital zircon U–Pb geochronology.

U–Pb LA-ICP-MS detrital zircon analysis was undertaken on samples from three sandstone units at different stratigraphic levels within the WINB siliciclastic sedimentary fill (Ross Formation, Tullig Sandstone, Doonlicky Sandstone). The samples are dominated by 500–700 Ma zircons, which can be correlated with Cadomian–Avalonian orogenic activity within terranes to the south of the WINB (Avalonia/Ganderia, Armorica and Iberia). In contrast, Eastern Laurentia, to the north of the WINB, was devoid of orogenic activity at this time. WINB samples also yield age populations younger than 500 Ma, and older than 700 Ma. These are not diagnostic of a particular source terrane and thus could be derived from terranes north and/or south of the WINB. WINB detrital zircon age spectra can be reconciled by an Avalonian or combined Avalonian–Laurentian provenance for WINB sedimentary strata. Further research is required in order to distinguish between these two possibilities. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.