Effects of sampling and mineral separation on accuracy of detrital zircon studies



[1] We investigated some of the sampling and mineral separation biases that affect the accuracy of detrital zircon provenance studies. The study has been carried on a natural catchment in the Scottish Highlands that represents a simple two-component source system and on samples of synthetic sediment prepared for this study to test the effects of heavy mineral separation on the resulting zircon age spectra. The results suggest that zircon fertility of the source rocks and physical properties of zircon represent the most important factors affecting the distribution of zircon age populations in the stream sediments. The sample preparation and selection of zircons for analysis may result in preferential loss of information from small zircon grains. Together with the preference for larger crystals during handpicking, it can result in several-fold difference compared to the real age distribution in the sediment sample. These factors appear to be more important for the reproducibility of zircon age spectra than is the number of zircon grains analyzed per sample.