Geochemical and isotopic studies of aeolian sediments in China



The Sr and Nd isotopic, rare earth element (REE) and major element compositions, together with mineral and grain-size proportions, are reported for aeolian loess deposits and desert sands from several Chinese localities. The study was carried out in order to examine regional variations in the isotopic and geochemical features of these aeolian sediments, and to constrain the provenance of Chinese loess. Samples include loesses from the Tarim and Junggar basins and desert sands from the Taklimakan desert in north-west China, loess from the Ordos area and desert sands from the Tengger and Mu-us deserts in north-central China, as well as loess and desert sands from the Naiman area, north-east China. REE distributions show minimal variation among the Chinese loess deposits, whereas those for the desert sands show regional variations. New isotopic data document a latitudinal variation in Sr and Nd isotopic features for the loesses and desert sands. The Naiman and Junggar loesses have distinctly lower 87Sr/86Sr ratios and higher εNd(0) values than the loesses from the Tarim Basin, the Ordos area and the Loess Plateau. Among the desert sands, the Naiman samples have higher εNd(0) values than the Taklimakan, Tengger and Mu-us samples. Isotopic data suggest that loesses of the Loess Plateau were supplied from the Tarim Basin loesses and Taklimakan Desert sand, and that the Naiman loesses were supplied from the Junggar Basin loesses. The latitudinal variation in the loesses and desert sands may be partly explained by isotopic variations reported previously for moraines from the Tianshan and west Kunlun Mountains, which are possible sources for the loesses and desert sands. These inferences on the provenance of the loesses and desert sands are consistent with the dust transport pattern over East Asia.