A combined methodology for reconstructing source-to-sink basin evolution, exemplified by the Triassic Songpan–Ganzi basin, central China

Guohui Chen, Fangyang Hu, Alastair H.F. Robertson, Eduardo Garzanti, Shaohua Zhang, Fu-Yuan Wu

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Abstract / Description of output

Source-to-sink evolution of a basin is a key to understand sedimentary processes, especially in a complex regional orogenic setting. Detrital zircon populations can be traced from their primary sources to their depositional settings. The resulting interpretations are enhanced by calculation of the adjacent orogen's paleoaltimetry, which provides additional insights into paleogeography. In this study, we present a combined methodology which aims to reconstruct source-to-sink evolution by the analysis of detrital zircon age distribution in sandstones, together with the calculation of paleo-elevation of surrounding orogens based on the chemical compositions of coeval magmatic rocks. We test the method using detrital zircon U–Pb geochronological data sets from the Triassic Songpan–Ganzi basin in central China, combined with whole-rock geochemical data from intermediate-composition magmatic rocks in adjacent crustal blocks. Application of the combined methodology supports a syn-collisional basin model for the formation of the Triassic Songpan-Ganzi basin in preference to a continental back-arc basin. The clastic sediments, mainly deep-marine turbidites, accumulated in a remnant Paleotethyan Ocean that was surrounded by the converging North China Block, South China Block, East Kunlun Orogenic Belt and the Qiangtang Block. The North China Block and the North Qaidam Block were major proto-sources of detrital zircons to the basin, contributing on average 12 % and 15 %, respectively. Triassic magmatic rocks in the East Kunlun and Qiangtang regions were major sources of igneous zircons, up to 68 % for the former and up to 56 % for the latter. Despite being located at a calculated elevation of ca. 4000 m, the Qinling Orogenic Belt contributed only ca. <10 % of the zircons, mostly restricted to the eastern depocenter of the basin. In contrast, supply from the North Qiangtang Block, despite its calculated lower elevation (1000–3000 m), accounts for 2–10 % of the detrital zircons in the basin, suggesting high erosion rates of this block. The minimal supply of zircons from the South China Block, restricted to 3–6 % in the central and western depocenters, is inconsistent with the zircon abundances predicted in the alternative back-arc basin model of the Songpan–Ganzi basin.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106529
JournalSedimentary Geology
Early online date20 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023


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