Impact of hydraulic sorting and weathering on mica provenance studies: An example from the Yangtze River

Xilin Sun*, K. F. Kuiper, Yuntao Tian, Chang'an Li, L. Gemignani, Zengjie Zhang, J. R. Wijbrans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Detrital muscovite and biotite 40Ar/39Ar analyses are useful tools for studying regional tectonic histories, sediment provenances and paleo-drainage reconstructions. During transport and recycling of detrital micas physical and chemical weathering occurs. This process effects the grain size and age populations ultimately found in river sediments, but is often ignored in provenance studies. Here, we present detrital muscovite and biotite 40Ar/39Ar results of 15 modern sediments from the Yangtze River to address the impact of grainsize on provenance age populations. The beam intensities of 39Ar, formed from 39K by neutron capture reaction during sample irradiation, have been used as an index for grain size. We found that relatively older detrital mica ages of the Yangtze River are often characterized by small 39Ar signals (i.e., grain sizes), and large grain sizes correspond to younger grains. This observation is also revealed by reanalysis of previously reported detrital mica studies in other major river systems (Red and Brahmaputra rivers) and sediments (Scotian Basin, Canada and Antarctic) and probably results from physical and chemical weathering during transport and recycling. Our Yangtze results indicate that detrital muscovite and biotite ages of grainsize ranging from 100 to 1000 μm cover all age components as identified in all dated grains (with a size of >100 μm), and thus indicate that detrital mica 40Ar/39Ar analyses should include also small grains from >100 μm to reduce the effects of hydraulic sorting and weathering. Grainsizes smaller than 100 μm have not been tested in this study, but will be more difficult to date due to both smaller beam intensities and possible recoil effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119359
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalChemical Geology
Early online date6 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2020


  • Age population
  • Biotite
  • Grainsize
  • Muscovite
  • Provenance
  • Yangtze River


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