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Controlling factors on heavy mineral assemblages in Chinese loess and red clay

Moeller, Andreas; Ando, Sergio; Nie, Junsheng; Peng, Wenbin; Pfaff, Katharina; Möller, Andreas; Garzanti, Eduardo; Andò, Sergio; Stevens, Thomas; Bird, Anna; Chang, Hong; Song, Yougui; Liu, Shanpin; Ji, Shunchuan


Andreas Moeller

Sergio Ando

Junsheng Nie

Wenbin Peng

Katharina Pfaff

Andreas Möller

Eduardo Garzanti

Sergio Andò

Thomas Stevens

Hong Chang

Yougui Song

Shanpin Liu

Shunchuan Ji


Heavy-mineral analysis is a sensitive technique in constraining provenance of sandstone, but has rarely been applied to loess. Here we report a heavy-mineral study of selected samples from the Luochuan, Xifeng and Caoxian loess-Red Clay sections on the Chinese Loess Plateau, based on the novel QEMSCAN (Quantitative Evaluation of Minerals by Scanning Electron Microscopy) technique. We found that heavy mineral assemblages of loess deposited through the past 500. kyr are similar and unchanged by post-depositional chemical dissolution. In contrast, in samples deposited from 900. ka to 3. Ma, the relative proportion of stable minerals tends to increase down section. In addition, the Xifeng samples consistently display higher contents of unstable ferromagnesian minerals than the Luochuan samples. Detailed analysis of surface textures displayed by different minerals by optical methods indicates that such a compositional difference can be ascribed to more effective diagenetic dissolution for the Luochuan section, explained by more extensive percolation of interstitial waters in wetter climatic conditions. Interestingly, heavy-mineral assemblages in the underlying upper Miocene Red Clay from Xifeng (deposition age. ~. 7. Ma) are similar to those of recent loess deposited since 500. ka. This similarity indicates that climate and/or local preservation conditions hampered dissolution reactions, thus helping to preserve an original provenance signal that remained largely unchanged throughout the considered time period. Our study demonstrates that climatically- and time-controlled diagenesis plays a key role in determining the composition of heavy-mineral assemblages contained in loess deposited several hundreds of thousands years ago. We also show that by using both QEMSCAN and traditional optical techniques on the same samples we can obtain fundamental complementary information for a correct interpretation of the heavy-mineral assemblage. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jul 1, 2013
Journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Print ISSN 0031-0182
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 381-382
Pages 110-118
APA6 Citation Nie, J., Peng, W., Pfaff, K., Möller, A., Garzanti, E., Andò, S., …Ji, S. (2013). Controlling factors on heavy mineral assemblages in Chinese loess and red clay. Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology, 381-382, 110-118.
Keywords Earth-Surface Processes; Palaeontology; Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics; Oceanography
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