Skip to main content Accessibility help

Identification of a late Quaternary alluvial–aeolian sedimentary sequence in the Sichuan Basin, China

  • Jin-Liang Feng (a1), Jian-Ting Ju (a1), Feng Chen (a1) (a2), Zhao-Guo Hu (a1) (a3), Xiang Zhao (a4) and Shao-Peng Gao (a1)...


The late Quaternary sedimentary sequence in the northwestern part of the Sichuan Basin consists of five lithological units and with increasing depth include the: Chengdu Clay; Brown Clay; Red Clay; Sandy Silt; and basal Muddy Gravel. The genesis, provenance and age of the sediments, as well as the possible presence of hiatuses within this sequence are debated. Measurements of grain-size, magnetic susceptibility, quartz content, quartz δ18O values, element composition, and Sr–Nd isotopic concentrations of samples from a typical sedimentary sequence in the area provides new insights into the genesis and history of the sequence. The new data confirm that the sediments in study site are alluvial–aeolian in origin, with basal alluvial deposits overlain by aeolian deposits. Like the uppermost Chengdu Clay, the underlying Brown Clay and Red Clay are aeolian in origin. In contrast, the Silty Sand, like the basal Muddy Gravel, is an alluvial deposit and not an aeolian deposit as previously thought. Moreover, the succession of the aeolian deposits very likely contains two significant sedimentary hiatuses. Sedimentological analysis demonstrates that the source materials for the aeolian deposits in the northwestern part of the Sichuan Basin and those on the eastern Tibetan Plateau are different. Furthermore, the loess deposits on the eastern Tibetan Plateau are derived from heterogeneous local sources.


Corresponding author

Corresponding author. E-mail address: (J.-L. Feng).


Hide All
Agrawal, S., Sanyal, P., Balakrishnan, S., Dash, J.K. (2013). Exploring the temporal change in provenance encoded in the late Quaternary deposits of the Ganga Plain. Sedimentary Geology 293, 18.
An, Z. (2014). Late Cenozoic Climate Change in Asia: Loess, Monsoon and Monsoon-arid Environment Evolution. Springer, Dordrecht.
Anders, E., Grevesse, N. (1989). Abundances of the elements: meteoritic and solar. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 53, 197214.
Begét, J., Stone, D., Hawkins, D. (1990). Paleoclimate forcing of magnetic susceptibility variations in Alaskan loess. Geology 18, 4043.
Bhatia, M.R. (1983). Plate tectonics and geochemical composition of sandstones. Journal of Geology 91, 611627.
Blott, S.J., Pye, K. (2001). Gradistat: a grain size distribution and statistics package for the analysis of unconsolidated sediments. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 26, 12371248.
Blum, J.D., Erel, Y. (2003). Radiogenic isotopes in weathering and hydrology.Holland, H.D., Turekian, K.K. Surface and Ground Water, Weathering and Soils Elsevier, New York.365392.
Bowles, G.T. (1934). A preliminary report of archaeological investigations on the Sino-Tibetan border of Szechwan. Bulletin of the Geological Society of China 13, 119148.
Chen, Z.-R., He, Y.-W. (1990). A preliminary discussion on date determination of Guanghan clay and Chengdu Clay with 14C dates. Mountain Research 8, 167173.(in Chinese)
Cherniak, D.J. (2002). Ba diffusion in feldspar. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 66, 16411650.
Chu, L.T. (1937). A reconnaissance soil survey of Chengtu area, Szechuan. Soil Bulletin 18, 170.
Clayton, R.N., Mayeda, T.K. (1963). The use of bromine pentafluoride in the extraction of oxygen from oxides and silicates for isotopic analysis. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 27, 4352.
Clayton, R.N., Rex, R.W., Syers, J.K., Jackson, M.L. (1972). Oxygen isotope abundance in quartz from Pacific pelagic sediments. Journal of Geophysical Research 77, 39073915.
DePaolo, D.J., Wasserburg, G.J. (1979). Petrogenetic mixing models and Nd–Sr isotopic patterns. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 43, 615627.
Derbyshire, E., Meng, X.M., Kemp, R.A. (1997). Climate change, loess and palaeosols: proxy measures and resolution in North China. Journal of the Geological Society of London 154, 793805.
Ding, Z.L., Sun, J.M., Liu, T.S., Zhu, R.X., Yang, S.L., Guo, B. (1998). Wind-blown origin of the Pliocene red clay formation in the central Loess Plateau, China. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 161, 135143.
Dutta, P.K., Zhou, Z., dos Santos, P.R. (1993). A theoretical study of mineralogical maturation of Eolian sand.Johnsson, M.J., Basu, A. Processes Controlling the Composition of Clastic Sediments Geological Society of America Special Paper284, 203209.
Fang, X. (1995). The origin and provenance of the Malan loess along the eastern margin of the Qinghai–Xizang (Tibetan) Plateau and its adjacent area. Science in China-Series B 38, 876887.
Fang, X., Han, Y., Ma, J., Song, L., Yang, S., Zhang, X. (2004). Dust storms and loess accumulation on the Tibetan Plateau: a case study of dust event on 4 March 2003 in Lhasa. Chinese Science Bulletin 49, 953960.
Feng, J.-L., Zhu, L.-P., Ju, J.-T., Zhou, L.-P., Zhen, X.-L., Zhang, W., Gao, S.-P. (2008). Heavy dust fall in Beijing, on April 16–17, 2006: geochemical properties and indications of the dust provenance. Geochemical Journal 42, 221236.
Feng, J.-L., Hu, Z.-G., Cui, J.-Y., Zhu, L.-P. (2010). Distributions of lead isotopes with grain size in aeolian deposits. Terra Nova 22, 257263.
Feng, J.-L., Hu, Z.-G., Ju, J.-T., Zhu, L.-P. (2011). Variations in trace element (including rare earth element) concentrations with grain sizes in loess and their implications for tracing the provenance of eolian deposits. Quaternary International 236, 116126.
Feng, J.-L., Hu, Z.-G., Ju, J.-T., Lin, Y.-C. (2014a). The dust provenance and transport mechanism for the Chengdu Clay in the Sichuan Basin, China. Catena 121, 6880.
Feng, J.-L., Zhao, Z.-H., Zhao, X., Zhao, Q.-H., Peng, S.-Q. (2014b). The origin, provenance, age and climatic links of the Chengdu Clay: a review. Mountain Research 32, 526534.(in Chinese with English abstract)
Forster, T., Evans, M.E., Heller, F. (1994). The frequency dependence of low field susceptibility in loess sediments. Geophysical Journal International 118, 636642.
Garzanti, E., Andò, S., Vezzoli, G., Lustrino, M., Boni, M., Vermeesch, P. (2012). Petrology of the Namib Sand Sea: long-distance transport and compositional variability in the wind-displaced Orange Delta. Earth-Science Reviews 112, 173189.
Garzanti, E., Resentini, A., Andò, S., Vezzoli, G., Pereira, A., Vermeesch, P. (2015). Physical controls on sand composition and relative durability of detrital minerals during ultra-long distance littoral and aeolian transport (Namibia and southern Angola). Sedimentology 62, 971996.
Han, W., Fang, X., Yang, S., King, J. (2010). Differences between East Asian and Indian monsoon climate records during MIS3 attributed to differences in their driving mechanisms: evidence from the loess record in the Sichuan basin, southwestern China and other continental and marine climate records. Quaternary International 218, 94103.
Harland, W.B. (1945). On the physiographical history of Western Szechuan with special reference to the ice age in the red basin. Journal of the West China Border Research Society (Chengtu), Series B 16, 119.
Heller, F., Liu, T.S. (1982). Magnetostratigraphical dating of loess deposits in China. Nature 300, 431433.
Jackson, M.L., Sayin, M., Clayton, R.N. (1976). Hexafluorosilicic acid reagent modification for quartz isolation. Soil Science Society of America Journal 40, 958-910
Jacobsen, S.B., Wasserburg, G.J. (1980). Sm–Nd isotopic evolution of chondrites. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 50, 139155.
Jahn, B., Gallet, S., Han, J. (2001). Geochemistry of the Xining, Xifeng and Jixian sections, Loess Plateau of China: eolian dust provenance and paleosol evolution during the last 140 ka. Chemical Geology 178, 7194.
Jin, C.-S., Liu, Q.-S. (2011). Remagnetization mechanism and a new age model for L9 in Chinese loess. Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors 187, 261275.
Kapp, P., Pelletier, J.D., Rohrmann, A., Heermance, R., Russell, J., Ding, L. (2011). Wind erosion in the Qaidam Basin, central Asia: implications for tectonics, paleoclimate, and the source of the loess plateau. GSA Today 21, 410.
Kautz, C.Q., Martin, C.E. (2007). Chemical and physical weathering in New Zealand's Southern Alps monitored by bedload sediment major element composition. Applied Geochemistry 22, 17151735.
Kogarko, L.N., Ryabchikov, I.D., Kuzmin, D.V. (2012). High-Ba mica in olivinites of the Guli massif (Maimecha–Kotui province, Siberia). Russian Geology and Geophysics 53, 12091215.
Kong, D.-F. (1994). Fractured Clay. Geological Publishing House, Beijing.(in Chinese)
Kukla, G., Heller, F., Liu, X.M., Chun, X.T., Liu, T.S., An, Z.S. (1988). Pleistocene climates in China dated by magnetic susceptibility. Geology 16, 811814.
Laurent, B., Marticorena, B., Bergametti, G., Mei, F. (2006). Modeling mineral dust emissions from Chinese and Mongolian deserts. Global and Planetary Change 52, 121141.
Le Borgne, E. (1955). Susceptibilité magnétique anormale du sol superficiel. Annales Geophysicae 11, 399419.
Liang, B., Wang, Q.-W., Zhu, B., Hao, X.-F., Ying, L.-C., Liu, L., Fu, X.-F. (2013). Optically stimulated luminescence dating of the Chengdu Clay in the west Sichuan Basin. Quaternary Sciences 33, 823828.(in Chinese)
Licht, A., Pullen, A., Kapp, P., Abell, J., Giesler, N. (2016). Eolian cannibalism: reworked loess and fluvial sediment as the main sources of the Chinese Loess Plateau. Geological Society of America Bulletin10.1130/B31375.1
Lin, Y.-C., Feng, J.-L. (2015). Aeolian dust contribution to the formation of alpine soils at Amdo (Northern Tibetan Plateau). Geoderma 259, 260 104115.
Liu, X.-S. (1983). Quaternary in the Sichuan Basin. Sichuan Science and Technology Press, Chengdu.(in Chinese)
Liu, T.S. (1985). Loess and the Environment. China Ocean Press, Beijing.
Liu, T.S., Chang, T.H. (1964). The ‘Huangtu’ (loess) of China. Rept. 6th INQUA Congress Warsaw 1961 503524.(4, )
, L., Fang, X., Lu, H., Han, Y., Yang, S., Li, J., An, Z. (" et al., 2004). Millennial-scale climate change since the last glaciation recorded by grain sizes of loess deposits on the northeastern Tibetan Plateau. Chinese Science Bulletin 49, 11571164.
Lu, H.Y., Stevens, T., Yi, S.W., Sun, X.F. (2006). An erosional hiatus in Chinese loess sequences revealed by closely spaced optical dating. Chinese Science Bulletin 51, 22532259.
Lu, Y.C., Wang, X.L., Wintle, A.G. (2007). A new OSL chronology for dust accumulation in the last 130,000 yr for the Chinese Loess Plateau. Quaternary Research 67, 152160.
Ma, R.Z. (1944). Formation of Chinese loess. Geological Review 9, 205224.(in Chinese)
McLennan, S.M. (1993). Weathering and global denudation. Journal of Geology 101, 295303.
Milnes, A.R. (1992). Calcrete.Martini, I.P., Chesworth, W. Weathering, Soils and Paleosols Elsevier, Amsterdam.309347.
Muhs, D.R. (2004). Mineralogical maturity in dune fields of North America, Africa and Australia. Geomorphology 59, 247269.
Nesbitt, H.W., Young, G.M., McLennan, S.M., Keays, R.R. (1996). Effects of chemical weathering and sorting on the petrogenesis of siliciclastic sediments, with implications for provenance studies. Journal of Geology 104, 525542.
Nichols, G. (2009). Sedimentology and Stratigraphy (2nd). A John Wiley & Sons, Oxford.
Nie, J., Peng, W., Möller, A., Song, Y., Stockli, D.F., Stevens, T., Horton, B.K., Liu, S., Bird, A., Oalmann, J., Gong, H., Fang, X. (2014). Provenance of the upper Miocene–Pliocene Red Clay deposits of the Chinese loess plateau. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 407, 3547.
Nie, J., Stevens, T., Rittner, M., Stockli, D., Garzanti, E., Limonta, M., Bird, A., Andò, S., Vermeesch, P., Saylor, J., Lu, H., Breecker, D., Hu, X., Liu, S., Resentini, A., Vezzoli, G., Peng, W., Carter, A., Ji, S., Pan, B. (2015). Loess Plateau storage of Northeastern Tibetan Plateau-derived Yellow River sediment. Nature Communications 6, 8511 10.1038/ncomms9511
Porter, S.C., An, Z. (1995). Correlation between climate events in the North Atlantic and China during the last glaciation. Nature 375, 305308.
Pullen, A., Kapp, P.A., Chang, H., McCallister, A.T., Garzione, C.N., Gehrels, G.E., Heermance, R., Ding, L. (2011). Qaidam Basin and northern Tibetan Plateau as dust sources for the Chinese Loess Plateau and paleoclimatic implications. Geology 39, 10311034.
Qi, L., Hu, J., Gregoire, D.C. (2000). Determination of trace elements in granites by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Talanta 51, 507513.
Qiao, Y., Zhao, Z., Li, Z., Wang, Y., Fu, J., Wang, S., Li, C., Yao, H., Jiang, F. (2007). Aeolian origin of the red earth formation in the Chengdu Plain. Quaternary Sciences 27, 286294.(in Chinese)
Richardson, H.L. (1942). Soils and Agriculture of Szechwan. Ministry Agriculture and Forestry, Chungking.
Richardson, H.L. (1943). The ice age in west China. Journal of the West China Border Research Society (Chengtu), Series B 14, 127.
Richthofen, F. (1882). On the mode of origin of the loess. Geological Magazine 9, 283305.
Salfeld, H. (1936). Über die diluviale vereisung von West-Szechuan (China) und insbesonders der Chengtu-Ebene. Zentralblatt für Mineralogie, Geologie und Paläontologie 9, 353357.
Solano-Acosta, W., Dutta, P.K. (2005). Unexpected trend in the compositional maturity of second-cycle sand. Sedimentary Geology 178, 275283.
Stauch, G. (2015). Geomorphological and palaeoclimate dynamics recorded by the formation of aeolian archives on the Tibetan plateau. Earth-Science Reviews 150, 393408.
Stevens, T., Armitage, S.J., Lu, H.Y., Thomas, D.S.G. (2006). Sedimentation and diagenesis of Chinese loess: implications for the preservation of continuous, high-resolution climate records. Geology 34, 849852.
Stiles, C.A., Mora, C.I., Driese, S.G. (2001). Pedogenic iron-manganese nodules in Vertisols: a new proxy for paleoprecipitation?. Geology 29, 943946.
Sun, J.M. (2002). Provenance of loess material and formation of loess deposits on the Chinese Loess Plateau. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 203, 845859.
Sun, D., Bloemendal, J., Rea, D.K., An, Z., Vandenberghe, J., Lu, H., Su, R., Liu, T. (2004). Bimodal grain-size distribution of Chinese loess, and its palaeoclimatic implications. Catena 55, 325340.
Sun, J.M., Li, S.H., Muhs, D.R., Li, B. (2007). Loess sedimentation in Tibet: provenance, processes, and link with Quaternary glaciations. Quaternary Science Reviews 26, 22652280.
Tan, Y.-L., Qiao, Y.-S., Zhao, Z.-Z., Wang, Y., Qi, L., Fu, J.-L., Liu, Z.-X., Yao, H.-T., Wang, S.-B., Jiang, F.-C. (2013). Geochemical characteristics of eolian deposits in the Chengdu Plain of Sichuan Province and the implications for provenance. Acta Geologica Sinica 87, 17121723.
Taylor, S.R., McLennan, S.M. (1985). The Continental Crust: Its Composition and Evolution. Blackwell Scientific Publications, London.
Taylor, S.R., McLennan, S.M., McCulloch, M.T. (1983). Geochemistry of loess, continental crustal composition and crustal model ages. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 47, 18971905.
Thompson, R., Oldfield, F. (1986). Environmental Magnetism. Allen & Unwin, London.
Thorp, J. (1939). Geography of the Soils of China. The National Geological Survey of China, Peking.
Thorp, J., Dye, D.S. (1936). The Chengtu Clays — deposits of possible loessial origin in western and northwestern Szechuan Basin. Bulletin of the Geological Society of China 15, 225246.
Yang, S., Fang, X., Shi, Z., Lehmkuhl, F., Song, C., Han, Y., Han, W. (2010a). Timing and provenance of loess in the Sichuan Basin, southwestern China. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 292, 144154.
Yang, S., Fang, X., Yan, M., Shi, Z., Song, C., Han, Y. (2010b). Grain size profiles in the Chengdu Clay, eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau: implications for significant drying of Asia since 500 ka B.P.. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 38, 5764.
Young, C.C. (1937). New Triassic and Cretaceous reptiles in China. Bulletin of the Geological Society of China 17, 109120.
Zhang, X.Y., Gong, S.L., Zhao, T.L., Arimoto, R., Wang, Y.Q., Zhou, Z.J. (2003). Sources of Asian dust and role of climate change versus desertification in Asian dust emission. Geophysical Research Letters 30, 2272
Zhao, Z., Qiao, Y., Wang, Y., Fu, J., Wang, S., Li, C., Yao, H., Jiang, F. (2007). Magnetostratigraphic and paleoclimatic studies on the red earth formation from the Chengdu Plain in Sichuan Province. Science in China-Series D 50, 927935.
Zhou, L.P., Oldfield, F., Wintle, A.G., Robinsonet, S.G., Wang, J.T. (1990). Partly pedogenic origin of magnetic variations in Chinese loess. Nature 346, 737739.


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Feng et al. supplementary material
Supplementary Material 1

 Word (89 KB)
89 KB
Supplementary materials

Feng et al. supplementary material
Supplementary Material 2

 Word (140 KB)
140 KB
Supplementary materials

Feng et al. supplementary material
Supplementary Material 3

 Word (52 KB)
52 KB

Identification of a late Quaternary alluvial–aeolian sedimentary sequence in the Sichuan Basin, China

  • Jin-Liang Feng (a1), Jian-Ting Ju (a1), Feng Chen (a1) (a2), Zhao-Guo Hu (a1) (a3), Xiang Zhao (a4) and Shao-Peng Gao (a1)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed