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Evaluating the paleoclimatic significance of clay mineral records from a late Pleistocene loess-paleosol section of the Ili Basin, Central Asia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 October 2017

Yue Li
State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi’an 710061, China College of Earth Science, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Yougui Song*
State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi’an 710061, China Research Center for Ecology and Environment of Central Asia, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
Mengxiu Zeng
College of Geographic and Oceanographic Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China
Weiwei Lin
State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi’an 710061, China
Rustam Orozbaev
Research Center for Ecology and Environment of Central Asia, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China Institute of Geology, National Academy of Sciences, Bishkek 720040, Kyrgyzstan
Liangqing Cheng
State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi’an 710061, China College of Earth Science, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Xinli Chen
Environmental Monitoring Station of Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, Yining 835000, China
Tiliwaldi Halmurat
Environmental Monitoring Station of Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, Yining 835000, China
*Corresponding author at: State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. 97 Yanxiang Road, Yanta, Xi’an 710061, China. E-mail address: (Y.G. Song)


In this study, we present clay mineral records from a late Pleistocene loess-paleosol sequence in the Ili Basin, Central Asia, and assess their significance for paleoclimatic reconstruction. The results show that the clay minerals are mainly illite (average 60%) and chlorite (28%), with minor kaolinite (9%) and smectite (3%). Illite was of detrital origin with no obvious modification to its crystal structure. Increases in illite content in the loess are ascribed to wind intensity rather than pedogenesis. High proportions of illite in the clay fraction, and of muscovite in the bulk samples of the paleosol units, may lead to an overestimation of the weathering intensity. Kaolinite was likely inherited from the sedimentary rocks, while chlorite might have been inherited from both sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. The paleoclimatic signals of kaolinite and chlorite were unclear, due to reworking by both fluvial and eolian systems. Smectite was more likely formed by the transformation of biotite and illite, and its variation in the loess sequence was also controlled by wind intensity; this was largely due to aggregation and is unlikely to reflect moisture changes. Although the interpretation of paleoclimate evolution may contain some uncertainties, clay mineralogy does provide the possibility of tracing dust provenance.

Research Article
Copyright © University of Washington. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2017 

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