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The northern Alxa region is located in the central segment of the southern Central Asian Orogenic Belt. Many controversies and deficiencies still exist regarding the magma source characteristics, petrogenesis and tectonic regimes during the late Palaeozoic – early Mesozoic period within this region. This study presents whole-rock compositions and zircon U–Pb and Lu–Hf isotopic data for three early Mesozoic I- and A-type granitic plutons occurring in the northern Alxa region. The Haerchaoenji and Chahanhada I-type granitoids yielded zircon 206Pb–238U ages of 245 ± 5 Ma and 245 ± 2 Ma, respectively. The variable positive zircon ϵHf(t) values between +1.8 and +11.8, with young TDM ages of 425–837 Ma, indicate that these I-type granitoids were mainly derived from juvenile crustal materials. The Wulantaolegai pluton has a zircon 206Pb–238U age of 237 ± 2 Ma and is classified as having high-K calc-alkaline A-type affinity. Furthermore, the positive zircon ϵHf(t) values of the Wulantaolegai granite range from +3.3 to +8.7 with young TDM ages of 545–778 Ma, suggesting the involvement of a juvenile crustal source as well. Furthermore, the major-element compositions of the Chahanhada and Wulantaolegai granites suggest the input of metasedimentary components. Geochemically, the Haerchaoenji and Chahanhada I-type granitoids show an arc affinity, while the Wulantaolegai granite exhibits a post-collisional affinity. However, with regional data, we suggest that the Haerchaoenji and Chahanhada I-type granitoids were also emplaced in a post-collisional setting, and the arc affinity was probably inherited from recycled subduction-related materials. These lines of evidence obtained in this study enable us to argue that the Palaeo-Asian Ocean in the central segment of the Central Asian Orogenic Belt closed before Middle Triassic time.
The Middle Miocene Climatic Optimum is known for abrupt events during the global cooling trend of the past 20 Ma. Its identification in the Tibetan Plateau can help explain the cause of the critical Middle Miocene climate transition in Central Asia. In this study, fine-grained mixed sediments widely distributed in the Miocene Qaidam Lake in the northern Tibetan Plateau were used as a sensitive indicator for palaeoclimate. Their geochemical characteristics were investigated, together with an analysis of 2600 m long successive gamma-ray logging data from the whole JS2 drillcore, to understand the mid-Miocene climate transition in the Tibetan Plateau. By comparing the gamma-ray curve of the mixed sediments with global temperature, the Middle Miocene Climatic Optimum event can be easily identified. Further, the detailed petrological features and geochemical data of lacustrine fine-grained mixed sediments from a 400 m drillcore show oxidizing, high-sedimentation rate and brackish-saline water conditions in a semi-arid climate during the Middle Miocene period, demonstrating a dryer climate in the Qaidam Basin than in the monsoon-sensitive regions in Central Asia. These fine-grained mixed sediments have recorded climate drying before 15.3 Ma that represents a climatic transition within the Middle Miocene Climatic Optimum; increasing carbonate-rich mixed sediments, decreasing algal limestone layers and decreasing lacustrine organic matter are indicators of this transition. Regional tectonic events include the retreat of the Paratethys from Central Asia at ∼15 Ma and the synchronous tectonic reorganization of the Altyn-Tagh fault system and the northeastern Tibetan Plateau. We find that global climate change is the primary factor affecting the overall characteristics and changes of the Neogene climate in the Qaidam Basin, including the occurrence of the Middle Miocene Climatic Optimum and the cooling and drying tendency, while the regional events are a secondary factor.
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