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The southeastern Central Asian Orogenic Belt (CAOB) records the assembly process between several micro-continental blocks and the North China Craton (NCC), with the consumption of the Paleo-Asian Ocean (PAO), but whether the S-wards subduction of the PAO beneath the northern NCC was ongoing during Carboniferous–Permian time is still being debated. A key issue to resolve this controversy is whether the Carboniferous magmatism in the northern NCC was continental arc magmatism. The Alxa Block is the western segment of the northern NCC and contiguous to the southeastern CAOB, and their Carboniferous–Permian magmatism could have occurred in similar tectonic settings. In this contribution, new zircon U–Pb ages, elemental geochemistry and Sr–Nd isotopic analyses are presented for three early Carboniferous granitic plutons in the southwestern Alxa Block. Two newly identified aluminous A-type granites, an alkali-feldspar granite (331.6 ± 1.6 Ma) and a monzogranite (331.8 ± 1.7 Ma), exhibit juvenile and radiogenic Sr–Nd isotopic features, respectively. Although a granodiorite (326.2 ± 6.6 Ma) is characterized by high Sr/Y ratios (97.4–139.9), which is generally treated as an adikitic feature, this sample has highly radiogenic Sr–Nd isotopes and displays significantly higher K2O/Na2O ratios than typical adakites. These three granites were probably derived from the partial melting of Precambrian continental crustal sources heated by upwelling asthenosphere in lithospheric extensional setting. Regionally, both the Alxa Block and the southeastern CAOB are characterized by the formation of early Carboniferous extension-related magmatic rocks but lack coeval sedimentary deposits, suggesting a uniform lithospheric extensional setting rather than a simple continental arc.
The North China Plain suffers excessive application of nitrogen (N) and soil degradation. Recently, biochar has been promoted as an agricultural soil amendment to ameliorate soil quality, increase crop yield and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. However, most proofs on the positive effects of biochar addition have been based on small plots or short-term field studies located in tropical or subtropical regions with defective soils. A long-term field experiment was designed with five N levels and two biochar rates to observe the changes in crop (winter wheat and summer maize) growth and soil chemical quality. Notably, crop yield was strongly dependent upon N application, with both wheat and maize yields increasing with N application. Biochar addition increased crop yield but not significantly, although the increase in grain yield was 0.96 t/ha in a rotation. Correlation analysis revealed that the optimal root-layer soil mineral N (Nmin) for crop production was around N120, especially with biochar addition. The effect of fertilization on soil chemical quality was mainly reflected in the increase in soil organic carbon (SOC), and the highest value was obtained at N60 whether or not biochar was applied. Overall, biochar addition did not appear to promote wheat and maize growth or increase the yield on calcareous alluvial soils in temperate regions, but significantly enhanced SOC content, especially at N60, which may play an important role in sustainable agricultural production.
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