Assessing effective provenance methods for fluvial sediment in the South China Sea

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© 2016 The Author(s). Sediment is delivered by the rivers of SE Asia to the South China Sea where it provides an archive of continental environmental conditions since the Eocene. Interpreting this archive is complicated because sediment may be derived from a number of unique sources and the rivers themselves have experienced headwater capture that also affects their composition. A number of methods exist to constrain provenance, but not all work well in this area. Anthropogenic impacts, most notably agriculture, mean that the modern rivers contain more weathered materials than they did up until about 3000 years ago. The rivers have also changed their bulk chemistry and clay mineralogy in response to climate change, so that these proxies, as well as Sr isotopes, are generally unreliable provenance indicators. Nd isotopes resolve influx from Luzon, but many other sources in SE Asia have similar values and clear resolution of end members can be difficult. Instead, thermochronology methods are best suited, especially apatite fission track, which shows more diversity in the sources than either U-Pb zircon or Ar/Ar muscovite dating. Nonetheless, even fission track is best used as part of a multiproxy approach if a robust quantitative budget is desired.

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Geological Society Special Publication

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