News Release

New GSA Bulletin articles published ahead of print in December

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Geological Society of America

Boulder, Colo., USA: The Geological Society of America regularly publishes articles online ahead of print. GSA Bulletin topics studied this month include the nature and dynamics of China and Tibet; major reorganization of the Snake River modulated by passage of the Yellowstone Hotspot; Weddell Sea Embayment ice streams, Antarctica; and geochemical analysis of black shale. You can find these articles at .

New insights into organic matter accumulation from high-resolution geochemical analysis of a black shale: Middle and Upper Devonian Horn River Group, Canada
Haolin Zhou; Nicholas B. Harris; Tian Dong; Korhan Ayranci; Jilu Feng ...
Abstract: Organic matter (OM) accumulation in organic matter-rich mudstones, or black shales, is generally recognized to be controlled by combinations of bioproductivity, preservation, and dilution. However, specific triggers of OM deposition in these formations are commonly difficult to identify with geochemical proxies, in part because of feedbacks that cause geochemical proxies for these controls to vary synchronously. This apparent synchronicity is partly a function of sample spacing, commonly at decimeter to meter intervals, which may represent longer periods of time than is required for the development of feedbacks. Higher resolution data sets may be required to fully interpret OM accumulation.This study applies a novel combination of technologies to develop a high-resolution geochemical data set, integrating energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) and infrared imagery analyses, to record proxies for redox conditions, bioproductivity, and clastic and carbonate dilution in millimeter-resolution profiles of 133 core slabs from the Middle and Upper Devonian Horn River shale in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin, which provides decadal-scale temporal resolution. A comparison to a more coarsely sampled data set from the same core results in substantially different interpretations of variations in bioproductivity, redox, and dilution proxies. Stratigraphic distributions of organic matter accumulation patterns (bioproductivity-control, siliciclastic/carbonate-dilution, and redox conditions-control) show that organic enrichment events were highly varied during deposition of the shale and were closely related to second- and third-order sea-level changes. High-resolution profiles indicate that bioproductivity was the predominant trigger for organic matter accumulation in a second-order highstand, particularly during deposition of third-order transgressive systems tracts. Organic matter accumulation was largely controlled by dilution from either carbonate or clastic sediments in a second-order lowstand. Bioproductivity-redox feedbacks developed on timescales of decades to centuries.
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Tracing fluid evolution in sedimentary basins with calcite geochemical, isotopic and U-Pb geochronological data: Implications for petroleum and mineral resource accumulation in the Nanpanjiang Basin, South China
Xiang Ge; Chuanbo Shen; Renjie Zhou; Peng He; Jianxin Zhao ...
Abstract: Fluid migration in sedimentary basins enable mass and energy transport and play critical roles in geochemical and geodynamical evolution of sedimentary basins. Moreover, reconstructing sedimentary basin fluid evolution from the geological record aids in constraining the evolution of associated petroleum and mineralization systems. As a relic of fluid flow activity, calcite is often a record of fluid flow and therefore can be used to characterize the fluids responsible for its precipitation. Here we study the Nanpanjiang Basin in South China where petroleum reservoirs and Carlin-type gold deposits spatially coincide. Through in situ U-Pb dating and geochemical analysis (87Sr/86Sr, δ18OVienna standard mean ocean water, δ13C Vienna Peedee belemnite, rare earth elements) of calcite, this work constrains the key times related to petroleum migration/accumulation and Carlin-type gold mineralization, defines the basin fluid evolution, and proposes a genetic model for petroleum accumulation and gold mineralization within the Nanpanjiang Basin. The U-Pb age (ca. 241.4 Ma) for the gray/black calcite related to bitumen indicates the petroleum migration/accumulation occurred during the Triassic. The U-Pb date (ca. 106−121 Ma) of the white calcite associated with the gold-bearing pyrite, realgar, and fluorite record the lower timing limit of the Carlin-type gold systems. The geochemical data suggest both calcite types are cogenetic but suffered complex evolution with the gray/black calcite precipitating under low temperatures related to the continuous basin burial and the white calcite affected by post formation alteration related to both hydrothermal and meteoric fluids. Combined with the regional tectonic history, the Early Triassic petroleum migration/accumulation and the Early Cretaceous secondary Carlin-type gold mineralization events are considered to be related to the collision between the Indo-China and South China blocks, and the subduction between the Paleo-Pacific and Eurasian plates, respectively.
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Proterozoic−Phanerozoic tectonic evolution of the Qilian Shan and Eastern Kunlun Range, northern Tibet
Chen Wu; Jie Li; Andrew V. Zuza; Peter J. Haproff; Xuanhua Chen ...
Abstract: The Proterozoic−Phanerozoic tectonic evolution of the Qilian Shan, Qaidam Basin, and Eastern Kunlun Range was key to the construction of the Asian continent, and understanding the paleogeography of these regions is critical to reconstructing the ancient oceanic domains of central Asia. This issue is particularly important regarding the paleogeography of the North China-Tarim continent and South China craton, which have experienced significant late Neoproterozoic rifting and Phanerozoic deformation. In this study, we integrated new and existing geologic field observations and geochronology across northern Tibet to examine the tectonic evolution of the Qilian-Qaidam-Kunlun continent and its relationships with the North China-Tarim continent to the north and South China craton to the south. Our results show that subduction and subsequent collision between the Tarim-North China, Qilian-Qaidam-Kunlun, and South China continents occurred in the early Neoproterozoic. Late Neoproterozoic rifting opened the North Qilian, South Qilian, and Paleo-Kunlun oceans. Opening of the South Qilian and Paleo-Kunlun oceans followed the trace of an early Neoproterozoic suture. The opening of the Paleo-Kunlun Ocean (ca. 600 Ma) occurred later than the opening of the North and South Qilian oceans (ca. 740−730 Ma). Closure of the North Qilian and South Qilian oceans occurred in the Early Silurian (ca. 440 Ma), whereas the final consumption of the Paleo-Kunlun Ocean occurred in the Devonian (ca. 360 Ma). Northward subduction of the Neo-Kunlun oceanic lithosphere initiated at ca. 270 Ma, followed by slab rollback beginning at ca. 225 Ma evidenced in the South Qilian Shan and at ca. 194 Ma evidenced in the Eastern Kunlun Range. This tectonic evolution is supported by spatial trends in the timing of magmatism and paleo-crustal thickness across the Qilian-Qaidam-Kunlun continent. Lastly, we suggest that two Greater North China and South China continents, located along the southern margin of Laurasia, were separated in the early Neoproterozoic along the future Kunlun-Qinling-Dabie suture.
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Kinematics and structural evolution of the Anziling dome-and-keel architecture in east China: Evidence of Neoarchean vertical tectonism in the North China Craton
Chen Zhao; Jian Zhang; Guochun Zhao; Changqing Yin; Guokai Chen ...
Abstract: The debate on the role of vertical versus horizontal tectonism in Archean cratons is intimately linked to the initiation of plate tectonics. The dome-and-keel architecture has been considered as a consequence of vertical tectonism. Although such a structural pattern is documented in some Mesoarchean and older cratons, such as the Kaapvaal and Pilbara cratons, whether it also occurs in Neoarchean cratons is poorly constrained. Determining the kinematics, structural evolution, and the timing of these structures is crucial in understanding how the tectonic behavior operated during the evolution of the early Earth. The North China Craton, especially its eastern part, is a Neoarchean continental block and preserves typical greenstone-granite rock assemblages. Detailed structural mapping reveals that the Anziling area (east China) is characterized by a typical dome structure without significant reworking by later deformation. The dome is in tectonic contact with a supracrustal rock assemblage that is now the dip-slip Shuangshanzi ductile shear zone. In the supracrustal rocks, compositional layers are folded into upright isoclinal folds. Meanwhile, along the shear zone, foliation varies from NNW to SW with sub-vertical dip. Mineral stretching lineations indicate a sinistral shear sense with a slightly oblique-slip component in the north, but show NWW-directed and SW-directed steep dip-slip shear in the west and south, respectively. Kinematic indicators imply that the granitic dome formed through a vertically upward movement accompanied by an uneven clockwise rotation. The supracrustal rocks sank downwards to form the regional keel structure. Structural data suggests that the Anziling area is a typical dome-and-keel structure. U-Pb zircon dating on pre-, syn-, and post-tectonic dykes indicate that the dome-and-keel structure formed at 2530−2500 Ma, and was intimately related to the emplacement of tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite granitoids. New data from this study suggest that until the late Neoarchean, the vertical tectonism was still a dominant tectonic regime that was operating in the eastern North China Craton.
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Late Triassic successive amalgamation between the South China and North China blocks: Insights from structural analysis and magnetic fabrics study of the Bikou Terrane and its adjacent area, northwestern Yangtze block, central China
Zhenhua Xue; Wei Lin; Yang Chu; Wei Wei; Zhentian Feng ...
Abstract: The Bikou Terrane, located at the conjunction of the Longmenshan fold-thrust belt and the west Qinling orogenic belt in centeral China, was involved in the Late Triassic collision between the South China and North China blocks. The Bikou Terrane has preserved crucial information on structural geometry and kinematics of Triassic tectonics, and is therefore of great importance for reconstructing the Paleo-Tethyan evolutionary history. However, multi-phase tectonic events of the Bikou Terrane are unsettled. This work presents detailed structural analysis based on both the field and laboratory works, which reveals three phases of deformation events in Bikou and its adjacent areas, including top-to-the-SW shearing related to SW-ward thrusting (DI) mainly to the north of the Bikou Terrane, top-to-the-NNW shearing related to NNW-ward thrusting (DII) in the Bikou Terrane, and strike-slip faulting (D III) locally developed in the northern Bikou Terrane. Anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility (AMS) study and related structural analysis not only support the multiphase deformation but also reveal a gradual transition from the DII-related magnetic fabrics to the D III-related magnetic fabrics in the Bikou Terrane. Integrating published geochronological data, it is constrained that DI occurred at ca. 237−225 Ma, DII occurred at ca. 224−219 Ma, and DIII possibly occurred during the Early Cretaceous. Based on regional tectonics, the DI event corresponds to the collision between the South Qinling block and the Bikou Terrane, and the D II event reflects the intracontinental amalgamation between the Bikou Terrane and the Yangtze block, which indicates a Late Triassic successive amalgamation from the North China block to the South China block. Intracontinental adjustment represented by the strike-slip (D III event) occurred after the final amalgamation between the North China and South China blocks. By applying AMS on deciphering structural geometry and multi-phase deformation, our study suggests that AMS is a useful tool for structural analysis.
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Quantifying the growth of continental crust through crustal thickness and zircon Hf-O isotopic signatures: A case study from the southern Central Asian Orogenic Belt
Yujian Wang; Dicheng Zhu; Chengfa Lin; Fangyang Hu; Jingao Liu
Abstract: Accretionary orogens function as major sites for the generation of continental crust, but the growth model of continental crust remains poorly constrained. The Central Asian Orogenic Belt, as one of the most important Phanerozoic accretionary orogens on Earth, has been the focus of debates regarding the proportion of juvenile crust present. Using published geochemical and zircon Hf-O isotopic data sets for three belts in the Eastern Tianshan terrane of the southern Central Asian Orogenic Belt, we first explore the variations in crustal thickness and isotopic composition in response to tectono‐magmatic activity over time. Steady progression to radiogenic zircon Hf isotopic signatures associated with syn‐collisional crustal thickening indicates enhanced input of mantle‐derived material, which greatly contributes to the growth of the continental crust. Using the surface areas and relative increases in crustal thickness as the proxies for magma volumes, in conjunction with the calculated mantle fraction of the mixing flux, we then are able to determine that a volume of ∼14−22% of juvenile crust formed in the southern Central Asian Orogenic Belt during the Phanerozoic. This study highlights the validity of using crustal thickness and zircon isotopic signatures of magmatic rocks to quantify the volume of juvenile crust in complex accretionary orogens. With reference to the crustal growth pattern in other accretionary orogens and the Nd-Hf isotopic record at the global scale, our work reconciles the rapid crustal growth in the accretionary orogens with its episodic generation pattern in the formation of global continental crust.
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Late Quaternary active faulting on the inherited Baoertu basement fault within the eastern Tian Shan orogenic belt: Implications for regional tectonic deformation and slip partitioning, NW China
Chuanyong Wu; Guangxue Ren; Siyu Wang; Xue Yang; Gan Chen ...
Abstract: The deformation pattern and slip partitioning related to oblique underthrusting of the Tarim Basin in the eastern Tian Shan orogenic belt are not well understood because interior deformation images are lacking. The Baoertu fault is an E-W−striking, ∼350-km-long reactivated basement structure within the eastern Tian Shan. In this study, we quantify its late Quaternary activity based on interpretations of detailed high-resolution remote sensing images and field investigations. Three field observation sites along an ∼80-km-long fault segment indicate that the Baoertu fault is characterized by sinistral thrust faulting. Based on surveying of the displaced geomorphic surfaces with an unmanned drone and dating of the late Quaternary sediments using radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) methods, we estimate a late Quaternary left-lateral, strike-slip rate of 1.87 ± 0.29 mm/yr and a N−S shortening rate of 0.26 ± 0.04 mm/yr for this fault. The lithospheric Baoertu fault acts as a decoupling zone and accommodates the left-lateral shearing caused by the oblique underthrusting of the Tarim Basin. In the eastern Tian Shan orogenic belt, the oblique convergence is partitioned into thrust faulting across the entire range and sinistral slip faulting on the high-dip basement structure within the orogen. This active faulting pattern in the eastern Tian Shan of sinistral shearing in the center and thrust faulting on both sides can be viewed as giant, crustal-scale positive flower structures.
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Sedimentary response of a structural estuary to Holocene coseismic subsidence
Laura C. Reynolds; Alexander R. Simms; Thomas K. Rockwell; Yusuke Yokoyama; Yosuke Miyairi ...
Abstract: Stratigraphic evidence for coseismic subsidence has been documented in active-margin estuaries throughout the world. Most of these studies have been conducted in subduction zone or strike-slip settings; however, the stratigraphic response to coseismic subsidence in other tectonic settings would benefit from further study. Here we show evidence of late Holocene coseismic subsidence in a structural estuary in southern California. Below the modern marsh surface, an organic-rich mud containing marsh gastropods, foraminifera, and geochemical signatures indicative of terrestrial influence (mud facies) is sharply overlain by a blue-gray sand containing intertidal and subtidal bivalves and geochemical signatures of marine influence (gray sand facies). We use well-established criteria to interpret this contact as representing an abrupt 1.3 ± 1.1 m rise in relative sea level (RSL) generated by coseismic subsidence with some contribution from sediment compaction and/or erosion. The contact dates to 1.0 ± 0.3 ka and is the only event indicative of rapid RSL rise in the 7 k.y. sedimentary record studied. Consistent with observations made in previous coseismic subsidence studies, an acceleration in tidal-flat sedimentation followed this abrupt increase in accommodation; however, the recovery of the estuary to its pre-subsidence elevations was spatially variable and required 500−900 years, which is longer than the recovery time estimated for estuaries with larger tidal ranges and wetter climates.
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LA-ICP-MS U-Pb dating and geochemical characterization of oil inclusion-bearing calcite cements: Constraints on primary oil migration in lacustrine mudstone source rocks
Ao Su; Honghan Chen; Yue-xing Feng; Jian-xin Zhao
Abstract: To date, few isotope age constraints on primary oil migration have been reported. Here we present U-Pb dating and characterization of two fracture-filling, oil inclusion-bearing calcite veins hosted in the Paleocene siliciclastic mudstone source rocks in Subei Basin, China. Deposition age of the mudstone formation was estimated to be ca. 60.2−58.0 Ma. The first vein consists of two major phases: a microcrystalline-granular (MG) calcite phase, and a blocky calcite phase, each showing distinctive petrographic features, rare earth element patterns, and carbon and oxygen isotope compositions. The early MG phase resulted from local mobilization of host carbonates, likely associated with disequilibrium compaction over-pressuring or tectonic extension, whereas the late-filling blocky calcite phase was derived from overpressured oil-bearing fluids with enhanced fluid-rock interactions. Vein texture and fluorescence characteristics reveal at least two oil expulsion events, the former represented by multiple bitumen veinlets postdating the MG calcite generation, and the latter marked by blue-fluorescing primary oil inclusions synchronous with the blocky calcite cementation. The MG calcite yields a laser ablation−inductively coupled plasma−mass spectrometry U-Pb age of 55.6 ± 1.4 Ma, constraining the earliest timing of the early oil migration event. The blocky calcite gives a younger U-Pb age of 47.8 ± 2.3 Ma, analytically indistinguishable from the U-Pb age of 46.5 ± 1.7 Ma yielded by the second calcite vein. These two ages define the time of the late oil migration event, agreeing well with the age estimate of 49.7−45.2 Ma inferred from fluid-inclusion homogenization temperature and published burial models. Thermodynamic modeling shows that the oil inclusions were trapped at ∼27.0−40.9 MPa, exceeding corresponding hydrostatic pressures (23.1−26.7 MPa), confirming mild-moderate overpressure created by oil generation-expulsion. This integrated study combining carbonate U-Pb dating and fluid-inclusion characterization provides a new approach for reconstructing pressure-temperature-composition-time points in petroleum systems.
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Quantitative analysis of hillshed geomorphology and critical zone function: Raising the hillshed to watershed status
Zachary S. Brecheisen; Daniel D. Richter; Seulgi Moon; Patrick N. Halpin
Abstract: Landscapes are frequently delineated by nested watersheds and river networks ranked via stream orders. Landscapes have only recently been delineated by their interfluves and ridge networks, and ordered based on their ridge connectivity. There are, however, few studies that have quantitatively investigated the connections between interfluve networks and landscape morphology and environmental processes. Here, we ordered hillsheds using methods complementary to traditional watersheds, via a hierarchical ordering of interfluves, and we defined hillsheds to be landscape surfaces from which soil is shed by soil creep or any type of hillslope transport. With this approach, we demonstrated that hillsheds are most useful for analyses of landscape structure and processes. We ordered interfluve networks at the Calhoun Critical Zone Observatory (CZO), a North American Piedmont landscape, and demonstrated how interfluve networks and associated hillsheds are related to landscape geomorphology and processes of land management and land-use history, accelerated agricultural gully erosion, and bedrock weathering depth (i.e., regolith depth). Interfluve networks were ordered with an approach directly analogous to that first proposed for ordering streams and rivers by Robert Horton in the GSA Bulletin in 1945. At the Calhoun CZO, low-order hillsheds are numerous and dominate most of the observatory’s ∼190 km2 area. Low-order hillsheds are relatively narrow with small individual areas, they have relatively steep slopes with high curvature, and they are relatively low in elevation. In contrast, high-order hillsheds are few, large in individual area, and relatively level at high elevation. Cultivation was historically abandoned by farmers on severely eroding low-order hillsheds, and in fact agriculture continues today only on high-order hillsheds. Low-order hillsheds have an order of magnitude greater intensity of gullying across the Calhoun CZO landscape than high-order hillsheds. In addition, although modeled regolith depth appears to be similar across hillshed orders on average, both maximum modeled regolith depth and spatial depth variability decrease as hillshed order increases. Land management, geomorphology, pedology, and studies of land-use change can benefit from this new approach pairing landscape structure and analyses.
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First structural observation around the hinge of the Mongolian Orocline (Central Asia): Implications for the geodynamics of oroclinal bending and the evolution of the Mongol-Okhotsk Ocean
Pengfei Li; Min Sun; Tserendash Narantsetseg; Fred Jourdan; Wanwan Hu ...
Abstract: To understand the origin of curved subduction zones has been one of the major challenges in plate tectonics. The Mongol-Okhotsk Orogen in Central Asia is characterized by the development of a U-shaped oroclinal structure that was accompanied by the continuous subduction of the Mongol-Okhotsk oceanic plate. Therefore, it provides a natural laboratory to understand why and how a subduction system became tightly curved. In this study, we provide the first structural observation around the hinge of the Mongolian Orocline (the Zag zone in Central Mongolia), with an aim to constrain the oroclinal geometry and to link hinge zone structures with the origin of the orocline. Our results show that rocks in the Zag zone are characterized by the occurrence of a penetrative foliation that is commonly subparallel to bedding. Both bedding and dominant fabric in the Zag zone are steeply dipping, and their strike orientations in a map view follow a simple curve around the hinge of the Mongolian Orocline, thus providing the first structural constraint for 3D geometry of the orocline. A secondary penetrative fabric parallel to the axial plane of the orocline was not observed, indicating a low degree of orogen-parallel shortening during oroclinal bending. Combining with available geological and geophysical data, we conclude that the Mongolian Orocline was developed in a period of Permian to Jurassic, and its origin was linked to the subduction of the Mongol-Okhotsk oceanic slab. We consider that the low-strain oroclinal bending likely resulted from the along-strike variation in trench retreat, which was either triggered by the negative buoyancy of the Mongol-Okhotsk oceanic slab, or driven by the relative rotation of the Siberian and North China cratons. Our results shed a light on 3D geometry and geodynamic mechanisms of large-scale oroclinal bending in an accretionary orogen.
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