Ages of Jurassic volcano-sedimentary strata in the Yanshan Fold-and-Thrust Belt and their implications for the coal-bearing strata of northern China

Jurassic coal-bearing strata are widely distributed in the North China Craton (NCC) and other areas of northern China. These coal-bearing strata were previously considered to be Early–Middle Jurassic in age based on plant fossils, particularly the fossil assemblage of ConiopterisPhoenicopsis. Since coal-bearing strata are interbedded with volcanic units in the basins of the Yanshan Fold-and-Thrust Belt (YFTB), northern NCC, isotopic dating of the volcanic units can therefore provide age constraints on the coal-bearing strata and the ConiopterisPhoenicopsis assemblage. In this paper, we performed a systematic geological survey and present the results of zircon U–Pb dating of the volcanic units and a pluton in typical basins of the YFTB. These data, combined with the results of previous studies, indicate that the ages of the Nandaling/Xinglonggou, Haifanggou, Jiulongshan, and Tiaojishan/Lanqi formations are 180–168, 169–161, 161–157, and 161–153 Ma, respectively. The ages of the interbedded coal-bearing Yaopo and Beipiao formations are constrained to be 169–161 and 177–169 Ma, respectively. Our results demonstrate that both the coal-bearing strata and the ConiopterisPhoenicopsis assemblage are Middle Jurassic in age, which is younger than that previously considered. This fossil assemblage plays a critical role in age constraints on the Jurassic coal-bearing strata. The refinement of its age permits a more precise dating of the coal-bearing strata, especially in northwestern China, where datable interbedded volcanic units are lacking.

Stratigraphical framework for the Jurassic strata of Yanshan region is established.

The fossil assemblage of ConiopterisPhoenicopsis occurred in Middle Jurassic.

The Jurassic coal-bearing strata in northern China are mainly Middle Jurassic.

Stratigraphical framework for the Jurassic strata of Yanshan region is established.

The fossil assemblage of ConiopterisPhoenicopsis occurred in Middle Jurassic.

The Jurassic coal-bearing strata in northern China are mainly Middle Jurassic.