Petrography and geochemistry of the Late Cretaceous redbeds in the Gan-Hang Belt, southeast China: implications for provenance, source weathering, and tectonic setting

<p>The distinct basin and range tectonics in southeast China were generated in a crustal extension setting during the late Mesozoic. Compared with the adjacent granitoids of the ranges, the redbeds of the basins have not been well characterized. In this article, provenance, source weathering, and tectonic setting of the redbeds are investigated by petrographic and geochemical studies of sandstone samples from the Late Cretaceous Guifeng Group of the Yongchong Basin in the Gan-Hang Belt, southeast China. Detrital grains are commonly subangular to subrounded, poorly sorted, and are rich in lithic fragments. The variable pre-metasomatic Chemical Index of Alternation (CIA* = 62–85), Chemical Index of Weathering (CIW = 70.90–98.76, avg. 85.62), Plagioclase Index of Alteration (PIA = 60.23–98.35, avg. 79.91), and high Index of Compositional Variability (ICV = 0.67–3.08, avg. 1.40) values collectively suggest an overall intermediate degree of chemical weathering and intense physical erosion of the source rocks, but a relatively decreased degree of chemical weathering during the late stage (Lianhe Formation) of the Guifeng Group is observed. Several chemical ratios (e.g. Al<sub>2</sub>O<sub>3</sub>/TiO<sub>2</sub>, La/Th, Cr/Th, Th/Sc, Zr/Sc) also suggest a dominant felsic source nature, significant first-cycle sediment supply, and low sedimentary recycling. Such features are consistent with active extension tectonic setting. Sandstone framework models and geochemical characteristics suggest the provenance is related to passive margin (PM), active continental margin (ACM), and continental island arc (CIA) tectonic settings. Sediment derivation from the Neoproterozoic metamorphic rocks and Silurian–Devonian granites indicates a PM provenance, whereas sediments derived from the Early Cretaceous volcanic-intrusive complexes suggest an ACM and CIA nature. Therefore, the Late Cretaceous redbeds were deposited in a dustpan-like half-graben under the back-arc extension regime when southeast China was possibly influenced by northwestward subduction of the Palaeo-Pacific plate beneath East Asia.</p>