Cenozoic sediments in the southern Tarim Basin: implications for the uplift of northern Tibet and evolution of the Taklimakan Desert
Hongbo Zheng, Ryuji Tada, Juntao Jia, Colin Lawrence, Ke Wang, 2010. "Cenozoic sediments in the southern Tarim Basin: implications for the uplift of northern Tibet and evolution of the Taklimakan Desert", Monsoon Evolution and Tectonic–Climate Linkage in Asia, P. D. Clift, R. Tada, H. Zheng
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Cenozoic sedimentary successions along the southern margin of the Tarim Basin, western China, reach up to 10 km in thickness. The two studied sections, the Yecheng and Aertashi, comprise c. 4.5 km and c. 7.0 km of clastic sedimentary rocks respectively. The base of the Yecheng section has been dated palaeomagnetically to be about 8 Ma. Age control of the Aertashi section is based on 87Sr/86Sr measurements (for the basal marine bed), together with magnetostratigraphy and regional stratigraphic correlation. The lower part of each section is mainly composed of fine-grained mudstone and fine sandstone, which makes up the Wuqian Group (Miocene). The palaeoenvironment is low-energy, meandering and braided streams. The middle part is composed of red mudstone, sandstone with thin conglomerate beds, which make up the Artux Formation (Pliocene). The palaeoenvironment is a distal- to mid-fan environment. The uppermost part of the section, known as the Xiyu Formation (Plio-Pleistocene), consists of cobble and boulder conglomerate intercalated with massive siltstone lenses, which formed as proximal alluvial fan and aeolian deposits. Neogene red beds passing upward into upward-coarsening conglomerate and debris-flow deposits record the change in palaeoslope related to uplift of the northern margin of Tibetan Plateau.
The formation of aeolian dunes at c. 8 Ma, and underlying playa lake deposits (as at Aertashi), may indicate an arid, enclosed basin in the southern Tarim after this time. Sedimentological characteristics, together with grain size distribution and geochemistry of siltstone bands in the Xiyu and Artux Formations, point to an aeolian origin. This indicates that the Taklimakan Desert and the regional climate regime may have been fully developed by the Early Pliocene. The onset of aeolian sedimentation in the southern Tarim Basin coincided with uplift of the northern Tibetan Plateau, as inferred from the lithofacies change. Tibetan Plateau uplift resulted in the shift of sedimentary environments northwards into the southern Tarim Basin, and could well have triggered the onset of full aridity in the Taklimakan region as a whole.