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Three distinct analytical approaches are embraced in mineral–chemical stratigraphy: mineralogy, whole-rock geochemistry and single-grain geochemical analysis. Mineralogical studies identify and quantify the clastic components of sandstone, even though any clast category may be geochemically diverse. Whole-rock geochemical studies (sometimes referred to as chemostratigraphy), by contrast, quantify the abundance of major and trace elements in sandstone, but provide no information on the distribution and location of the elements in minerals. These approaches are linked by single-grain geochemical analysis, which enables further characterization and subdivision of individual mineralogical components, and identifies sites where specific major and trace elements reside.

In this paper, we consider the relationships between minerals, mineral chemistry and whole-rock composition, before exploring the value of mineral–chemical stratigraphy for lithostratigraphic correlation and evaluation of sediment provenance, using published examples from the North Sea region, where the great majority of such studies have been undertaken. We conclude by discussing the important role that alluvial basins play in controlling mineral–chemical signatures.

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