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ABSTRACT

High-resolution sand petrography and heavy mineral analyses help to frame U-Pb age and Hf isotope data from zircon grains, integrated in turn with geochemical data from detrital apatite, rutile, garnet, and monazite, and with Raman spectroscopy data from detrital amphibole, pyroxene, and epidote-group minerals. This multitechnique approach, including stream-profile analysis, was used to characterize components of the sediment flux and define erosion patterns across the Lhasa block, a complex continental arc terrane caught in the Himalayan collision. Litho-feldspatho-quartzose detrital modes and hornblende-dominated heavy mineral assemblages suggest that the majority (four fifths) of the sand bed load in the Lhasa River catchment is derived from erosion of granitoid batholiths. Gravel composition, however, is markedly different and dominated by volcanic pebbles in the trunk river, as in all of its four major tributaries, testifying to an order-of-magnitude difference in apparent erosion rates between granitoid batholiths and arc lavas. This marked contrast, partly explained by wide exposures of granitoid rocks in the rugged Nyainqêntanglha Range characterized by active incision, is notably amplified by the high sand-generation potential of granitoid rocks, which, in contrast to dense joint blocks of andesitic lavas, tend to disintegrate to sandy grus upon weathering. Sedimentary strata, making up a good half of exposed rocks, are also underrepresented in sand bed load, suggesting selective mechanical breakdown of nondurable shale/slate grains. This exposes a serious bias affecting estimates based on sand only, and it highlights the necessity for taking into account the entire size spectrum from mud to gravel in order to improve the accuracy of sediment budgets. Provenance analysis should involve multiple methods applied to multiple minerals, rather than be based solely on a single rare mineral, even if it is exceptionally laden with potential provenance information, such as zircon.

We here divide arc-derived suites into those eroded from undissected arcs, in which nearly continuous volcanic cover is present, and those from dissected arcs, in which cogenetic plutons are widely exposed from erosional unroofing.

—Dickinson and Suczek (1979, p. 2175)

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