Abstract

The Tarim Basin is the major source of aeolian dust in the northern hemisphere. Glacial activity in the mountains, transportation by rivers and homogenization by wind are believed to be responsible for dust production within the basin. However, the major source(s) and homogenization process(es) are not clear. Moreover, provenance studies on fine fractions have never been conducted. Here, we measured electron spin resonance (ESR) signal intensity and the crystallinity index of quartz in fine (< 16 μm) and coarse (> 64 μm) fractions of river sediments, dry lake sediments and mountain loess to examine the process(es) that produce aeolian dust. The result suggests that the coarse fraction of the river sediment was derived from the bedrock in the drainage area. The ESR signal intensity and crystallinity index of the fine fraction of river sediments from the Tian Shan Mountains and mountainous rivers in the westernmost Kunlun and Pamir mountains are also similar to the coarse fraction, suggesting the same sources. However, the ESR signal intensity and crystallinity index of the fine fraction of river sediments from the Kunlun Mountains are different from the coarse fraction and converge towards values close to the average for the fine fraction of river sediments and mountain loess. Convergence of the ESR and crystallinity index values for the fine fraction of river sediments from the Kunlun Mountains can be explained by contamination of the river sediments by aeolian dust. The convergent values resulted from the homogenization of fine detrital material by repeated recycling within the basin.

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