The late Paleozoic to Triassic was an important interval for the East Kunlun−Qaidam area, northern Tibet, as it witnessed prolonged subduction of the South Kunlun Ocean, a major branch of the Paleo-Tethys Ocean whose closure led to the formation of Pangea. However, the geologic history of this stage is poorly constrained due to the paucity of tectonothermal signatures preserved during a magmatic lull. This article presents a set of new provenance data incorporating stratigraphic correlation, sandstone petrology, and zircon U−Pb dating to depict changes in provenance that record multiple stages of topographic and tectonic transition in the East Kunlun−Qaidam area over time in response to the evolution of the South Kunlun Ocean. Devonian intra-arc rifting is recorded by bimodal volcanism and rapid alluvial-lacustrine sedimentation in the North Qaidam Ultra High/High Pressure Belt, whose sources include the Olongbuluke Terrane and southern North Qaidam Ultra High/High Pressure Belt. Southward transgression submerged the East Kunlun−Qaidam area during the Carboniferous prior to the rapid uplift of the Kunlun arc, which changed the provenance during the Early Permian. This shift in provenance for the western Olongbuluke Terrane and thick carbonate deposition throughout the North Qaidam Ultra High/High Pressure Belt in the late Early Carboniferous indicate that the North Qaidam Ultra High/High Pressure Belt should have been inundated, terminating an ∼95 m.y. erosion history. The closure of the South Kunlun Ocean in the late Triassic generated a retroarc foreland along the Zongwulong Tectonic Belt, which is represented by the development of a deep-water, northward-tapering flysch deposystem that was supplied by the widely elevated Kunlun−Qaidam−Olongbuluke Terrane highland. This new scenario allows us to evaluate current models concerning the assembly of northern Tibet and the tectonic evolution of the Paleo-Tethys Ocean.

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