The Proterozoic−Phanerozoic tectonic evolution of the Qilian Shan, Qaidam Basin, and Eastern Kunlun Range was key to the construction of the Asian continent, and understanding the paleogeography of these regions is critical to reconstructing the ancient oceanic domains of central Asia. This issue is particularly important regarding the paleogeography of the North China-Tarim continent and South China craton, which have experienced significant late Neoproterozoic rifting and Phanerozoic deformation. In this study, we integrated new and existing geologic field observations and geochronology across northern Tibet to examine the tectonic evolution of the Qilian-Qaidam-Kunlun continent and its relationships with the North China-Tarim continent to the north and South China craton to the south. Our results show that subduction and subsequent collision between the Tarim-North China, Qilian-Qaidam-Kunlun, and South China continents occurred in the early Neoproterozoic. Late Neoproterozoic rifting opened the North Qilian, South Qilian, and Paleo-Kunlun oceans. Opening of the South Qilian and Paleo-Kunlun oceans followed the trace of an early Neoproterozoic suture. The opening of the Paleo-Kunlun Ocean (ca. 600 Ma) occurred later than the opening of the North and South Qilian oceans (ca. 740−730 Ma). Closure of the North Qilian and South Qilian oceans occurred in the Early Silurian (ca. 440 Ma), whereas the final consumption of the Paleo-Kunlun Ocean occurred in the Devonian (ca. 360 Ma). Northward subduction of the Neo-Kunlun oceanic lithosphere initiated at ca. 270 Ma, followed by slab rollback beginning at ca. 225 Ma evidenced in the South Qilian Shan and at ca. 194 Ma evidenced in the Eastern Kunlun Range. This tectonic evolution is supported by spatial trends in the timing of magmatism and paleo-crustal thickness across the Qilian-Qaidam-Kunlun continent. Lastly, we suggest that two Greater North China and South China continents, located along the southern margin of Laurasia, were separated in the early Neoproterozoic along the future Kunlun-Qinling-Dabie suture.
Proterozoic−Phanerozoic tectonic evolution of the Qilian Shan and Eastern Kunlun Range, northern Tibet
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Chen Wu, Jie Li, Andrew V. Zuza, Peter J. Haproff, Xuanhua Chen, Lin Ding; Proterozoic−Phanerozoic tectonic evolution of the Qilian Shan and Eastern Kunlun Range, northern Tibet. GSA Bulletin 2021; doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/B36306.1
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