This study illustrates the clay mineralogy and sedimentary geochemistry of the Red River and its major tributaries and distributaries in northern Vietnam and shows how these methods can be used to unravel grain size, provenance, hydraulic-sorting, and chemical weathering effects. All sand samples are SiO2-rich and consequently depleted in most chemical elements (but Sn and Pb) relative to the upper continental crust (UCC). The order of element mobility indicated by αAlE values, which estimate the degree of depletion in mobile element E relative to the UCC standard, is Ca ≥ Na > Sr > Mg > Ba ≥ K ≥ Rb. In mud fractions, SiO2 decreases, and other elements consequently increase. The grain size-dependent intrasample chemical variability of fluvial sediments reflects the grain size distribution of detrital minerals, which is strictly controlled in turn by the settling-equivalence principle. The 87Sr/86Sr ratio in Red River sands varies widely between 0.716 and 0.748, and εNd ranges from −8.5 to −13.8. The negative εNd values and high 87Sr/86Sr ratios point at a significant contribution from Precambrian crystalline basement, directly or through recycling of Triassic siliciclastic strata. Clay-mineral assemblages, dominated by illite and smectite with subordinate kaolinite and minor chlorite, suggest largely physical erosion in the upper catchment and stronger weathering in the monsoon-drenched lower catchment. Extremely intense weathering is demonstrated by a Quaternary soil sample from the Red River valley in northernmost Vietnam, which is a pure quartzose sand yielding a tourmaline-dominated heavy-mineral suite and a kaolinite-dominated clay-mineral assemblage. In the humid landscapes of northern Vietnam, no detrital mineral, excepting quartz, muscovite, tourmaline, prismatic sillimanite, anatase, and zircon, can resist even shallow early pedogenesis.

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