Late Miocene provenance evolution at the head of Central Canyon in the Qiongdongnan Basin, Northern South China Sea

Late Miocene provenance evolution at the head of Central Canyon in the Qiongdongnan Basin, Northern South China Sea

Marine and Petroleum Geology 110 (2019) 787–796 Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Marine and Petroleum Geology journal homepage: www.elsevie...

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Marine and Petroleum Geology 110 (2019) 787–796

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Marine and Petroleum Geology journal homepage:

Research paper

Late Miocene provenance evolution at the head of Central Canyon in the Qiongdongnan Basin, Northern South China Sea


Ming Sua,b,c, Chihua Wua,b,*, Hui Chend, Dengfeng Lia,b, Tao Jiangd, Xinong Xied, Haijing Jiaoa,b, Zhenfeng Wange, Xiaoming Suna,b,c,** a

School of Marine Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, Zhuhai, Guangdong, 519082, China Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Marine Resources and Coastal Engineering, Guangzhou, Guangdong, 510006, China c Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), Zhuhai, 519000, China d College of Marine Science and Technology, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan, Hubei, 430074, China e China National Offshore Oil Zhanjiang Ltd. Corporation, Zhanjiang, Guangdong, 524057, China b



Keywords: Provenance Detrital zircon Central canyon Qiongdongnan basin South China Sea

The head of the Central Canyon system in the Qiongdongnan Basin has been suggested as the key region for understanding the deposition and transportation processes in the northern South China Sea but the sedimentary provenance of this region remains uncertain. In this study, U–Pb geochronology of detrital zircon was used to constrain the source terranes, understand the sedimentary provenance, and reconstruct the provenance evolution in the late Miocene. Measured age populations from the upper Miocene sediments indicate that the sediments in the Central Canyon were mainly derived from the sources of the Red River and central Vietnam, whereas the nearby Hainan Island was not the major source terrane. The southwestern Yangtze Block was likely the primary source for the head of the Central Canyon through the Red River system and played an important role in contributing detritus to the northwestern South China Sea during the late Miocene. The results of this study also showed slight provenance variations in the vertical stratigraphic successions of the upper Miocene, suggesting a relatively stable and continuous detritus supply from the Red River at 10.5–8.2 Ma. In addition, the provenance study is capable to provide important insights in reservoir distribution and quality evaluation in future exploration and production.

1. Introduction

submarine canyons due to their academic and economic significance (Mullenbach et al., 2004; Popescu et al., 2004; Canals et al., 2006; Xu et al., 2013; Symons et al., 2017). Large submarine canyons are the primary targets for deep-water hydrocarbon exploration (Wang et al., 2011). Many studies in deepwater areas have demonstrated that the infillings of submarine canyons, especially the sand-rich turbidites, could be the clastic reservoirs for hydrocarbon accumulations (Clark and Pickering, 1996; Mayall et al., 2006; Huang et al., 2016; Critelli, 2018). As one of the three major large-scale axial submarine canyon systems, the Central Canyon located in the Qiongdongnan Basin (QDNB) of the northern South China Sea (SCS) (Fig. 1) is closely associated with hydrocarbon reservoirs in this region (Huang et al., 2016). Increased attention has focused on the western head part of the Central Canyon because it is a key region for investigating the transport pathways and understanding the source-tosink relations between the potential source terranes and the submarine

As an important component of a deep-water depositional system, submarine canyons act as conduits that govern sediment transport and deposition from the continental margin to deep-sea basins (Babonneau et al., 2002; Canals et al., 2006; Palanques et al., 2006; Covault et al., 2011). Submarine canyons generally exhibit distinct seabed geomorphologies and serve as channels for the flow of turbidity currents across the seafloor (Biscara et al., 2013; Covault et al., 2014; Normandeau et al., 2015). The linked sediment-chemical transport by submarine canyons affects the sea-floor geomorphology and the stratigraphic architecture of marginal seas and provides important geological records of relative sea level variation, climate change, and tectonic activity of the surface (Clift and Gaedicke, 2002; Covault and Graham, 2010; Gong et al., 2011; Covault et al., 2014; Su et al., 2014b; Perri et al., 2015). In the last decades, considerable attention has focused on


Corresponding author. School of Marine Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, Zhuhai Guangdong, 519082, China. Corresponding author. School of Marine Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, Zhuhai Guangdong, 519082, China. E-mail addresses: [email protected] (C. Wu), [email protected] (X. Sun).

** Received 21 May 2019; Received in revised form 31 July 2019; Accepted 31 July 2019 Available online 06 August 2019 0264-8172/ © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Fig. 1. Maps showing (a) the geology of potential source terranes surrounding the northern South China Sea, (b) simplified tectonic map of East Asia, and (c) the Central Canyon and drilling location in the Qiongdongnan Basin. The figure was modified after Xie et al. (2016) and Yan et al. (2018).

study using detrital zircon data was conducted by Chen et al. (2015), the number of analyzed zircon grains was insufficient for providing an accurate provenance evolution of the stratigraphic unit (Vermeesch, 2004). Detrital zircon can provide a fingerprint for the identification and the location of source terranes due to the stability of zircons in terms of weathering and diagenetic regimes (Fedo et al., 2003). U–Pb dating of detrital zircons extracted from marine sediments has been proven a useful tool for provenance studies in the northern SCS (Wang et al., 2014, 2018a; Cao et al., 2015; Chen et al., 2015; Li et al., 2017; Shao et al., 2016). The objective of this study was to document the U–Pb ages of detrital zircons from marine core samples using laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) to investigate the sedimentary provenance, understand the contribution of the sources, and decipher the provenance evolution in the late Miocene.

canyon. Despite the apparent significance, it remains unclear where these sediments were initially derived from and how have they changed during their development. Provenance studies of detrital sediments have proven especially useful for discriminating the source terrane and identifying the sediment transport pathway (Arribas et al., 2000; Critelli et al., 2003, 2017; Critelli, 2018); these studies are of practical importance as an exploration tool in evaluating the reservoir quality and confirming the reservoir presence (Haughton et al., 1991; Rossi et al., 2002; Tsikouras et al., 2011). Most studies on the provenance of clastic sediments in the Central Canyon have traditionally relied upon petrographic and seismic methods (Liu et al., 2015; Shang et al., 2015; Wang et al., 2011). These studies collectively suggest that the sediments in this region were principally derived from the sources of the Hainan Uplift and the Indochina, Yangtze, and Cathaysia blocks (Yao et al., 2008; Cao et al., 2015; Chen et al., 2015; Zhao et al., 2015b; Li et al., 2017). The late Miocene (ca. 10.5 Ma) has been identified as the initial time of the canyon (Zhao et al., 2015b); however, observations to provide an accurate provenance of the late Miocene sediments in the western head part of the Central Canyon are still lacking. Although a provenance

2. Geological setting The QDNB is a Cenozoic rift basin located on the northern margin of the SCS continental shelf (Fig. 1); it was formed by rifting of the 788

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Fig. 2. Stratigraphic framework of the Miocene, Pliocene, and Pleistocene in the Qiongdongnan Basin.

importance of this canyon for deep-water petroleum exploration (Li et al., 2011; Wang et al., 2016). The head of the Central Canyon is located at the western margin of the QDNB, and it is a key region for understanding where the sediments were originally derived from and how they were transported to the deep sea through the conduit.

continental margin caused by the seafloor spreading of the SCS (Kido et al., 2001; Barckhausen et al., 2014). It covers an area of approximately 4.5 × 104 km2 with the long axis oriented from SW to NE and is bordered by the Yinggehai Basin (YGHB) and Pearl River Mouth Basin (PRMB) on the west and east, respectively (Fig. 1). The basin can be divided into five first-order tectonic units, namely, the Northern Depression, Central Uplift, Central Depression, Southern Uplift, and Southern Depression belts, which can be further segmented into more than 20 secondary tectonic units. The QDNB was filled with thick Paleogene to Quaternary sediments and the basement consists mainly of Paleozoic-Mesozoic igneous and metamorphic rocks (Gong and Li, 1997). The Cenozoic evolution of the QDNB contains syn-rift and postrift periods, which were identified by an angular unconformity corresponding to the T60 seismic reflection (Fig. 2). The sedimentary accumulation in the QDNB and adjacent YGHB is attributed to the Red River source due to regional erosion resulting from the uplift of the Tibetan Plateau and the associated East Asia monsoon (Clift and Sun, 2006; Hoang et al., 2010; Zhao et al., 2015b; Wang et al., 2018a), and also under the influences of the sources from nearby Hainan and Central Vietnam (Yan et al., 2011; Wang et al., 2014). Large-scale submarine fans dating to the upper Miocene to Pliocene are widely distributed in the YGHB and QDNB (Wang et al., 2011; Li et al., 2013). The present Central Canyon located in the QDNB is a large axial submarine system with an approximate length of 570 km and width of 9–30 km; it lies parallel to the shelf break in the northwestern margin of the SCS and has a NE-NEE orientation (Gong et al., 2011). The detailed geomorphological features and formation mechanism of the Central Canyon have been described in several previous publications (Gong et al., 2011; Su et al., 2014a, 2014b; Li et al., 2017). The initiation of the Central Canyon occurred in the late Miocene (ca. 10.5 Ma) (Zhao et al., 2015b) and drilling results demonstrated the

3. Sampling and analytical method Three gray fine-to very fine-grained sandstones (Y35-1, Y35-2, and Y35-3) of the upper Miocene Huangliu Formation were collected from the drilling core in the western head part of the Central Canyon in the QDNB (Fig. 1C). Y35-1 was collected in the upper stratum from the samples QDN-1, 2, and 3 reported by Chen et al. (2015), whereas Y35-2 and Y35-3 were collected from areas located below these samples (Fig. 2). Our samples in conjunction with the samples reported by Chen et al. (2015) provide a systematic and continued provenance record for the location at the head of the Central Canyon during the late Miocene. The sandstones collected in this study consisted mainly of quartz, plagioclase, and mica with minor proportions of amphibole, chlorite, zircon, and rock fragments. The samples exhibited a grain-supported structure and medium-fine porosity with mid-poor sorting and subprismatic roundness. The detrital zircon grains were separated using standard heavy-liquid techniques and were selected randomly for the analysis. The zircons were imaged using cathodoluminescence (CL) with a scanning electron microscope to characterize their internal structures. Approximately 500 zircons were randomly selected under a binocular microscope, mounted on double-sided adhesive tape, and cast in epoxy resin in a 1-cm diameter mount. The mount was polished to expose the center of the zircons. Diluted HNO3 and pure ethanol were used to clean the surface of the grain mount before analysis to avoid Pb 789

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contamination. The U–Pb zircon ages of the samples were determined by LA-ICP-MS at the State Key Laboratory of Geological Processes and Mineral Resources at China University of Geosciences in Wuhan. U–Pb dating was conducted using an Agilent 7500a ICP-MS coupled with a GeoLas 2005 193 nm laser ablation system. Helium and argon were used as the carrier gas and make-up gas, respectively. Each analysis included a background acquisition of approximately 30 s followed by 50 s of data acquisition for each sample. Zircon 91500 as an external standard was tested twice every five analysis steps. The raw data and U–Pb results were processed using ICPMSDataCal (Liu et al., 2008b). Our measurements of GJ-1 yielded a weighted average 206Pb/238U age of 598.6 ± 3.2 Ma (2σ, n = 25), which is in agreement with the reference age of 599.8 ± 1.7 Ma (2σ) within a margin of error (Jackson et al., 2004). The U–Pb ages were rejected if the difference exceeded 10%. The 206U/238Pb ages and 207Pb/206Pb ages were used for ages younger and older than 1000 Ma, respectively. Fig. 4. Plot of Th/U ratios versus U–Pb ages of detrital zircons from the Huangliu Formation in the Qiongdongnan Basin. The origins of zircon were classified on the basis of the Th/U ratios according to Wu and Zheng (2004).

4. Results The CL images of the representative zircons and the spot ages are shown in Fig. 3. A total of 515 zircon analyses were undertaken by LAICP-MS, including the rims and cores of the grains that were extracted from the lower Huangliu Formation. The majority of zircon grains exhibited oscillatory growth zoning in the CL images (Fig. 3) and had relative high Th/U ratios (Fig. 4), indicating that most of the analyzed zircons were of igneous origin (Wu and Zheng, 2004). Some grains showed no oscillatory growth zoning (Fig. 3) and low Th/U values of less than 0.1 (Fig. 4), suggesting that they are of metamorphic origin. The kernel density estimation (KDE) diagrams are shown in Fig. 5 and additional details are presented in Appendix A. Sample Y35-1 was collected from the lower Huangliu Formation. The zircons in this sample were oval to prismatic shaped with mostly rounded corners (Fig. 3), which may imply a long transport time or recycling of deposition; 172 zircon grains were analyzed in this study

and 157 concordant ages were obtained for the sample. The measured Pb/238U (< 1000 Ma) and 207Pb/206Pb (> 1000 Ma) ages ranged from 3339 to 25 Ma. The KDE plot shows five major age peaks at ca. 144, 242, 431, 743, and 946 Ma and three subordinate peaks or intervals at ca. 619, 1800–2100, and 2300–2600 Ma (Fig. 5A). Sample Y35-2 was collected from the lower Huangliu Formation below the location of sample Y35-1. The zircons in the sample were generally euhedral with partially rounded corners (Fig. 3); 175 zircon grains were analyzed, of which 157 were concordant. The sample yielded a range of U–Pb age spanning from the Archean to Cenozoic (2736–26 Ma) with two major age peaks at ca. 246 and 428 Ma and five minor peaks at ca. 33, 155, 730, 931, and 1842 Ma (Fig. 5C). Sample Y35-3 was collected from the lower Huangliu Formation below the location of sample Y35-2. The zircon grain were colorless to 206

Fig. 3. CL images of representative zircons analyzed with LA-ICP-MS to determine the U–Pb ages. The red circles have a diameter of 32 μm. (For interpretation of the references to color in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the Web version of this article.) 790

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Fig. 5. Kernel density estimation plots of the detrital zircons from the Huangliu Formation in the western head of the Central Canyon in the Qiongdongnan Basin.

provenance identification, the zircon U–Pb ages from both potential source terranes and their major drainage systems were summarized, which can represent the total age compositions of each potential source and provide a relatively robust characterization for them. The Yangtze and Cathaysia blocks, which are separated by the Jiangnan orogenic belt, constitute the South China Block (Fig. 1). Although both the Yangtze and Cathaysia blocks are characterized by widespread Archean to Cenozoic sedimentary and igneous rocks, they generally exhibit different tectonic evolutionary histories (Liu et al., 2008a; Yao et al., 2011; Li et al., 2012; Wang et al., 2018b). These two blocks exhibit a similar age distribution as other potential source terranes (Fig. 6) and a relatively complex age structure that is manifested by the age populations related to the tectonic-thermal events in South China (Yu et al., 2010; Li et al., 2014; Zhao et al., 2015a). Notwithstanding, the Yangtze Block is characterized by the Cenozoic (35 Ma), Permian (262 Ma), and Neoproterozoic (864 Ma) peaks, whereas the Cathaysia Block is characterized by the Mesozoic (133 Ma), Neoproterozoic (967 Ma), Mesoproterozoic (1437 Ma), and Paleoproterozoic (1873 Ma) populations; these results can be exploited to distinguish the sedimentary provenance of these two source terranes. Hainan Island is composed mainly of various igneous rocks, which account for half of the total area (Fig. 1A). Cretaceous I-type granites with U–Pb ages of 95–105 Ma have been reported in Hainan Island (Yan et al., 2017). Permian to Triassic granitic rocks are widely developed in the island and have yielded zircon U–Pb ages of 220–280 Ma (Xie et al., 2005; Li et al., 2006; Yan et al., 2017). Mesoproterozoic volcanic rocks related to the “Jinning Movement” in South China have been dated to

light yellow with a wide range of prismatic to oval-shaped crystals, some of which showed sub-rounded to rounded corners (Fig. 3). Of the 170 analyses conducted on 170 zircons for this sample, 153 analyses were concordant within the error. The measured 206Pb/238U (< 1000 Ma) and 207Pb/206Pb (> 1000 Ma) ages ranged from 2785 to 26 Ma. There were three major age peaks at ca. 152, 251, and 443 Ma and a number of subordinate age peaks at ca. 92, 982, and 2456 Ma (Fig. 5D).

5. Discussion 5.1. Geochronological characteristics of the possible source terranes Previous provenance studies suggested that the QDNB included four major potential source terranes, namely, the Hainan Island of the Cathaysia Block, the southwestern Yangtze Block (Red River), eastern Indochina (central Vietnam), and the hinterland of the Cathaysia Block (Fig. 1) (Yao et al., 2008; Hoang et al., 2010; Cao et al., 2015; Chen et al., 2015; Liu et al., 2015; Li et al., 2017). The outcrop of these sources is composed of different sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks (Fig. 1). In order to characterize these source terranes, the zircon age spectrum is illustrated using published geochronological data obtained in these regions (Fig. 6). Although the zircon data can help us to distinguish the sediment provenance, we still need to consider the recycle of zircon grains, because the long-transported zircons may have been delivered to the Central Canyon during a previous erosion and transport cycle. To reduce the impact of multiple cycles on 791

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Fig. 6. Summary of the age distribution of zircons obtained from potential source terranes (A–D) and their drainage systems (E–H). The original data were compiled by Wang et al. (2018b). The data for the Pearl River system are from samples of the river estuary obtained and analyzed by Zhao et al. (2015a) and Liu et al. (2017).

(Zhou et al., 2006; Li et al., 2007). According to the age distribution of the potential source terranes (Fig. 6), these Jurassic grains should have originated from the hinterland of the Cathaysia Block or the nearby Hainan Island (Fig. 6). Otherwise, they could also have eroded from the intra-basin uplift because igneous rocks with similar ages were found in the basement (Cui et al., 2018). The Permian-to Triassic-aged zircon grains dominated the provenance record of borehole Y35 (Fig. 5) and most were of igneous origin with Th/U > 0.3 (Fig. 4), suggesting that the source terrane exhibited strong Indosinian tectonic-magmatic activity. However, the Indosinian orogeny developed extensively in these source terranes and cannot be considered an important age signal (Wang et al., 2014). The late Ordovician to Silurian age groups, which have peaks ranging from 443 to 426 Ma, represent an important signal in the samples (Fig. 5), pointing to a significant contribution from Early Paleozoic thermal-magmatic events. These zircon grains could be derived from multiple sources, including the Cathaysia, Indochina, and Yangtze blocks (Fig. 6). Neoproterozoic zircon age peaks ranging from 982 to 730 Ma coincided with the “Jinning Movement” in South China, which was derived from both the Yangtze and Cathaysia blocks (Fig. 6A–B). It is noteworthy that the young Neoproterozoic grains (860-750 Ma) may be related to the Yangtze block, whereas the old zircons (1000-900 Ma) may have close relationships with the Cathaysia block (Fig. 6A–B). The zircon group with ages of 2100-1800 Ma correspond to the “Luliang Movement”, which is thought of as an important phase of crustal growth in the South China (Yao et al., 2011; Yu et al., 2010). In addition, the Neoarchean to Paleoproterozoic populations (2600-2000 Ma) can be considered as representing the basement of the South China (Yu et al., 2012; Zhang et al., 2006). A comparison of the zircon age populations was conducted by creating a multidimensional scaling (MDS) plot based on the Kolmogorov-Smirnov (K–S) distances between sedimentary rocks and the potential source terranes (Vermeesch, 2013). In the MDS plot, samples with similar provenance are clustered closely together and dissimilar samples plot farther apart. In order to constrain the provenance of the upper Miocene sandstones, the zircon U–Pb age results between the source terranes and drainage systems were compared in the MDS plot (Fig. 7). Although these samples show similar

around 1430 Ma (Li et al., 2008). Geochronological data show two major age peaks at ca. 100 Ma and 242 Ma (Fig. 6C), which is consistent with the modern river systems in the island (Fig. 6G). These two age populations are important signatures for Hainan and can be used to identify the source of this island. The eastern margin of the Indochina Block consists tectonically of the Kontum Massif and Truong Son Belt. It consists of various rock types that formed in different geological periods. Mesozoic sedimentary rocks are widely exposed in the Truong Son Belt (Fig. 1A). Early Paleozoic to Mesozoic granitic and metamorphic rocks are distributed in the eastern Indochina Block and have been dated ranging from 460 to 200 Ma (Nagy et al., 2001; Liu et al., 2012; Shi et al., 2015). Both bedrock and drainage systems show that there are two major groups of age distributions, including the Triassic (242–248 Ma) and Silurian-Ordovician (428–469 Ma) (Fig. 6D and H). 5.2. Provenance analysis of detrital zircon The detrital zircons from the core samples of the western Central Canyon exhibited a wide range of U–Pb ages from 3339 to 26 Ma, which generally represents input from multiple sources. Cenozoic zircons were found in all samples but they only accounted for a very small part of the total (Appendix A and Fig. 5). These grains with ages ranging from 36 to 26 Ma are concordant with the ages of coeval zircons in the Yangtze Block (Fig. 6), as well as those of the modern Red River system (Clift et al., 2006; Hoang et al., 2009). This means that they were likely derived from the southwestern margin of the Yangtze Block along the Red River Fault Zone (Wang et al., 2018a). In fact, Cenozoic magmatic and metamorphic rocks with U–Pb ages ranging from 20 to 40 Ma have been detected in the catchment of the Red River system (Schärer et al., 1990; Zhang and Schärer, 1999; Cao et al., 2011). In addition, a few Cenozoic zircons have been reported in the drainage system of the central Vietnam (Wang et al., 2018a,b), suggesting that the eastern Indochina Block could also provide a small amount of the Cenozoic zircons to the sediments. The Late Jurassic age peaks ranging from 155 to 144 Ma are consistent with the widespread Mesozoic igneous rocks (Fig. 1) that resulted from the early Yanshanian magmatic event in South China 792

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Fig. 7. Multi-dimensional scaling plots showing the K–S distance between the core samples with regard to (A) the potential source terranes and (B) the major drainage systems around the basin. In order to reduce the interference between the source terranes, the lines linking the sources and drainage systems were removed from the plot.

Fig. 8. Map illustrating the hypothesis of the transport pathways of the sediments at the head of the Central Canyon in the Qiongdongnan Basin. The blue, orange, and green arrows indicate the Red River, Central Vietnam, and Hainan sources, respectively. RRf: Red River fan; DFf: Dongfang fan; LDf: Ledong fan. (For interpretation of the references to color in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the Web version of this article.)

Central Canyon (Fig. 8), our study provides a relatively robust characterization of the late Miocene provenance and distribution in the northwestern SCS. As manifested by the age distributions of detrital zircons, the sediments record a relatively long geological history of zircons from the Archean to Cenozoic (Fig. 8). In contrast, the sediments in the central YGHB exhibit multiple age populations and are highly similar in age as those from the Central Canyon in the QDNB (Fig. 8A–C). As discussed above, this age distribution suggests that the sediments were mainly derived from the southwestern Yangtze Block through the Red River system with minor input of clastic material from eastern Indochina by different drainage systems in central Vietnam (Jonell et al., 2017; Wang et al., 2018a). Although the age peaks of the three regions are consistent, the proportions are different in the coeval age populations, indicating a slight provenance change in terms of location (Fig. 8). The Mesozoic age peak in the YGHB is distinct in the Central Canyon and is characterized by a peak at ca. 104 Ma; this is younger than the peak at ca. 148 Ma and points to the nearby source of Hainan (Fig. 6C). In addition to the Red River source, the YGHB also received materials from western Hainan during the late Miocene (Clift and Sun, 2006; Yan et al., 2011; Wang et al., 2014; Cao et al., 2015). Compared with the western head of the Central Canyon that was investigated in this study, the middle canyon contains more Jurassic and Silurian zircons, implying a contribution from the basement of the QDNB. The zircon geochronology study conducted by Cui et al. (2018) yielded two major age populations with peaks at ca. 145 Ma and 415 Ma corresponding to the western and central canyon, indicating that some detritus eroded from the basement of the QDNB and entered the canyon during transportation. Despite the addition of materials from Hainan and central Vietnam, the Red River was the principal source region for the northwestern SCS during the late Miocene and played the dominant role in contributing

characteristics and are clustered together, there are some differences in the relationships in terms of the source terrane and the drainage systems. In the MDS plots, the sediments show an affinity with the Yangtze and Indochina blocks (Fig. 7A), indicating the important contributions from these two source terranes (Fig. 8). In contrast, the hinterland of Cathaysia and Hainan show a weak relationship with the core samples, suggesting that these areas were not significant sources of the sediments. The drainage systems around the northern SCS indicate that the Red River was the primary source of the sediments at the head of the Central Canyon (Fig. 7B). Sample Y35-3 shows a close relationship with the Pearl River system and rivers in Vietnam, suggesting possible contributions from eastern Indochina and South China (Fig. 8). The modern Pearl River flows through the Yangtze and Cathaysia blocks in South China (Fig. 1B), indicating that the detritus originated from those two sources (Zhao et al., 2015a). However, the MDS plot does not indicate a direct correlation with the Cathaysia block (Fig. 7A), implying that the detritus likely originated from the southwestern Yangtze Block. In addition, the rivers in the Hainan plot are far away from the core samples, implying that Hainan was not the major source terrane for the western Central Canyon. In summary, the results of the detrital zircon U–Pb geochronology demonstrated that both the southwestern Yangtze and Indochina blocks played important roles in contributing detritus to the head of the Central Canyon although the provenance appeared to vary in different sedimentary periods of the late Miocene. The Hainan and the hinterland of the Cathaysia Block, however, were not the major source terranes. 5.3. Spatial distribution of the sedimentary provenance Combined with the published zircon data in the YGHB and middle 793

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young Neoproterozoic- and Paleoproterozoic-aged zircons with peaks at 730–811 Ma and 1842 Ma may represent a different erosion pattern of the source terranes at the same time. These zircons are an important part of the modern Ren River system and they may have eroded from the granitic rocks along the Red River Fault Zone in the southwestern margin of the Yangtze Block (Hoang et al., 2009). Sample Y35-1 exhibited similar characteristics as sample Y35-2 but the proportion of age populations was different. The MDS plot demonstrates that the detritus in Y35-1 mainly originated from the Red River source (Fig. 9C). The relatively high Mesozoic age peak at ca. 144 Ma may also point to a minor contribution from the basement of the QDNB (Cui et al., 2018). In summary, the detrital zircon record from the head of the Central Canyon implies a source-to-sink relationship between the sediments and the Red River, central Vietnam, and Hainan. Based on the comparison of the detrital zircon U–Pb ages with the potential source terranes, we suggest that the Red River system is the dominant provenance of the western Central Canyon and central Vietnam represents a secondary source during the early stage of the late Miocene. In addition, the Hainan was not a major source terrane for contributing sediments to the head of the Central Canyon during the late Miocene.

detritus to the YGHB and QDNB in the northwestern SCS. 5.4. Provenance evolution at the early stage of central canyon The systematic study of the core samples from the upper Miocene allows us to understand the provenance evolution during the formation period of the Central Canyon. Although there are no precise geochronological data for the strata in which the samples were collected, the continuous sampling from the lower part of the upper Miocene can be used to evaluate the provenance variations in this region. Not surprisingly, the age spectra of the samples from the head of the Central Canyon were broadly similar during the late Miocene (Fig. 5), implying a stable and continuous detritus supply from the Red River at 10.5–8.2 Ma. Though controversial, most studies have proposed that the Red River drainage system had completed the reorganization caused by the uplift of the Tibetan Plateau before the late Miocene (Clark et al., 2004; Clift et al., 2008; Yan et al., 2011; Wang et al., 2014). The drainage system, therefore, could have provided detritus from the catchments in the past, similar to the present. Nevertheless, the provenance still changed slightly in the vertical stratigraphic successions of the upper Miocene (Fig. 5). Obviously, the age distribution of Y35-3 differs from that of the samples in the overlying strata. The MDS plot shows a close relationship with the Yangtze and Indochina blocks, suggesting that the sediments were mainly derived from the Red River and central Vietnam sources (Fig. 9A). In addition, a minor Cretaceous peak (92 Ma) that is in alignment with the source of Hainan (Yan et al., 2011; Wang et al., 2014) indicates that the local source was a short distance from the source in the north (Fig. 9A). Both the Yangtze and Indochina blocks were major sources for the sediments in samples QDN-123 and Y35-2 as manifested by the KDE and MDS plots of the detrital zircons (Fig. 9B). The large number of

6. Conclusion The new dataset of detrital zircon U–Pb ages from the head of the Central Canyon in the QDNB provides an opportunity to clarify the provenance and sediment transportation in the northwestern SCS. The upper Miocene sediments exhibit a similar age distribution and are characterized by multiple peaks of ca. 33 Ma, 144–155 Ma, 242–251 Ma, 428–443 Ma, 730–743 Ma, 931–982 Ma, 1700–2100 Ma, and 2300–2600 Ma. The wide range of zircon ages indicates that the

Fig. 9. Schematic reconstruction of the vertical sedimentary provenance evolution of the head of Central Canyon during the early stage of the late Miocene. A-D represent the sedimentary ages ranging from ca. 10.5 to 8.2 Ma. The arrows indicate the sediment pathways of the potential source terranes. 794

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sediments were mainly derived from the southwestern Yangtze Block through the Red River system with additional sources from central Vietnam (eastern Indochina Block) and Hainan. The southwestern Yangtze Block was the primary source of contributing detritus to the western Central Canyon during the late Miocene. Although the measured age distributions indicate a stable and continuous detritus supply from the Red River, the results also indicate some provenance changes in the vertical stratigraphic successions, reflecting the evolving sediment dispersal patterns caused by varying contributions from the secondary sources of Hainan and central Vietnam at 10.5–8.2 Ma. The provenance data can be widely used in reservoir presence and quality evaluation in future exploration and production.

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