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Continental sedimentary processes decouple Nd and Hf isotopes

Abstract : The neodymium and hafnium isotopic compositions of most crustal and mantle rocks correlate to form the “Terrestrial Array”. However, it is now well established that whereas coarse detrital sediments follow this trend, fine-grained oceanic sediments have high Hf ratios relative to their Nd isotopic ratios. It remains uncertain whether this “decoupling” of the two isotopic systems only occurs in the oceanic environment or if it is induced by sedimentary processes in continental settings. In this study, the hafnium and neodymium isotopic compositions of sediments in large rivers is expressly used to constrain the behavior of the two isotopic systems during erosion and sediment transport from continent to ocean. We report major and trace element concentrations together with Nd and Hf isotopic compositions of bedloads, suspended loads and river banks from the Ganges River and its tributaries draining the Himalayan Range i.e. the Karnali, the Narayani, the Kosi and the Marsyandi Rivers. The sample set includes sediments sampled within the Himalayan Range in Nepal, at the Himalayan mountain front, and also downstream on the floodplain and at the outflow of the Ganges in Bangladesh. Results show that hydrodynamic sorting of minerals explains the entire Hf isotopic range, i.e. more than 10 εHf units, observed in the river sediments but does not affect the Nd isotopic composition. Bedloads and bank sediments have systematically lower εHf values than suspended loads sampled at the same location. Coarse-grained sediments lie below or on the Terrestrial Array in an εHf vs. εNd diagram. In contrast, fine-grained sediments, including most of the suspended loads, deviate from the Terrestrial Array toward higher εHf relative to their εNd, as is the case for oceanic terrigenous clays. The observed Nd–Hf decoupling is explained by mineralogical sorting processes that enrich bottom sediments in coarse and dense minerals, including unradiogenic zircons, while surface sediments are enriched in fine material with radiogenic Hf signatures. The data also show that Nd–Hf isotopic decoupling increases with sediment transport in the floodplain to reach its maximum at the river mouth. This implies that the Nd–Hf isotopic decoupling observed in worldwide oceanic clays and river sediments is likely to have the same origin. Finally, we estimated the Nd–Hf isotopic composition of the present-day mantle if oceanic sediments had never been subducted and conclude that the addition of oceanic sediments with their anomalous Nd–Hf isotopic compositions has slowly shifted the composition of the Earth’s mantle towards more radiogenic Hf values through time.
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Marion Garçon, Catherine Chauvel, Christian France-Lanord, Pascale Huyghe, Jérôme Lavé. Continental sedimentary processes decouple Nd and Hf isotopes. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Elsevier, 2013, 121, pp.177 - 195. ⟨10.1016/j.gca.2013.07.027⟩. ⟨hal-01761869⟩



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