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Paleoenvironmental implications of uranium concentrations in lacustrine calcareous clastic-evaporite deposits in the western Qaidam Basin

Abstract : Uranium (U) provides especially useful information for reconstructing paleoredox conditions due to its unique geochemical properties and behavior in supergene environments. Its proxy potential under suboxic –oxic conditions associated with salinization of surface water in closed hydrologic systems, however, has not been adequately explored. This study examined the abundance and distribution of U in a sedimentary sequence of calcareous lacustrine clastics and salt layers from a high quality (938.5 m-long) core drilled in the western Qaidam Basin, NE Tibetan Plateau. This study examined U concentrations in calcareous clastic sediments (including carbonates, acid insoluble fractions, as well as the amounts of iron and manganese oxides/oxyhydroxides) and salt layers. In the calcareous clastic sediments, variations in U concentrations within the acid insoluble fraction follow the fluctuations of reconstructed lake levels based on lithologic investigations, providing a tool for tracing redox conditions in paleolake bottom water. Correlations between the variations in carbonate content with U and Sr concentrations in the carbonate fractions demonstrate that the types and abundance of carbonate minerals control the U distribution in carbonates. In the salt layers, U and Al concentrations correlate closely, implying that both derived mainly from the detrital fraction in the salt layers. However, enrichments of U and Mg are systematically higher in salt minerals formed in more concentrated brine and lower in those formed in less concentrated brine. These results indicate that during the process of carbonate precipitation, carbonate might effectively remove U from lake water. During the subsequent stage of salt mineral precipitation, U behavior is conservative, and U resides for a long period in dissolved forms within the saline water, giving rise to enhanced U enrichment in the more concentrated brines and the associated precipitated salt minerals. Our study suggests, however, that U-related redox proxies should be interpreted with caution in suboxic–oxic environments during the long-term paleolake evolution.
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Yibo Yang, Xiaomin Fang, Minghui Li, Albert Galy, Andreas Koutsodendris, et al.. Paleoenvironmental implications of uranium concentrations in lacustrine calcareous clastic-evaporite deposits in the western Qaidam Basin. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, Elsevier, 2015, 417, pp.422 - 431. ⟨10.1016/j.palaeo.2014.10.002⟩. ⟨hal-01770582⟩



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