- Open Access
Age assignment of the upper Carboniferous Arbasay Formation in Shichang Region, North Tianshan (NW China)
© The Author(s) 2018
- Received: 29 September 2017
- Accepted: 8 January 2018
- Published: 2 August 2018
The North Tianshan Orogenic Belt contains the youngest ophiolites in the Tianshan and provides some information on timing of the last closure of the Junggar-Balkhash Ocean. LA–ICP–MS zircon U–Pb dating was conducted to define the formation age of the Arbasay Formation in the Shichang Region of North Tianshan, which is exposed near the suture zone but its age remains debated. The Arbasay Formation is mainly composed of volcanic and volcaniclastic rocks with tuff interlayers. The zircons from the tuffs yield two age populations of 315 ± 3 Ma and 304 ± 2 Ma, constraining the commencement and demise timings of volcanism, respectively. Furthermore, zircon U–Pb age spectra of the tuffaceous sandstones display the youngest peak age at 308 Ma, indicating a < 308 Ma age for the depositional age of volcaniclastic rocks. The volcaniclastic rocks therefore were likely to deposit together with the syn-sedimentary volcanism during Late Carboniferous. This means that the Arbasay Formation in Shichang Region should be re-assigned to Late Carboniferous in age. Given that the Arbasay Formation was likely to be formed during the tectonic transition from compression to extension, the Junggar-Balkhash Ocean possibly closed during Late Carboniferous.
- LA–ICP–MS zircon U–Pb dating
- Stratigraphic age
- Volcaniclastic rock
- Junggar-Balkhash Ocean
In this paper, we report new zircon U–Pb ages of the volcaniclastic rocks from the upper part of Arbasay Formation in Shichang Region, northern Xinjiang. Based on these newly obtained ages and previously published data, we examined the era of the Arbasay Formation, and made discussion about the last closure time of the Junggar-Balkhash Ocean.
The Tianshan tectonic complex, which results from complex accretions of island arcs and amalgamation of continental lithospheric blocks during the late Paleozoic (Carroll et al. 1995; Charvet et al. 2007; Gao et al. 1998; Wang et al. 2007, 2009, 2010), is crucial for understanding the geological evolution of the Central Asia Orogenic Belt (Han et al. 2010; Xiao et al. 2008). This complex is traditionally subdivided into the North Tianshan, Central Tianshan, and South Tianshan orogenic belts (Fig. 1c). The Tarim–South Tianshan and Central Tianshan Blocks collided during the Devonian–Carboniferous (Chen and Shi 2003; Han et al. 2011; Wang et al. 2010). This accretion was followed by the collision of the newly formed Tarim–Central Tianshan Blocks with a series of the late Paleozoic island arcs now forming the North Tianshan (Han et al. 2010; Charvet et al. 2011).
Zircon grains were separated from the volcaniclastic rocks of the Arbasay Formation for U–Pb dating. They were extracted using heavy-liquid and magnetic techniques, and further purified by hand-picking under a binocular microscope. They were set in an epoxy mount which was polished, and then vacuum-coated with a layer of 50 nm high-purity gold. Cathodoluminescence (CL) images for zircons were undertaken in order to examine the internal structure of individual grains. Zircon LA–ICP–MS U–Pb isotope analyses were performed at MOE Key Laboratory of Orogenic Belts and Crustal Evolution, School of Earth and Space Sciences, Peking University. Detailed analysis procedures were similar to those described by Yuan et al. (2004). The common lead was corrected using the method of Andersen (2002). The age calculation was finished by ISOPLOT 3 (Ludwig 2003).
Sample 15JG-14 is a tuff (ignimbrite) derived from the upper part of Arbasay Formation. Total 20 zircons give two 206Pb/238U age populations, with a weighted mean age of 304 ± 2 Ma (n = 13, MSWD = 0.97) and 315 ± 3 Ma (n = 5, MSWD = 0.12), respectively (Fig. 7).
Sample 15JG-18 from the upper part of Arbasay Formation yields 61 age points with sufficient concordance (Additional file 1). Except for one inherited zircon with age of 387 ± 4 Ma, the rest analyses give ages scattering from 287 Ma to 326 Ma. The 206Pb/238U age spectrum has a major peak of 308 Ma, which was well consistent with the age of contemporaneous volcanism recorded in the Arbasay Formation (Figs. 7 and 8a).
The tuff sample 15JG-28 was collected from the upper part of Arbasay Formationin. Total 20 zircons yield a 206Pb/238U weighted mean age of 310 ± 3 Ma (MSWD = 2.9) (Fig. 7), which is interpreted as the depositional age of the formation. Other four zircons have ages ranging from 323 Ma to 333 Ma, representing the inherited magmatic zircons from previous volcanic rocks.
5.1 Age constraint for the Arbasay Formation
Lithologies, locations and geochronological data of the Arbasay Formation in the Shichang Region, North Tianshan, NW China
43° 54′ 6″ N, 85° 23′ 47″ E
304 ± 2
315 ± 3
43° 54′ 26″ N, 85° 23′ 50″ E
43° 54′ 33″ N, 85° 23′ 59″ E
310 ± 3
43° 55′ 7″ N, 85° 24′ 50″ E
308 ± 5
43° 53′ 45″ N, 85° 23′ 39″ E
Wang et al. 2017
305 ± 4
43° 53′ 46″ N, 85° 23′ 40″ E
Wang et al. 2017
308 ± 4
43° 54′ 07″ N, 85° 23′ 54″ E
Wang et al. 2017
307.2 ± 1.3
Liu et al. 2012
314.4 ± 3.4
Liu et al. 2015
In addition, two tuffs samples were analyzed to further constrain the age of the Arbasay Formation in the studied interval. These quickly deposited tuffs (tephra layers) are regionally compared (Fig. 4). Thus, the tephra layers are excellent key horizons for dating of associated non-volcanic sedimentary sequences (Manville et al. 2009). Sample 15JG-14 from the upper part of Arbasay Formation clustered around two groups (315 ± 3 Ma and 304 ± 2 Ma). As the tuffs not only appear before the eruption (“pre-eruptive” units), but also after the eruption (“post-eruptive” units), the older age of 315 ± 3 Ma therefore is interpreted to represent the commencing timing of the Arbasay volcanism, and the younger age of 304 ± 2 Ma for the demise time of the phreatomagmatic activity (Manville et al. 2009; Ross et al. 2005; White et al. 2009). The Arbasay Formation therefore was likely deposited from 315 Ma to 304 Ma after excluding the influence of the inherited zircons. Furthermore, the tuff (Sample 15JG-28) of the upper part of the Arbasay Formation gave a weighted mean age of 310 ± 3 Ma when the inherited zircon ages are irrespective. This age correlates well with the major volcanism of the Arbasay Formation (“syn-eruptive” units), which again suggested that their peak volcanism occurred during the Late Carboniferous (310–307 Ma; Fig. 8c). Stratigraphically, the tuffs conformably contact the volcanic rocks and volcaniclastic rocks (Fig. 2b, c), which are interlayered with the volcanic agglomerate, volcanic breccia, tuffaceous sandstone, and basalt (Fig. 4f–i). Therefore, the age of the tuff can represent the depositional age of the volcaniclastic rock, and further constrains the age of basalt, i.e., the basalt was also erupted during the Late Carboniferous.
Clearly, the volcanism indicated by various types of volcanic rocks primarily took place in ca. 308 Ma (Fig. 8a). Zircon U–Pb dating analyses of the sandstone samples suggest that the volcaniclastic rocks were likely formed by the syn-sedimentary volcanism (Fig. 8a, b). The age distributions of tuffs constrained that volcanism took place between 315 and 304 Ma, and the major explosion occurred in ca. 307 Ma (Figs. 7 and 8c). Our results, in combination with the published data, indicate that the Arbasay Formation in the Shichang Region was deposited during the Late Carboniferous (Fig. 8d).
5.2 Comparisons with coeval deposits in the Toksun–Turpan Region
The Arbasay Formation was first established in the Baiyanggou area of Shichang Region, North Tianshan (BGMRXUAR 1999), Xinjiang, northwestern China. Later, a series of volcanic–sedimentary rocks of the Upper Carboniferous Miulintuokaitaoshan Formation (BGMRXUAR 1993) in the Toksun-Turpan Region were re-assigned to the Arbasay Formation (BGMRXUAR 1999) as well. However, the ‘Arbasay Formation’ in the Toksun–Turpan Region is obviously different from that exposed at its stratotype area in rock types, geochemical characteristics and depositional environment (Gu et al. 2000, 2001; Liang et al. 2011; Wang et al. 2017). Firstly, the rock types in the Shichang Region are dominated by andesite with some interbeds of basalts and rhyolites (Figs. 2b, c and 3). However, the rock types in the Toksun–Turpan Region comprise of volcanic–clastic–carbonate rock association, and the volcanic rock is different from other rocks in having bimodal volcanic with minor constituents of dacite and rare andesitic rock (Liang et al. 2011). Secondly, the volcanic rock in the Shichang Region belongs to the calc-alkaline series and shows arc-like geochemical composition (Liu et al. 2012; Wang et al. 2017). In contrast, the volcanic rock in the Toksun–Turpan Region is moderately enriched in incompatible elements, which is assigned to the alkaline and tholeiite series, showing rift-related geochemical characteristic (Gu et al. 2000, 2001; Liang et al. 2011). Thirdly, the depositional environments of volcaniclastics from these two regions are also different. The Arbasay Formation in the Shichang Region is interpreted to be deposited in continental alluvial fan setting (Liu et al. 2015), while the Arbasay Formation in the Toksun–Turpan Region was marine delta and littoral zone formed probably due to the Bogda Rift during the Late Carboniferous (Gu et al. 2000, 2001; Guo et al. 2014; Jiang et al. 2015; Liang et al. 2011). Moreover, the Arbasay Formation volcanic rock in the Shichang Region is typical of continental volcanic origin (BGMRXUAR 1999; Liu et al. 2015), whereas the same rock in the Toksun–Turpan Region is of marine volcanics sources (Wang 1988; Gu et al. 2000). On the contrary, the volcanic–clastic–carbonate rock association exposed in the Toksun–Turpan Region show high similarity to those of the Aoertu Formation that was established in Urumqi region (Wang 1988) in terms of lithologic and geochemical features.
Accordingly, the “Arbasay Formation” in both Toksun–Turpan and Shichang Regions is lithologically different from one another. The Upper Carboniferous volcanics, clastics, and carbonates of the Toksun–Turpan Region are better assigned to the Aoertu Formation (Wang 1988) than to the Arbasay Formation. The latter unit name is remained to the volcanic–sedimentary rocks in the Shichang Region.
5.3 Implications for the closure timing of the Junggar-Balkhash Ocean
Both geochemical features and tectonic inference suggest that the North Tianshan island arc was likely generated by southward subduction of the Junggar-Balkhash oceanic lithosphere and may represent the collision of the Junggar and Central Tianshan Blocks (Han et al. 2010; Windley et al. 2007; Xiao et al. 2008). However, as aforementioned, the timing for the last consolidation was calibrated to Devonian to Permian. The depositional period of the Arbasay Formation is crucial in confirming the timing for the last closure of the Junggar-Balkhash Ocean (Wang et al. 2017a). On the one hand, the Arbasay Formation was interpreted as the result of sedimentation of a continental arc during the transition stage from tectonic compression to extension (Wang et al. 2017), implying that the Junggar-Balkhash oceanic lithosphere continuously subducted until the Late Carboniferous (Wang et al. 2017). On the other hand, the Permian alkaline igneous rocks and A-type granitoids were regarded as the post-collisional products (Ge et al. 2015; Han et al. 2010; Tang et al. 2010; Wang et al. 2009). Moreover, the Early Permian Taoxigou Group in the Aiweiergou area represents the first conglomerate unit since ebb of marine sediments in the Tianshan tectonic complex (Chen et al. 2015). As a result, the deposition of the Arbasay Formation marks the last closure of the Junggar-Balkhash Ocean during the Late Carboniferous.
Regional geological characteristics, LA–ICP–MS and SHRIMP zircon U–Pb dating on the volcanic and volcaniclastic rocks of the Arbasay Formation suggested the age of the Arbasay Formation in the Shichang Region should be redefined as the Late Carboniferous, which marks that the last closure time of the Junggar-Balkhash Ocean was Late Carboniferous. In contrast, the previously called “Arbasay Formation” in the Toksun–Turpan Region should be better assigned to the Aoertu Formation.
We thank Editor-in-Chief Prof. Zeng-Zhao Feng, three reviewers (Prof. Zhong-Qiang Chen, Prof. Bo Wang, Dr. Hao Yang), Editor Yuan Wang and Editor Xiu-Fang Hu for their constructive comments and meticulous corrections which improved the quality of the original manuscript. The authors are also grateful to Dr. Zhuang Li, Dr. Wei Tian and Dr. Qingyun Li for critical comments and helpful suggestions. This study was supported by the National Science and Technology Major Project of China (Grant No. 2017ZX05008-001).
JLW carried out the zircon U-Pb dating studies, participated in the field geological investigation and drafted the manuscript. CDW participated in the field geological investigation and drafted the manuscript. XJ, WZ and JW carried out the zircon U-Pb dating studies and modified the manuscript. JW and MLZ conceived of the study and participated in its design and coordination. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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