Evolving east Asian river systems reconstructed by trace element and Pb and Nd isotope variations in modern and ancient Red River-Song Hong sediments

Peter D. Clift, Hoang Van Long, Richard Hinton, Robert M. Ellam, Robyn Hannigan, Mai Thanh Tan, Jerzy Blusztajn, Nguyen Anh Duc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

139 Citations (Scopus)


Rivers in east Asia have been recognized as having unusual geometries, suggestive of drainage reorganization linked to Tibetan Plateau surface uplift. In this study we applied a series of major and trace element proxies, together with bulk Nd and single K-feldspar grain Pb isotope ion probe isotope analyses, to understand the sediment budget of the modern Red River. We also investigate how this may have evolved during the Cenozoic. We show that while most of the modern sediment is generated by physical erosion in the upper reaches in Yunnan there is significant additional flux from the Song Lo, draining Cathaysia and the SW Yangtze Block. Nd isotope data suggest that 40% of the modern delta sediment comes from the Song Lo. Carbonates in the Song Lo basin make this a major control on the Red River Sr budget. Erosion is not a simple function of monsoon precipitation. Active rock uplift is also required to drive strong erosion. Single grain Pb data show a connection in the Eocene between the middle Yangtze and the Red River, and probably with rivers draining the Songpan Garze terrane. However, the isotope data do not support a former connection with the upper Yangtze, Mekong, or Salween rivers. Drainage capture appears to have occurred throughout the Cenozoic, consistent with surface uplift propagating gradually to the southeast. The middle Yangtze was lost from the Red River prior to 24 Ma, while the connection to the Songpan Garze was cut prior to 12 Ma. The Song Lo joined the Red River after 9 Ma. Bulk sample Pb analyses have limited provenance use compared to single grain data, and detailed provenance is only possible with a matrix of different proxies.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages29
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2008


  • erosion
  • isotopes
  • provenance
  • rivers
  • garze orogenic belt
  • K-feldspar grains
  • South China
  • crustal evolution
  • tibetan plateau
  • cenozoic tectonics
  • Indosinian orogeny
  • Indian monsoon
  • collision zone
  • kontum massif


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