Stable isotopic and elemental characteristics of pale and dark layers in a late Pliocene lignite deposit basin in Yunnan Province, southwestern China: Implications for paleoenvironmental changes

Bangjun Liu, Cunliang Zhao, Jens Fiebig, Achim Bechtel, Yuzhuang Sun, Wilhelm Püttmann

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftArtikelForschungBegutachtung

4 Zitate (Scopus)


The carbon and nitrogen stable isotopic compositions and elemental characteristics of Pliocene pale and dark lignites in the Jinsuo Basin, Yunnan Province, southwestern China, were investigated. These data were used to develop paleoenvironmental models and to discuss possible geological driving forces for the formation of pale and dark layers. The δ 13C values of fossil wood (av. −24.79‰) and fusain samples (av. −24.19‰) are generally higher than the values obtained from bulk pale (av. −27.01‰) and dark (av. −26.38‰) lignite samples. In contrast, the δ 15N values of fossil wood (av. −0.63‰) and fusain samples (av. 1.29‰) are lower than the average values of bulk pale lignites (av. 2.17‰) and dark lignites (av. 1.79‰). The difference in the carbon isotopic values between pale and dark lignites can be explained by the very high amount of liptinite and strong degradation of woody material by bacterial activity in pale lignites, which resulted in depletion of 13C in pale lignites, and the wet/humid depositional conditions contributed to the relatively heavy stable carbon isotope compositions of dark layers. The higher δ 13C values in the fossil wood and fusain samples can be explained by the general enrichment of 13C in woody material compared to leaves. The weakly negative correlation between the δ 15N and δ 13C values indicates that, besides bacterial degradation, the liptinite content could also influence the carbon and nitrogen compositions of lignites. The influence of the original plant community (gymnosperms/angiosperms) on the carbon and nitrogen isotopic compositions of bulk lignites is insignificant in the Jinsuo Basin. The paleoenvironmental model suggests deposition of pale layers under relatively dry, cold conditions supporting the expansion of gymnosperms such as Pinus yunnanensis. The slight stepwise uplift of the Tibetan Plateau and the approximate co-occurrence of the more intense Asian monsoon might have supported short periods of a locally dry, cold climate resulting in the lowering of water table which was favorable for the formation of pale layers. The low δ 13C values in pale layers further support this. The relatively high SiO 2/Al 2O 3 ratios, higher values of the average detrital/authigenic index, and high levels of TiO 2 and Zr in pale layers suggest an increased detrital input relative to dark layers. The dark layers, however, formed in a tropical/subtropical warm, humid climate that favored angiosperm dominance of the vegetation. The long-term geologically stable conditions together with the regionally warm, humid climate resulted in a rise in the water table in the basin, which led to the formation of dark layers until the subsequent slight uplift of the Tibetan Plateau. This conclusion is also supported by the high δ 13C values in dark layers and the thickness differences between pale (thin) and dark (thick) layers and the changes in major elements and minerals changes between the two types of layer.

FachzeitschriftInternational journal of coal geology
Ausgabenummer1 June
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 8 Mai 2020

Bibliographische Notiz

Funding Information:
Bangjun Liu thanks for support from China Scholarship Council (No. 201708080005 ) for his PhD project at Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main. The work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41872173 ), the Science Foundation of Hebei (No. D2016402104 ). We thank Jialiang Ma for collecting samples and Dr. Lucy Muir from Edanz Group for editing a draft of this manuscript.

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© 2020

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