Provenance versus weathering control on the composition of tropical river mud (southern Africa)

Garzanti, E; Padoan, M; Setti, M; Lopez Galindo, A; Villa, Igor Maria (2014). Provenance versus weathering control on the composition of tropical river mud (southern Africa). Chemical geology, 366, pp. 61-74. Elsevier 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2013.12.016

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This study presents an integrated mineralogical-geochemical data base on fine-grained sediments transported by all major rivers of southern Africa, including the Zambezi, Okavango, Limpopo, Olifants, Orange and Kunene. Clay mineralogy, bulk geochemistry, Sr and Nd isotopic signatures of river mud, considered as proxy of suspended load, are used to investigate the influence of source-rock lithology and weathering intensity on the composition of clay and silt produced in subequatorial to subtropical latitudes.
Depletion in mobile alkali and alkaline-earth metals, minor in arid Namibia, is strong in the Okavango, Kwando and Upper Zambezi catchments, where recycling is also extensive. Element removal is most significant for Na, and to a lesser extent for Sr. Depletion in K, Ca and other elements, negligible in Namibia, is moderate elsewhere. The most widespread clay minerals are smectite, dominant in muds derived from Karoo or Etendeka flood basalts, or illite and chlorite, dominant in muds derived from metasedimentary rocks of the Damara Orogen or Zimbabwe Craton. Kaolinite represents 30-40% of clay minerals only in Okavango and Upper Zambezi sediments sourced in humid subequatorial Angola and Zambia. After subtracting the effects of recycling and of local accumulation of authigenic carbonates in soils, the regional distribution of clay minerals and chemical indices consistently reflect weathering intensity primarily controlled by climate.
Bulk geochemistry identifies most clearly volcaniclastic sediments and mafic sources in general, but cannot discriminate the other sources of detritus in detail. Instead, Sr and Nd isotopic fingerprints are insensitive to weathering, and thus mirror faithfully the tectonic structure of the southern African continent. Isotopic tools thus represent a much firmer basis than bulk geochemistry or clay mineralogy in the provenance study of mudrocks.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Villa, Igor Maria


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology








Igor Maria Villa-Toscani

Date Deposited:

02 Oct 2014 11:27

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:36

Publisher DOI:





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