Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 92, Issue 2, pp 181–193 | Cite as

Trace element characteristics of graywackes and tectonic setting discrimination of sedimentary basins

  • Mukul R. Bhatia
  • Keith A. W. Crook


The graywackes of Paleozoic turbidite sequences of eastern Australia show a large variation in their trace element characteristics, which reflect distinct provenance types and tectonic settings for various suites. The tectonic settings recognised are oceanic island arc, continental island arc, active continental margin, and passive margins. Immobile trace elements, e.g. La, Ce, Nd, Th, Zr, Nb, Y, Sc and Co are very useful in tectonic setting discrimination. In general, there is a systematic increase in light rare earth elements (La, Ce, Nd), Th, Nb and the Ba/Sr, Rb/Sr, La/Y and Ni/Co ratios and a decrease in V, Sc and the Ba/Rb, K/Th and K/U ratios in graywackes from oceanic island arc to continental island arc to active continental margin to passive margin settings. On the basis of graywacke geochemistry, the optimum discrimination of the tectonic settings of sedimentary basins is achieved by La-Th, La-Th-Sc, Ti/Zr-La/Sc, La/Y-Sc/Cr, Th-Sc-Zr/10 and Th-Co-Zr/10 plots. The analysed oceanic island arc graywackes are characterised by extremely low abundances of La, Th, U, Zr, Nb; low Th/U and high La/Sc, La/Th, Ti/Zr, Zr/Th ratios. The studied graywackes of the continental island arc type setting are characterised by increased abundances of La, Th, U, Zr and Nb, and can be identified by the La-Th-Sc and La/Sc versus Ti/Zr plots. Active continental margin and passive margin graywackes are discriminated by the Th-Sc-Zr/10 and Th-Co-Zr/10 plots and associated parameters (e.g. Th/Zr, Th/Sc). The most important characteristic of the analysed passive margin type graywackes is the increased abundance of Zr, high Zr/Th and lower Ba, Rb, Sr and Ti/Zr ratio compared to the active continental margin graywackes.


Turbidite Tectonic Setting Graywacke Passive Margin Active Continental Margin 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mukul R. Bhatia
    • 1
  • Keith A. W. Crook
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeologyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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