Cambrian tectonic evolution of the northwestern Ordos Terrane, North China: constraints of stratigraphy, sedimentology and zircon U–Pb geochronology

  • Jiaopeng Sun
  • Yunpeng Dong
Original Paper


The Helanshan Tectonic Belt and its environs within the northwestern Ordos Terrane, western North China Craton, have been envisaged as aulacogen or plate boundary separating the Alxa Massif from the Ordos Block during Cambrian. However, it conflicts with geological and geophysical facts. This study presents integrated stratigraphic, sedimentary and geochronological data from the Cambrian strata in the northwestern Ordos Terrane to constrain the Cambrian tectonic evolutionary process of the western North China Craton. The Cambrian successions comprise, in ascending order, evaporite platform facies, restricted-open platform facies and evaporite platform facies, featuring a vertical transgression–regression sequence. An eastward-shoaling paleogeography was documented, evidenced by shallow-water dolomite layers enriched in the east and the detritus derived from northeast. Ages of detrital zircons span from 2566 to 1649 Ma with predominant two peaks around 2500 and 1850 Ma, suggesting these Cambrian detritus were sourced from the Archean–Paleoproterozoic rocks in the Yimeng highland. Comparable fossil associations and unified paleogeography system supported that there was no Cambrian plate boundary in the northwestern Ordos Terrane, implying the Alxa Massif was part of the North China Craton during the Cambrian. The westward-deepening facies differentiation with low-angle topography contradicts with the tectonic model of “Helan aulacogen”. In combination with the relatively low subsidence rate and rare magmatic–metamorphic activities, we argue that the Cambrian shallow marine system in the western North China Craton was the continent-ward extension of passive continental margin basin system related to the spreading of the Paleo-Asian Ocean.


Tectono-sedimentary evolution Northwestern Ordos Terrane Passive continental margin Alxa Massif North China Craton Paleo-Asian Ocean 



The authors acknowledge the anonymous referees for their constructive suggestions and comments which helped to improve our paper. Shuai Ma at China University of Petroleum and Xiangyang Yang at Chongqing Jiaotong University are acknowledged for mineralogical study and field work, respectively. Dr. Yanlong Chen (Northwest University) and Dr. Tao Qian (Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences) are appreciated for the constructive comments and suggestions on the manuscript. Financial support for this study was jointly supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grants: 41421002, 41602109 and 41702238), MOST Special Fund from the State Key Laboratory of Continental Dynamics, Northwest University, China Postdoctoral Science Foundation funded project (No. 2018M643712), Shaanxi Postdoctoral Science Foundation, National Science and Technology Special Grant (No. 2016ZX05006-007), and China Geological Survey Grant (No. DD20189614 and DD20179624).

Supplementary material

531_2018_1669_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (42 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 42 KB)


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© Geologische Vereinigung e.V. (GV) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Continental Dynamics, Department of GeologyNorthwest UniversityXi’anChina
  2. 2.Department of Earth SciencesWestern UniversityLondonCanada

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