Chinese Science Bulletin

, Volume 57, Issue 24, pp 3130–3149 | Cite as

Cenozoic stratigraphy of Taiwan: Window into rifting, stratigraphy and paleoceanography of South China Sea

  • Chi-Yue HuangEmail author
  • Yi Yen
  • QuanHong Zhao
  • Chiou-Ting Lin
Open Access
Review Progress of Projects Supported by NSFC Special Topic: Deep Sea Processes and Evolution of the South China Sea


Shallow marine sequences of the northern South China Sea (SCS) are uplifted and exposed by plate convergence in the Taiwan mountain belt. These deposits provide detailed geological information about the rifting event, stratigraphy, sedimentology, paleoclimate and paleoceanography of the shallow SCS to compare with what are recorded in the ODP 1148 deep-sea core. Seismic surveys and marine micropalentological studies show that Eocene sequences in the offshore Taiwan Strait and onland Taiwan mountain belt are all deposited in rifting basins and are covered unconformably by the Late Oligocene-Neogene post-rifting strata. Between syn-rifting and post-rifting sequences, there is a regional break-up unconformity throughout the island. Early Oligocene and Late Eocene strata are missing along the break-up unconformity equivalent to the T7 unconformity in the Pearl River Mouth Basin off south China. This may suggest that the SCS oceanic crust could have initiated between 33 and 39 Ma. Neither obvious stratigraphic gap nor slumping features are found in the Oligocene-Miocene transition interval of Taiwan. This observation highly contrasts with what has been documented from the ODP 1148 deep-sea core. This suggests that the stratigraphic gap and slumping features could only be recorded in the SCS deep sea region, but not in the shallow shelf near Taiwan. Compared to the Middle Miocene paleoceanographic re-organization events in the SCS deep sea, the geological history of the Taiwan shallow sequence shows changes of in sedimentation and faunal composition. Due to the Antarctic glacial expansion at ∼14 Ma, Middle to late Miocene strata of the Western Foothills show progressive regression sedimentations associated with a decrease of benthic foraminiferal abundance and a sharp faunal turnover event. Many Early-Middle Miocene endemic benthic foraminifers were extinct in 14-13 Ma and new benthic foraminifers of the Kuroshio Current fauna appeared from 10.2 Ma, comparable with new occurrence of Modern benthic foraminifers at 9 Ma in the Java Sea area. This reveals that the Western Boundary Kuroshio Current in the North Pacific could initiate from 10-9 Ma due to closures of the Indo-Pacific seaways by convergent tectonics between the Australian Continent and the Indonesian Arc in 12-8 Ma. Subduction of the SCS oceanic lithosphere since the Middle Miocene resulted in formation of the Hengchun Ridge accretionary prism and the North Luzon Arc. Occurrence of these two bathymetric highs (−2400 m) since the Middle Miocene and closures of the inter-arc passages in the North Luzon arc in the last 3.5 Ma would control the water exchanges between the West Pacific and the deep SCS. Accordingly, the tectonic evolution in the Central Range-Hengchun Peninsula accretionary prism and the arc-forearc Coastal Range not only control directly the route for water exchanges between the West Pacific and the SCS, but also indirectly shows a great influence on the geochemistry of deep SCS waters. The latter is best shown by much negative carbon isotope values of benthic foraminifers in the ODP 1148 deep-sea core than the West Pacific records in the last 14 Ma.


Taiwan Cenozoic stratigraphy South China Sea geological records ODP Site 1148 

Supplementary material

11434_2012_5349_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (3 mb)
Supplementary material, approximately 3.03 MB.


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© The Author(s) 2012

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chi-Yue Huang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yi Yen
    • 1
  • QuanHong Zhao
    • 2
  • Chiou-Ting Lin
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Marginal Sea Geology, Guangzhou Institute of GeochemistryChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Marine Geology, School of Ocean and Earth SciencesTongji UniversityShanghaiChina

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