Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 513–526 | Cite as

Sedimentary environment of vermicular red clay in South China

  • Li-hui Yang
  • Xiang-min Zheng
  • Wei Ye


Increasing interest in recent years has focused on vermicular red clay (VRC) in southern China due to its controversial sedimentary environment and provenance. Grain size is a useful way to determine sedimentary environment and provenance. Fisher Linear Discriminant Analysis (LDA) is a common and widely used method for multivariate statistical analysis. Based on a proper training sample set, the LDA can be used to discuss the sediment provenance. In this study, grain size data for 77 Malan loess samples and 41 floodplain deposit samples were used as a training sample set to deduce a Fisher linear discriminant function. Then, 299 VRC samples from 6 Quaternary red clay profiles were analyzed using the discriminant function. Grain size parameters and microscopic images of quartz grains separated from the VRC were evaluated in detail to determine the VRC sedimentary environment in south China. The results show that VRC profiles can be classified into two regions: the Chiang-nan Hilly Region and Wuyi Mountains Region. The VRC samples in the Chiang-nan Hilly Region originated from eolian dust deposits. This VRC is characterized by a higher content of fine particles (<20 μm) and lower average transport kinetic energy than loess in a C-M plot. The quartz grain sizes and microscope images of this VRC suggest that it could be a polyphyletic mixture of far-sourced and near-sourced eolian deposits. The far-sourced eolian deposits share similar provenance with Xiashu loess and were transported by the East Asian winter monsoon. The near-sourced eolian deposits were dust emitted from the adjacent floodplain. In the Wuyi Mountains Region, the rugged topography weakened the dustfall and strengthened the reconstructive effect of hydrodynamic forces during the Quaternary glacial periods. The VRC in this region was reworked strongly by water and retained typical hydraulic characteristics no matter the source.


Vermicular red clay Grain size Linear discriminant analysis Eolian deposits Quaternary 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



This research was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41201008, 41371032 and 41371206). We are grateful to Professor ZHOU Li-min from East China Normal University for helpful discussions, as well as three anonymous reviewers and the editor for the constructive comments and suggestions.


  1. Ashley G (1978) Interpretation of polymodal sediments. Journal of Geology 86(4): 411–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bagnold RA, Barndorff-Nielsen O (1980) The pattern of natural size distributions. Sedimentology 27: 199–207. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-3091.1980.tb01170.xCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Fisher RA (1938) The statistical utilization of multiple measurements. Annals of Eugenics 8: 376–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Folk RL, Ward WC (1957) Brazos river bar: a study in the signification of grain size parameters. Sedimentary Petrology 27: 3–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Gu X (2014) Preliminary research on provenance of Quaternary red earth in Dongting lake area. Jinhua, China: Zhejiang Normal University. (In Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  6. Hao Q, Guo Z, Qiao Y, et al. (2010) Geochemical evidence for the provenance of middle Pleistocene loess deposits in southern China. Quaternary Science Reviews 29(23): 3317–3326. DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2010.08.004CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hu X, Gong Z (2001) Comparative study on the origin of quaternary Red Earth in Jiujiang and Taihe, Jiangxi province. Acta Pedologica Sinica 38(1): 1–9. DOI: 10.11766/trxb1999 09240101 (In Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  8. Hu X, Jiang W, Ye W, et al. (2008) Yellow-brown earth on Quaternary red clay in Langxi County, Anhui Province in subtropical China: Evidence for paleo-climatic change in late quaternary period. Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science 171(4): 542–551. DOI: 10.1002/jpln.200700017CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hu X, Shen M, Fang S (2004) Grain-size distribution of the reticulate red clay in southern Anhui province and its paleoenvironmental significance. Quaternary Sciences 24(2): 160–166. (In Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  10. Hu X, Wei J, Du Y, et al. (2010) Regional distribution of the Quaternary red clay with aeolian dust characteristics in subtropical China and its paleoclimatic implications. Geoderma 159(3): 317–334. DOI: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2010.08.008CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hu X, Zhu Y, Shen M (2005) The granularity evidence of multicause formation of vermicular red clay. Chinese Science Bulletin 50(9): 918–925. (In Chinese)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Jiang F, Wu X, Xiao H, et al. (1997) Age of the vermiculated red soil in Jiujiang area, central China. Journal of Geomechanics 3(4): 27–32. (In Chinese with English abstract).Google Scholar
  13. Li C, Wang Y (1999) Preliminary exploration on grain characteristic and discrimination of debris flow deposit, moraine and river & lake deposit. Journal of Mountain Research 17(1): 50–54. DOI: 10.16089/j.cnki.1008-2786.1999.01.009 (In Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  14. Li X, Yang D, Lu H (1999) Oxide-geochemistry features and paleoclimatic record of the aeolian-dust depositional sequence in southern Anhui. Marine Geology & Quaternary Geology 19(4): 75–82. DOI: 10.16562/j.cnki.0256-1492.1999. 04.011 (In Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  15. Liu C, Deng C (2014) The effect of weathering on the grain-size distribution of red soils in south-eastern China and its climatic implications. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 94: 94–104. DOI: 10.1016/j.jseaes.2014.08.027CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Liu C, Deng C, Liu Q, et al. (2010) Mineral magnetism to probe into the nature of palaeomagnetic signals of subtropical red soil sequences in southern China. Geophysical Journal International 181(3): 1395–1410. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-246X. 2010.04592.xGoogle Scholar
  17. Liu C, Xu X, Yuan B, et al. (2008) Magnetostratigraphy of the Qiliting section (SE China) and its implication for geochronology of the red soil sequences in southern China. Geophysical Journal International 174(1): 107–117. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-246X.2008.03814.xCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Liu D (1985) Loess and Environment. Science Press, Beijing, China. pp 191–400.Google Scholar
  19. Liu L, Elöller L (1988) Discussion Xiashu loess formation era. Soils 20(3): 162–163. DOI: 10.13758/ (In Chinese)Google Scholar
  20. McManus J (1988) Grain size determination and interpretation. Techniques in Sedimentology 408: 63–85.Google Scholar
  21. Middleton GV (1976) Hydraulic interpretation of sand size distributions. Journal of Geology 84(4): 405–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Özer M, Orhan M, Isik N S (2010) Effect of particle optical properties on size distribution of soils obtained by laser diffraction. Environmental & Engineering Geoscience 16(2): 163–173. DOI: 10.2113/gseegeosci.16.2.163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Passega R (1957) Texture as characteristic of clastic deposition. AAPG Bulletin 41(9): 1952–1984.Google Scholar
  24. Qiao Y, Guo Z, Hao Q, et al. (2003) Loess-soil sequences in southern Anhui Province: Magnetostratigraphy and paleoclimatic significance. Chinese Science Bulletin 48(19): 2088–2093. DOI: 10.1360/03wd0183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Sahu BK (1964). Depositional mechanisms from the size analysis of clastic sediments. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 34(1): 73–83.Google Scholar
  26. Sun D (2004) Monsoon and westerly circulation changes recorded in the late Cenozoic eolian sequence of Northern China. Global and Planetary Change 41: 63–80. DOI: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2003.11.001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Sun D, Bloemendal J, Rea DK, et al. (2002) Grain-size distribution function of polymodal sediments in hydraulic and aeolian environments, and numerical partitioning of the sedimentary components. Sedimentary Geology 152: 263–277. DOI: 10.1016/S0037-0738(02)00082-9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Sun YB, Lu HY, An ZS (2006) Grain size of loess, palaeosol and Red Clay deposits on the Chinese loess Plateau: significance for understanding pedogenic alteration and palaeomonsoon evolution. Palaeogeogr, Palaeoclimatol, Palaeoecol 241(1): 129–138. DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2006.06.018CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Tanner W (1964) Modification of sediment size distributions. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 34(1): 156–164.Google Scholar
  30. Wang Y (1982) Loess and Quaternary geology. Shanxi People’s Press, Xi’an, China. pp 72–80.Google Scholar
  31. Wei J, Hu X, Xu L (2010) Dualistic structure of the Quaternary red clay in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and its paleoenvironmental implication. Acta Pedologica Sinica 47(5): 826–835. DOI: 10.11766/trxb200901210033 (In Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  32. Wen Q (1989) China loess geochemistry. Science Press, Beijing, China. pp 95–114.Google Scholar
  33. Xanthopoulos P, Pardalos PM, Trafalis TB (2013) Linear discriminant analysis. Springer, New York. pp 27–33.Google Scholar
  34. Xia Y, Yang H (1998) SEM scanning of Quartz of the Quaternary Red Earth in Xuancheng Anhui. Journal of Nanjing Normal University (Natural Science) 21(1): 120–124. (In Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  35. Xiao J, Porter S C, An Z, et al. (1995) Grain size of quartz as an indicator of winter monsoon strength on the loess plateau of central China during the last 130000 Yr. Quaternary Reserch 43(1): 22–29. DOI: 10.1006/qres.1995.1003CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Xie Y, Cui Z, Li H (1984) Atlas of quartz sand surface textural features of China micrographs. Haiyang Press, Beijing, China. pp 4–10. (In Chinese)Google Scholar
  37. Xiong S, Sun D, Ding Z (2002) Aeolian origin of the red earth in southeast China. Journal of Quaternary Science 17(2): 181–191. DOI: 10.1002/jqs.663CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Yang D (1986). The paleoenvironment of the mid-lower regions of Changjiang in the full-glacial period of late Pleistocene. Geographica Sinica 41(4): 302–310. (In Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  39. Yang DY (1991) The quaternary dust-fall accumulation and the monsoon variability in eastern China. Quaternary Sciences (4): 354–360. (In Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  40. Yang L, Ye W, Zheng X, et al. (2014) The discriminant function with grain size of floodplain and aeolian sediments and its application in the Quaternary red clay. Geographical Research 33(10): 1848–1856. DOI: 10.11821/dlyj201410006 (In Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  41. Yang L, Ye W, Zhu L, et al. (2008) The aeolian comparability of aggradational Red Earth in southern China and loess in northern China. Arid Land Geography 31(3): 341–347. DOI: 10.13826/j.cnki.cn65-1103/x.2008.03.004 (In Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  42. Ye W, Yang L, Zhu L, et al. (2008b) Characteristics and origin of rare earth elements of vermicular Red Earth in middle subtropic zone. Scientia Geographica Sinica 28(1): 41–44. DOI: 10.13249/j.cnki.sgs.2008.01.002 (In Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  43. Ye W, Zhu L, Li F, et al. (2008a) Sedimentary environment of vermicular red earth in mid-subtropical China. Pedologica Sinica 45(3): 385–391. DOI: trxb10.11766/200701130301 (In Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  44. Zhang P, Song C, Yang Y, et al. (2008) The significance and establishment of discriminate function with grain size of stable lacustrine sediment and eolian loess. Acta Sedimentologica Sinica 26(3): 501–507. DOI: 10.14027/j.cnki.cjxb.2008.03.008 (In Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  45. Zhao Z, Qiao Y, Wang Y, et al. (2007) Magnetostratigraphic and paleoclimatic studies on the red earth formation from the Chengdu Plain in Sichuan Province, China. Science in China (Series D: Earth Sciences) 50(6): 927–935. DOI: 10.1007/s11430-007-0027-7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Zheng X, Yan Q (1995) Aeolian loess deposition during the last glacial period in the northern Jiangsu plain of the Yangtze delta and western areas of the yellow sea and the East China Sea. Quaternary Sciences (3): 258–266. (In Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  47. Zhu L, Ye W, Zhou S, et al. (2006) Grain-size features of red earth in mid-subtropics. Geographica Sinica 26(5): 586–590. DOI: 10.13249/j.cnki.sgs.2006.05.012 (In Chinese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  48. Zhu X (1995) Red clay and red weathering crust in southern China. Research of Soil and Water Conservation 2(4): 94–101. (In Chinese)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Geographic ScienceEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Anhui Key Laboratory of Natural Disaster Process and Protection ResearchAnhui Normal UniversityWuhuChina
  3. 3.College of Geography and Environmental ScienceZhejiang Normal UniversityJinhuaChina

Personalised recommendations