Interpreting Provenance Relations from Detrital Modes of Sandstones

  • William R. Dickinson
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (ASIC, volume 148)


Detrital modes of sandstone suites primarily reflect the different tectonic settings of provenance terranes, although various other sedimentological factors also influence sandstone compositions. Comparisons of sandstone compositions are aided by grouping diverse grain types into a few operational categories having broad genetic significance. Compositional fields associated with different provenances can then be displayed on standard triangular diagrams.

The major provenance types related to continental sources are stable cratons, basement uplifts, magmatic arcs, and recycled orogens. Each provenance type contributes distinctive detritus preferentially to associated sedimentary basins that occupy a limited number of characteristic tectonic settings in each case. Sands of composite provenance can be described as mixtures of quartzose sand from stable cratons, quartzofeldspathic sand from basement uplifts or arc plutons, feldspatholithic sand from arc volcanics, and quartzolithic sands of several types from different kinds of recycled orogens that yield varying proportions of quartzose and lithic grains. Proportions of contributions from different provenance types can be estimated from mean compositions for ideal derivative sands represented by points or restricted areas on triangular plots.

Evolutionary trends in sandstone composition within individual basins or sedimentary provinces commonly reflect changes in tectonic setting through time, or erosional modification of provenance terranes. Forearc sandstone suites typically evolve from feldspatholitic petrofacies of volcaniclastic nature, through lithofeldspathic petrofacies of volcanoplutonic origin, to quartzofeldspathic petrofacies of plutonic derivation. Foreland sandstone suites commonly evolve from rift-related quartzofeldspathic petrofacies, through quartzose petrofacies of passive continental margins, to quartzolithic petrofacies derived from recycled orogens.


Foreland Basin Lithic Fragment Petroleum Geologist Continental Block Forearc Basin 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • William R. Dickinson
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Geotectonics, Department of GeosciencesUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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