Reconstruction of nearshore chemical conditions in the Mesoproterozoic: evidence from red and grey beds of the Yangzhuang formation, North China Craton

Mesoproterozoic red beds near ancient coasts have not aroused extensive interest. A new geochemical study of the alternating red and grey dolostones from the Yangzhuang Formation provides a better understanding of the redox conditions of nearshore sedimentary environments. In this contribution, whole-rock samples are characterized by positive correlations of rare earth elements (REE) vs. Th and FeT vs. Th and flat-type REE distribution patterns, indicating massive terrigenous input, which is considered to be inherited from felsic rocks. Relatively high (Femag+Feox)/FeT and Fe3+/Fe2+ ratios in red beds indicate more oxidized conditions in supratidal environments compared with the lower oxygen contents in intertidal environments. Under these two distinct chemical sedimentary conditions, acetic acid-leached red and grey samples both have HREE-depleted distributions, suggesting significant freshwater invasion. Moreover, limited terrigenous redox-sensitive elements (RSEs) can reach the coast where the red beds are deposited, whereas relatively high RSE enrichment factors originating from shallow oceans are recorded in grey beds. In the Mesoproterozoic, limited oxidative weathering, shallow seawater desalination, and low organic production occurred near the coast. Meanwhile, a prolonged period of low Mo and U availability preserved in carbonate minerals confirmed that marine oxygen levels failed to satisfy the deposition of offshore red beds. During the regression, potentially exposed sediments connected to atmospheric oxygen guaranteed the oxidation of iron and the formation of red beds, and these events were coupled with negative δ13Ccarb shifts in the Yanliao rift zone.