Zircon geochronology of loess and alluvial sediment: implications for provenance of modern soils of Middle Tennessee

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Xiaomei Wang1, John C Ayers2 and Nathan James Katsiaficas2, (1)China University of Geosciences Wuhan, Wuhan, China, (2)Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, United States
Soils in Middle Tennessee are commonly observed on limestone bedrock. However, comparison of zircon U-Pb age spectra of soil and bedrock (Ayers and Katsiaficas, unpublished data) suggests that there is a small but significant exotic (externally derived) zircon component. Potential sources of exotic zircon include loess and alluvial sediments. In western Tennessee the Roxana Silt was deposited 38-53 ka and the Peoria Loess 18-25 ka. Detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology is a direct and effective way to test the possibility of loess as a contributor to the source material of the soil. According to Aleinikoff et al. (2008), loess from Colorado and Nebraska have young detrital zircon age peaks at ~34Ma. If this is also true for the loess in Tennessee, it may explain the ~33 Ma age peak found in one of the three studied soil samples. To identify the source of the exotic zircon found in middle TN soils, zircon age spectra will be measured for Roxana Silt, Peoria Loess, and alluvial sediments from the Harpeth and Cumberland Rivers. The loess samples were collected near Memphis, TN, while the alluvial sediments were collected near the soil sample sites.