Gulf Coastal Plain Evolution In West Louisiana: Heavy Mineral Provenance and Pleistocene Alluvial Chronology

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


High Resolution Heavy Mineral Analysis (HREMA) of late Pleistocene terrace samples, their Tertiary source rocks, and modem river sediments provided an effective tool for reconstructing sediment provenance and mapping heavy mineral provinces in southwest Louisiana. Each province, linked to a discrete source region, represents Pleistocene fluvial channel belts within which depositional activity was controlled by periods of climate, sediment supply, and sea level changes. Four coastal heavy mineral provinces have been identified. The Northern Province (NP), drained by the lower reaches of the Sabine and Calcasieu Rivers underlies level mid- and late Pleistocene coastal terrace surfaces and is distinguished by high-grade metamorphic assemblages (kyanite, staurolite, sillimanite) and abundant zircon, probably of Ouachita Mts. derivation. Transporting eroded Cretaceous, Tertiary, and Pleistocene coastal plain deposits, the modem Calcasieu and Sabine River sands in west-central and southwest Louisiana and cast Texas, display identical heavy mineral composition to that of the NP. Level Late Pleistocene coastal terrace areas in the east represent the Red River Province (RRP) with dominant epidote, tourmaline, garnet, and zircon. Its mineralogy is influenced significantly by Paleozoic-Mesozoic sedimentary units that frame the drainage basin upstream. Modem Red River sands differ in their spectra both from Red River Pleistocene coastal terrace and valley terrace deposits, interpreted by temporal fluctuations in sediment supply initiating a variable contribution of detritus from different sources. Tributaries that drain formations with high concentrations of high-grade metamorphic minerals also affected Red River valley Pleistocene terrace deposits in west-central Louisiana, enriching them in kyanite and staurolite. The Mississippi Province (MP) occupies the eastern-southeastern area of the low, flat, gently seaward-sloping Prairie coastal terrace. Whereas modem Mississippi alluvium is dominated by hornblende, pyroxenes, and epidote, as the result of post-depositional dissolution, pyroxenes are rare in the MP. The Mixed Suite Province (MSP) reflects MP, RRP, and to a lesser degree, NP signatures and forms the Prairie fluvial coastal plain surface closer to the Texas state line. Raw data of the principal heavy minerals were used for statistical analysis. Statistical parameters proved consistent with mineralogy-derived reconstruction of sediment provenance and provinciality of heavy mineral suites, thus providing an independent and objective support to data interpretation. Optical and thermal luminescence dating at other Gulf locations [Otvos, E.G. (2005). Numerical chronology of Pleistocene coastal plain and valley development; extensive aggradation during glacial low sea levels. Quaternary Internal., 135 91-113.]supports the pre-Sangamon ages of the Intermediate Pleistocene terraces in the NP area. Sangamon (135-116 ka), Eowisconsin (114-76 ka).. and Wisconsin (74-36 ka) dates characterize the four provinces in the low, level northern Gulf Prairie coastal plain. Refuting earlier assumptions that coastal plain aggradation occurred only during marine highstand phases, thermal and optical luminescence dates indicated that, despite the low Eowisconsin and Wisconsin eustatic sea levels of several preglacial and glacial stages and substages, coastal plain alluviation, paradoxically, recurred between 106 and 35 ka BP. An interesting outcome of our heavy mineral study is the recognition and dating of a previously undocumented, rare ash-fall event that originated in Caribbean andesitic volcanoes. It was identified by the presence of a volcanogenic heavy mineral suite, composed of pristine euhedral clinopyroxene, sphene, zircon, apatite, and hexagonal biotite. Unaffected by fluvial reworking, this suite was recovered from a MP sample, dated ca. 86 ka BP. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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Sedimentary Geology





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