Environmental conditions in the Donggi Cona lake catchment, NE Tibetan Plateau, based on factor analysis of geochemical data

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IJmker, J. , Stauch, G. , Hartmann, K. , Diekmann, B. , Dietze, E. , Opitz, S. , Wünnemann, B. and Lehmkuhl, F. (2012): Environmental conditions in the Donggi Cona lake catchment, NE Tibetan Plateau, based on factor analysis of geochemical data , Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, 44 , pp. 176-188 . doi: 10.1016/j.jseaes.2011.04.021
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We present a methodological approach for the characterization of spatial variations of environmental and transport conditions based on geochemical data. We analyzed the geochemical characteristics of terrestrial sediments on an alluvial fan and adjacent areas in the eastern part of the Donggi Cona catchment. The geochemical characteristics of the sediment samples were measured using X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy. A factor model based on nine elements (Sr, Rb, Zn, Fe, Mn, V, Ti, Ca and K) gave the best results using factor analysis. Our results show that factor analysis of geochemical data can explain spatial variations in the catchment, even within a relatively small area with more or less constant climatological conditions. The four most important factors of our model explain 68.4% of the total variance within the dataset. The four factors represent a carbonate, weathering and two redox condition signals, respectively. The spatial distribution of factor loadings points to regions with specific environmental conditions. These regions show a certain carbonate input or production (factor 1), specific weathering rates (factor 2) or specific redox conditions (factors 3 and 4). The factor loadings of the first and second factor are used to reclassify the data into four groups, being dune, loess, lake and fluvial gravel sediments. This reclassification confirmsor improves the prior field classification in 70% of all cases. For 23% of the samples, the model gave a different interpretation. The factor loadings in these cases represent the origin of the material rather than its present sediment type, thereby giving valuable information about sediment provenance. Since the third and fourth factor seem more dependent on location, they do not differentiate between different sediment types. Multivariate statistics of the geochemistry of terrestrial sediments (i) allows the subdivision of samples into different sediment types, (ii) indicates dominant regions for weathering, carbonate production and manganese washout and (iii) gives suggestions about the provenance of the sediments. This is the first detailed study of geochemical parameters on the Tibetan Plateau not focusing on lake cores, resulting in a spatial characterization of the local geochemistry. This gives insight in the sediment transport connections between the catchment and the lake, illustrating the value of terrestrial sediments as additional indicator of environmental variations.

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