Clay mineralogy of the riverine sediments of Hainan Island, South China Sea: Implications for weathering and provenance

Author:Bangqi Hu , Jun Li, Ruyong Cui, Helong Wei, Jingtao Zhao, Guogang Li, Xisheng Fang, Xue Ding, Liang Zou, Fenglong Bai Updated:2014-08-03


      Clay mineralogy of 54 fluvial samples collected from 20 major rivers on Hainan Island are investigated in order to determine compositional changes of clay minerals and to assess the weathering processes. The clay mineral assemblages consist dominantly of kaolinite (31–66%), with a lesser abundance of chlorite (22–44%) and illite (4–33%), and a trace amount of smectite (0–15%). Fluvial sediments from the east and northwest of Hainan Island are characterized by a higher kaolinite content and illite chemical index and poorer illite crystallinity than those from southwest Hainan. Only minor smectite (mean of 7%) occurs in the sediments from west Hainan; smectite is total lacking in east Hainan. Compared with the adjacent basins, Hainan Island is characterized by moderate to intensive chemical weathering with strong hydrolysis. Our results suggest that rainfall is the principal factor controlling the intensity of chemical weathering on Hainan Island, with more intense chemical weathering occurring in eastern and northwestern Hainan. Another practical implication of this study is that it provides a “missing” end member (Hainan Island) in the provenance discrimination study focused on the northern South China Sea (SCS). Hainan fine-grained sediments likely play an important role in providing clay minerals to the northern SCS carried by the South China Sea Warm Current (SCSWC) during the summer.