The surface sediment types and their rare earth element characteristics from the continental shelf of the northern south China sea
The grain size as well as some major and trace elements, including rare earth element (REE), for 273 surface sediment samples collected from the continental shelf of the northern South China Sea were analyzed in this study. The sediment types are mainly sandy silt and silt, making up 60% of the whole samples, and secondly are mud, sandy mud, muddy sand and silty sand, making up 28% of the whole samples, based on grain-size in which the Folk's classification was used. The total REE content (ΣREE) show a wide variation from 21 ppm to 244 ppm with an average value of 155 ppm, which similar to the average ΣREE of the China loess, but much different from that in deep-sea clay, showing a significant terrigenous succession. The REE contents in different sediment types vary greatly, mainly enriching in silt, sandy silt, mud and sandy mud. The REE distribution contours parallel to the coastal, presenting like strips and their contents gradually reduce with increasing distance from the coast. The high content of the western Pearl River Mouth, Shang/Xiachuan Islands and Hailing Bay might be regarded to the coastal current developed from the east to the west along to the Pearl River Mouth in the northern South China Sea. But the chondrite-normalized REE patterns in various sediment types have no difference, basically same as those of coastal rivers and upper crust. They all show relative enrichments in light rare earth element (LREE), noticeable negative Eu anomaly and no Ce anomaly, indicating that those sediments are terrigenous sediments and from the same source region. Further analysis suggest that the sedimentary environment in the study area is relatively stable and granite widely distributed in the South China mainland is the main source of REE, which are transported mainly by the Pearl River. The late diagenesis has little effect on the REE.