Late Permian-early Middle Triassic back-arc basin development in West Qinling, China

Lin Li, Qingren Meng, Alex Pullen, Carmala N. Garzione, Guoli Wu, Yanling Wang, Shouxian Ma, Liang Duan

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58 Scopus citations


The Late Permian-early Middle Triassic strata of the northern West Qinling area, northeastern Tibetan Plateau, are composed of sediment gravity flow deposits. Detailed sedimentary facies analysis indicates these strata were deposited in three successive deep-marine environments. The Late Permian-early Early Triassic strata of the Maomaolong Formation and the lowest part of the Longwuhe Formation define a NW-SE trending proximal slope environment. Facies of the Early Triassic strata composing the middle and upper Longwuhe Formation are consistent with deposition in a base-of-slope apron environment, whereas facies of the Middle Triassic Anisian age Gulangdi Formation are more closely associated with a base-of-slope fan depositional environment. The lithofacies and the spatial-temporal changes in paleocurrent data from these strata suggest the opening of a continental margin back-arc basin system during Late Permian to early Middle Triassic time in the northern West Qinling. U-Pb zircon ages for geochemically varied igneous rocks with diabasic through granitic compositions intruded into these deep-marine strata range from 250 to 234. Ma. These observations are consistent with extensional back-arc basin development and rifting between the Permian-Triassic Eastern Kunlun arc and North China block during the continent-continent collision and underthrusting of the South China block northward beneath the Qinling terrane of the North China block. Deep-marine sedimentation ended in the northern West Qinling by the Middle Triassic Ladinian age, but started in the southern West Qinling and Songpan-Ganzi to the south. We attribute these observations to southward directed rollback of Paleo-Tethys oceanic lithosphere, continued attenuation of the West Qinling on the upper plate, local post-rift isostatic compensation in the northern West Qinling area, and continued opening of a back-arc basin in the southern West Qinling and Songpan-Ganzi. Rollback and back-arc basin development during Late Permian to early Middle Triassic time in the West Qinling area explains: the truncated map pattern of the Eastern Kunlun arc, the age difference of deep-marine sediment gravity flow deposits between the Late Permian-early Middle Triassic northern West Qinling and the late Middle Triassic-Late Triassic southern West Qinling and Songpan-Ganzi, and the discontinuous trace of ophiolitic rocks associated with the Anyemaqen-Kunlun suture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)116-129
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Asian Earth Sciences
StatePublished - Jun 15 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Back-arc rift basin
  • Deep-marine sedimentation
  • Paleo-Tethys
  • Rollback tectonics
  • Triassic
  • West Qinling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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