SEDIMENTS OF THE SOUTH CHINA SEA
The sedimentary basins of the northern shelf show a two-layer structure,
with the lower section characterized by half-grabens formed during
Paleogene rifting and filled with nonmarine sequences. The upper section
is typified by a wide range of terrigenous and marine sediments deposited
during the Neogene subsidence of the margin (Fig. 6; Ru et al., 1994).
However, reworked Paleocene and Eocene marine microfossils in the
Neogene deposits from the northern shelf indicate that marine intervals
existed earlier in this area. Paleocene deltaic and Eocene marine
sediments have also been found in the southern part of the SCS, such as
the Liyue Bank (Reed Bank) Basin, where carbonate deposition began in the
middle Oligocene (ASCOPE, 1981; Jin, 1989). In the northern SCS, the Pearl
River Mouth Basin (PRMB) has been extensively studied and is close to our
core sites. More than 150 wells have been drilled on the shelf, and a
detailed stratigraphy has been established for the marine sequence from
the uppermost Oligocene to Pleistocene on the basis of planktonic
microfossils (e.g., Huang, 1997). The composite stratigraphy of the PRMB
documents a marine sequence from the upper Oligocene (NP23/24) to
Holocene (NN20) (Jiang et al., 1994; Wu, 1994; Huang, 1997). In the PRMB,
seismic reflectors have been correlated with depositional hiatuses near
the Oligocene/Miocene boundary, in the lower part of the lower Miocene,
near the end of the middle Miocene (T3, 10.2 Ma), near the
Miocene/Pliocene boundary (T2, 5.2 Ma), and around the
Pliocene/Pleistocene boundary (Wang, 1996; L. Huang, pers. comm., 1998).
Unfortunately, the reflector terminology differs between groups, and the
type sections are not correlated with our site. The distribution of wells
also indicates that the nonmarine intercalations in the northern part of
the basin decrease in volume and thin southward toward the slope.
The modern sediments in the SCS consist mainly of terrigenous material
(biogenic carbonate and opal) and a small portion of volcanic material.
Clastic sediments are discharged from the Mekong, Red, and Pearl Rivers.
However, during the past glacial intervals, the paleo-Sunda River system
may have contributed large amounts of sediment to the SCS. Recent
sediment trap studies in the northern SCS (Jennerjahn et al., 1992) have
shown that the highest particle fluxes occurred during the winter monsoon
and are correlated with high wind speed rather than riverine-transported
sediments. These data indicate that suspended matter from the East China
Sea and the Pacific might be major sediment sources for the northern SCS.
The combination of high terrigenous input and the depth (3500 m) of the
modern carbonate compensation depth (CCD) blankets the extensive
continental slopes of the SCS with hemipelagic sediments, whereas the
deep-sea basin is covered by abyssal clay (Su and Wang, 1994). Biogenic
carbonates are found around coral reef islands, especially in the southern
areas. The accumulation of carbonates in the SCS exhibits two patterns
during the late Quaternary. The "Atlantic" pattern, found above the
lysocline, has high carbonate during interglacials and low carbonate in
glacial phases and is primarily driven by terrigenous dilution. The
"Pacific" pattern, found below the lysocline, has low carbonate during
interglacials and high carbonate during glacials and is driven by carbonate
dissolution on the seafloor (Bian et al., 1992; Thunell et al., 1992; Zheng
et al., 1993; Miao et al., 1994; Wang et al., 1995).
Paleoceanography of the South China Sea
Table of Contents