Predominant floodplain over mountain weathering of Himalayan sediments (Ganga basin)

  • Lupker M
  • France-Lanord C
  • Galy V
 et al. 
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Abstract

We present an extensive river sediment dataset covering the Ganga basin from the Himalayan front downstream to the Ganga mainstream in Bangladesh. These sediments were mainly collected over several monsoon seasons and include depth profiles of suspended particles in the river water column. Mineral sorting is the first order control on the chemical composition of river sediments. Taking into account this variability we show that sediments become significantly depleted in mobile elements during their transit through the floodplain. By comparing sediments sampled at the Himalayan front with sediments from the Ganga mainstream in Bangladesh it is possible to budget weathering in the floodplain. Assuming a steady state weathering regime in the floodplain, the weathering of Himalayan sediments in the Gangetic floodplain releases ca. (189±92)×109and (69±22)×109mol/yr of carbonate bound Ca and Mg to the dissolved load, respectively. Silicate weathering releases (53±18)×109and (42±13)×109mol/yr of Na and K while the release of silicate Mg and Ca is substantially lower, between ca. 0 and 20×109mol/yr. Additionally, we show that sediment hydration, [H2O+], is a sensitive tracer of silicate weathering that can be used in continental detrital environments, such as the Ganga basin. Both [H2O+] content and the D/H isotopic composition of sediments increases during floodplain transfer in response to mineral hydrolysis and neoformations associated to weathering reactions. By comparing the chemical composition of river sediments across the floodplain with the composition of the eroded Himalayan source rocks, we suggest that the floodplain is the dominant location of silicate weathering for Na, K and [H2O+]. Overall this work emphasizes the role of the Gangetic floodplain in weathering Himalayan sediments. It also demonstrates how detrital sediments can be used as weathering tracers if mineralogical and chemical sorting effects are properly taken into account. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

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