A Novel Tracer Technique to Quantify the Lithogenic Input Flux of Trace Elements to Qinghai Lake

Pu Zhang, Xuezheng Pei, Chenyang Cao, Chi Chen, Ziqin Gong, Xuerou Li, Jingya Pang, Lihua Liang, Xiangzhong Li, Youfeng Ning, R. Lawrence Edwards

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3 Scopus citations


Thorium (Th) isotopes were applied to quantify the contributions of lithogenic inputs to the Qinghai Lake (QHH). Concentrations of dissolved 232Th and 230Th were measured in 59 water samples collected from Qinghai Lake and its exogenous recharge rivers. There are significant differences in the concentration of 232Th of the sampled water in QHH that confirm the input of variable lithogenic material sources. The 230Th concentrations were used to calculate a scavenging residence time for Th, which was then applied to calculate the flux of dissolved 232Th by matching the measured concentrations of dissolved 232Th. Then the 232Th content of lithogenic material was used with the solubility of Th from the preliminary particle data from the Qinghai–Qaidam district. When using a Th solubility from particles of 1%, the fluxes of lithogenic material range from 0.03 to 25.25 g/m2/yr in the surface water, consistent with the flux results of settled particles from the previous study. When a large number of exogenous recharge rivers are mixed into the northwest basin of Qinghai Lake, the 232Th content and lithogenic flux of the lake water are mainly influenced by the type and content of the particles in the Buha and Shaliu rivers. Conversely, in south basin with limited recharging rivers, the 232Th content of the lake water away from the estuary is mainly influenced by atmospheric dust. Furthermore, based on the 230Th normalization method (combining with 232Th and τTh), the Buha and Shaliu rivers located in the northwest basin contribute about 90% of the detrital flux to the lake. The lithogenic flux in the southeast lake is dominated by dust flux with a value of ∼0.109 g/m2/yr, while the higher lithogenic flux at the bottom of the lake was likely generated by accumulated sinking particulate matter and resuspension of bottom sediments in September. This study confirms the utility of long-lived Th isotopes to quantify lithogenic inputs based on the Th content of the dissolved lake water and also supply deposition resolution information for QHH sediment records with some certainty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number866314
JournalFrontiers in Earth Science
StatePublished - Apr 11 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Zhang, Pei, Cao, Chen, Gong, Li, Pang, Liang, Li, Ning and Edwards.


  • Qinghai Lake
  • Th content
  • Th normalization technique
  • dust flux
  • lithogenic flux


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