Discordance of the U-Pb system in detrital zircons: implication for provenance studies of sedimentary rocks
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Provenance studies involving U / Pb analysis of detrital zircons have become increasingly popular through the application of microanalytical techniques. Adopted one-dimensional methods for the presentation of detrital zircon data, such as probability density distribution plots, generally require various degrees of filtering of discordant analyses. However, a uniform approach for filtering does not exist, making comparison of data from different samples and sedimentary units, as well as different studies of detrital populations, extremely difficult. The problem is further complicated by the need to switch from 207Pb / 206Pb based ages to 206Pb / 238U ages when zircon populations within a sample show a range of ages from Archean to Proterozoic or even Phanerozoic. Ion probe analysis of multiple spots within a single zircon crystal and calculation of an internal isochron can potentially eliminate problems associated with discordance, but this is a time consuming approach. Comparison of internal isochron ages for zircons generated by multiple ion probe intra-grain zircon analyses from a sample of psammite within the Dalradian Supergroup of Scotland with a data set from the same sample based on single grain ion probe analysis using various filtering methods suggests good agreement between the two approaches particularly when filtering is based on the probability of concordance. However, when precise information is required, such as the age of the youngest zircon grains so as to accurately constrain the maximum depositional age of the strata, then multiple analyses of individual zircon grains may be required.
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