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AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 87, No. 8 (August 2003),

P. 1323-1354.

Copyright copy2003. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

Late Paleozoic depositional history of the Tarim basin, northwest China: An integration of biostratigraphic and lithostratigraphic constraints

Z. Q. Chen,1 G. R. Shi2

1Institute of Geology amp Paleontology, Tohoku University, Aoba, Aramaki, Sendai 980-8578, Japan; [email protected]
2School of Ecology and Environment, Deakin University, Melbourne Campus, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria 3168, Australia; [email protected]


Zhong Q. Chen obtained his Ph.D. in 2001 from Deakin University, Australia and is a research fellow at Tohoku University, Japan. His current research interests include late Paleozoic brachiopod paleontology and biogeography, sequence stratigraphy, basin analysis of central Asian basins, and Permian–Triassic events.

Guang R. Shi is a research specialist in the fields of late Paleozoic brachiopod faunas, stratigraphy, and biogeography and has recognized expertise on quantitative biogeography. He obtained his Ph.D. in 1991 from the University of Queensland, Australia and has been teaching at Deakin University since 1992. G. R. Shi's current research interests include late Paleozoic global biogeography, biostratigraphy, and Permian–Triassic events.


This paper is part of the senior author's Ph.D. thesis carried out at the Deakin University, Australia in 1997–2001. The senior author is grateful to two external examiners: Ian Metcalfe (University of New England, Australia) and J. Tazawa (Niigata University, Japan) for their critical reviews of the thesis version. His acknowledgement also extends to his colleagues from Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Academia Sinica: W. H. Liao, Y. P. Ruan, W. R. Yang, F. S. Xia, X. Y. Wu and H. C. Zhu, H. Luo, and Z. L. Zhu for their kind help in the field and providing their own published (or unpublished) data. C. Ross of the University of West Washington and An Yin of the University of California, Los Angeles are thanked for their critical reviews and constructive suggestions. The study is partly supported by a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science grant (P01103 to Z. Q. C.).


This study provides the first detailed lithostratigraphic and biostratigraphic constraints for improving stratigraphic resolution for hydrocarbon prospecting and exploration in the Tarim basin. A total of 49 stratigraphic units (38 formations and 11 members), ranging in age from the latest Devonian to Permian, are reviewed or redefined in terms of nomenclatures, lithology, age constraints, and lateral distributions based on the detailed field works or newly published data. Of these, the Piqiang Formation (new formation) is proposed to include the reefal carbonates of Asselian–Sakmarian age from the northern Tarim. The subsurface upper Paleozoic stratigraphic framework of the desert areas of the basin is also established for the first time. The high-resolution, basinwide stratigraphic correlations reveal that the sedimentation of the basin in the late Paleozoic was extremely uneven. Of these, the Famennian to Changhsingian successions are completely recorded in the southwestern margin areas of the basin. Here, five eustatic sedimentary cycles are well recognizable, suggesting the sedimentation was more eustatically controlled and little affected by local tectonism. The late Paleozoic successions of both Kalpin and Taklimakan regions are commonly interrupted by major hiatuses at various horizons, suggesting that the sedimentation was apparently modified by local tectonism. Of these, the northward movement of the Tarim block and its subsequent collision with the Yili microcontinent (part of the Kazakhstan plate) may be principally accountable for the discrepancy in the sedimentation of the various regions in the basin in the late Paleozoic.

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