Abstract: Background, aim, and scope As a new provenance tracing method, electron spin resonance (ESR) signal intensity and crystallinity index (CI) of quartz were widely used in tracing the material sources of marine dust, Asian dust and loess. Firstly, the present researches about the ESR provenance tracer were briefly reviewed. Based on this, we take the Yellow River Basin as the research area to analyze the feasibility of quartz ESR method to trace modern Yellow River sediments.Materials and methodsAs one of the most common and abundant minerals on the earth, the quartz has been selected to be a study material owing to the steady character in the process of the weathering, denudation and sedimentation, which may preferably save the primitive character of the host rocks. ESR signal intensity of the E1’ centre (an indication of the age of the host rock) and CI (an index reflecting the formation condition of the mineral such as temperature and speed of crystallization) of quartz have been tested for the provenance identification. Results Based on the successful application and feasibility analysis on provenance of the marine sediments, Asian dust and loess, the provenance tracing the Yellow River will be proposed by the method of the ESR and CI. Discussion If the method of ESR and CI could successful trace the identification of the Yellow River sediments, the following chief characters should be needed: (1) the stability of the chose object (saving the primitive character in the process of the physical and chemical weathering ); (2) identification of provenance tracer (having the obvious identification in rock age and formation condition ); (3) the stability of provenance material (having the preferably supply relation between the provenance and deposition ); (4) the accessibility of sediments (having the unanimous mixed sediments among the main steam and other branches ). Conclusions Compared with the provenance tracer of eolian sediments, the provenance of the river sediments had more spatial cause and temporal variability. The paper discussed the feasibility of the method of ESR and CI in the sediments of the Yellow River, which perfectly accorded with the stability of the object, identification of signal intensity, stability of provenance material and accessibility of sediments. Therefore, the provenance tracer of ESR and CI of quartz was believed as a promising method to trace the Yellow River sediments. Recommendations and perspectives The quartz ESR method is feasible for the study of sediment tracing in the Yellow River, but the Yellow River has the characteristics of large basin, complex and diverse rocks, and the single tracing method is difficult to accurately identify the source area information of sediment, so this method still needs to be cautious in the application of sediment tracing in the Yellow River.
Keywords: quartz; ESR signal intensity; river sediments; provenance tracing