This study investigated modern loess weathering and its control on the chemistry of surface water and sediment within the Daihai Lake catchment. The mineral types and the abundances of major and trace elements in loess, sediments and bedrocks were determined to ascertain the provenance of river sediment. The major cation compositions and Sr isotopic ratios of surface and subsurface waters were measured to distinguish the contributions of dissolved loads from various parent materials. The data show that mineralogical characteristics and elemental abundances of the river sediments are almost identical with those of the loess, but are different from the bedrocks, indicating that river sediments are predominantly derived from loess. River waters feeding Daihai Lake show a similar range in 87Sr/86Sr ratios as those of HOAc-soluble carbonate minerals in loess from the Chinese Loess Plateau. The slightly lower 87Sr/86Sr of river waters in the southern catchment relative to other rivers reflect potential weathering of large areas of outcropping basalt. These results imply that (1) surface processes are dominated by weathering of loess which only accounts for 18% of the total catchment area, and (2) loess weathering but not basalt controls the river Sr isotopic signature, although the latter covers a larger catchment area. For groundwater, 87Sr/86Sr ratios indicate that subsurface processes might be controlled by interactions with ambient lithology and hydrological flowpaths.Comparing the rivers draining the Chinese Loess Plateau with global rivers, both Mg/Ca and 87Sr/86Sr in the Daihai surprisingly agree well with those in the upper and downstream Huanghe (Yellow River), as well as HOAc-soluble loess, but differ significantly from other global rivers. This result reinforces the argument that loess weathering plays the most important role in controlling the sediment and water chemistry in the loess-covered areas, whereas the influence of bedrock weathering is minor. This study on modern processes might provide baselines to decipher down core records for paleoclimate reconstructions, especially for lake/river sediments in (semi-)arid areas.
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