The silicon isotope composition of the upper continental crust

P.S. Savage, R.B. Georg, H.M. Williams, A.N. Halliday

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


The upper continental crust (UCC) is the major source of silicon (Si) to the oceans and yet its isotopic composition is not well constrained. In an effort to investigate the degree of heterogeneity and provide a robust estimate for the average Si isotopic composition of the UCC, a representative selection of well-characterised, continentally-derived clastic sediments have been analysed using high-precision MC-ICPMS.Analyses of loess samples define a narrow range of Si isotopic compositions (δSi=-0.28‰ to -0.15‰). This is thought to reflect the primary igneous mineralogy and predominance of mechanical weathering in the formation of such samples. The average loess δSi is -0.22±0.07‰ (2 s.d.), identical to average granite and felsic igneous compositions. Therefore, minor chemical weathering does not resolvably affect bulk rock δSi, and loess is a good proxy for the Si isotopic composition of unweathered, crystalline, continental crust.The Si isotopic compositions of shales display much more variability (δSi=-0.82‰ to 0.00‰). Shale Si isotope compositions do not correlate well with canonical proxies for chemical weathering, such as CIA values, but do correlate negatively with insoluble element concentrations and Al/Si ratios. This implies that more intensive or prolonged chemical weathering of a sedimentary source, with attendant desilicification, is required before resolvable negative Si isotopic fractionation occurs. Shale δSi values that are more positive than those of felsic igneous rocks most likely indicate the presence of marine-derived silica in such samples.Using the data gathered in this study, combined with already published granite Si isotope analyses, a weighted average composition of δSi=-0.25±0.16‰ (2 s.d.) for the UCC has been calculated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-399
Number of pages16
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2013


Dive into the research topics of 'The silicon isotope composition of the upper continental crust'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this