Composition of Rare Earth Elements in Fluvial Sediments of the Lesser Zab River Basin, Northeastern Iraq: Implications for Tectonic Setting and Provenance

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Geosciences (Switzerland)


During the past few decades, rare earth elements (REEs) have gained enormous attention in geochemical studies worldwide as a result of their important role in the manufacturing of high-tech equipment. REEs in river sediment have been widely used for provenance determination and in geochemical studies of continental crust, rock and sediment environments, and anthropogenic pollution. This study aims to elucidate the origin and tectonic setting of Little Zab River Basin (LZRB) sediments by examining 23 fluvial sediment samples of rare earth elements (REEs) collected from both the primary river and the inter-sub-basin regions during the rainy or high-flow season. The ICP-MS method was employed to analyze all samples to identify and assess the compositions of REEs. A fraction of the river sediments, smaller than 2 mm, which is more representative and more homogeneous, was used to carry out geochemical analysis. REE concentrations in the Little Zab River (LZR) and the upper parts of the LZRB were generally higher than those in the lower parts. The concentration of REEs in nearly all samples was lower than that of the North American Shale Composite (NASC), and the Upper Continental Crust (UCC), except for the sub-basin sediment Sbs2, which was higher than these references; also, the sediment sample Zrs4 was slightly higher than NASC. Light rare earth elements (LREEs) display enrichment relative to heavy rare earth elements (HREEs) with a range between 7.15 μg/g and 12.37 μg/g for LZR samples and between 5.95 μg/g and 13.03 μg/g for the sub-basin samples. The REE discrimination diagrams, along with the chondrodite-normalized pattern of the studied sediments, confirm that the sediment is predominantly sourced from the alkaline basaltic unit of the late Cretaceous Walsh group of an arc tectonic affinity.

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Funding Sponsor

Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research



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