Germanium/Silicon (Ge/Si) ratio is a common proxy for primary mineral dissolution and secondary clay formation yet could be affected by hydrothermal and anthropogenic activities. To decipher the main controls of riverine Ge/Si ratios and evaluate the validity of the Ge/Si ratio as a weathering proxy in the Tibetan Plateau, a detailed study was presented on Ge/Si ratios in the Yarlung Tsangpo River, southern Tibetan Plateau. River water and hydrothermal water were collected across different climatic and tectonic zones, with altitudes ranging from 800 m to 5000 m. The correlations between TDS (total dissolved solids) and the Ge/Si ratio and Si and Ge concentrations of river water, combined with the spatial and temporal variations of the Ge/Si ratio, indicate that the contribution of hydrothermal water significantly affects the Ge/Si ratio of the Yarlung Tsangpo River water, especially in the upper and middle reaches. Based on the mass balance calculation, a significant amount of Ge (11–88%) has been lost during its transportation from hydrothermal water to the river system; these could result from the incorporation of Ge on/into clays, iron hydroxide, and sulfate mineral. In comparison, due to the hydrothermal input, the average Ge/Si ratio in the Yarlung Tsangpo River is a magnitude order higher than the majority of rivers over the world. Therefore, evaluation of the contribution of hydrothermal sources should be considered when using the Ge/Si ratio to trace silicate weathering in rivers around the Tibetan Plateau.
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