Sediment geochemistry is affected by sediment granularity and chemical partition, which may greatly influence the accuracy of sediment source identification. In this study, we analyzed Ca, Co, Zr, V, Cr, Ti, Sc, Th, and Al in the sediments of major rivers and a Holocene core along the eastern coast of China to reveal the constraints on sediment geochemistry related to granularity and chemical partition and to try and identify the sources of the sediments present in the core. The results reveal that the element concentrations have a significant positive correlation with Al concentration in all these riverine sediments. There are significant differences in the element contents of the bulk sample and the residual sediment leached with acid, including in their ratios. The ratios of Cr/Th–Sc/Th, which is often used for provenance discrimination, reveal that uncertainty of provenance discrimination will increase if the impact of sediment granularity and chemical phase on the index system is not considered. We applied this geochemical approach for provenance on a Holocene core of the East China Sea using Cr/Th–Al, Sc/Th–Al, Ti/Zr–Al, and Cr/Th–Sc/Th with the same granularity as the residue sediments. Based on this approach, we identified the core sediments to have had a large component derived from the western Taiwanese rivers since the mid-Holocene. This study sheds light on the sediment geochemistry used to identify the provenance of marginal seas with multiple rivers entering them.
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