The Bangladesh lowlands are traversed by the largest sediment flux on the planet. Detritus generated mostly in Himalayan highlands and conveyed through the Ganga–Brahmaputra rivers and Meghna estuary reaches the Bay of Bengal, where it forms a composite deltaic system. This study integrates the vast existing database on Ganga–Brahmaputra sediments of all grain sizes from clay to sand with new petrographic, mineralogical, and geochemical data on estuarine and shallow-marine sands. A large spectrum of compositional signatures was used to: (i) assess the relative supply of the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers to estuarine and shelfal sediments; (ii) define the compositional variability of estuarine sediments and the impact exerted by hydraulic sorting and climate-related chemical weathering on provenance signals; (iii) define the compositional variability of shelf sediments and the potential hydrodynamic segregation of fast-settling heavy minerals in coastal environments and of slow-settling platy micas on low-energy outer-shelf floors; (iv) consider the potential additional mud supply from the western subaerial part of the delta formerly built by the Ganga River; and (v) draw a preliminary mineralogical comparison between fluvio-deltaic sediments and turbidites of the Bengal–Nicobar deep-sea fan, thus tracing sediment dispersal across the huge sedimentary system extending from Tibet to the equatorial Indian Ocean. All investigated mineralogical and geochemical parameters, as well as Sr and Nd isotope ratios and clay–mineral assemblages, showed a clear prevalence in sediment supply from the Brahmaputra (60–70%) over the Ganga (30–40%). Heavy-mineral suites and Sr and Nd isotope fingerprints of Bengal shelf sediments are nearly identical to those of the Brahmaputra River and Meghna estuary, also because the Brahmaputra carries almost twice as many Ca-plagioclase grains and heavy minerals including epidote than the Ganga, and these minerals control the large majority of the Sr and Nd budgets. The experience gained in modern settings can be directly extrapolated only to the recent past, because sediments older than the late Pleistocene and buried more than a few hundred meters begin to lose less durable ferromagnesian minerals by selective chemical dissolution, which makes quantitative estimates progressively less robust in more deeply buried older strata.
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