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Journal of Arid Land
Research Articles     
The formation age and evolution of Kumtagh Desert
JinNian TANG, ZhiZhu SU, Feng DING, ShuJuan ZHU, YouHao E, XinWei ZHAI, ZhiYu YI, HuJun LIU, JinChun ZHANG, FaMing LI
1 Minqin National Studies Station for Desert Steppe Ecosystem, Minqin 733300, China; 2 State key Laboratory Breeding Base of Desertification and Aeolian Sand Disaster Combating, Gansu Desert Control Research Institute, Lanzhou 730070, China; 3 School of History and Culture, Shanxi University, Taiyuan 030006, China; 4 Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
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Abstract  The ancient aeolian sand has been regarded as an indicator for the formation and evolution of a desert in the past. Kumtagh Desert is located at the northern fringe of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The first integrated scientific investigation to the desert was carried out during the period of 2004-2006. Kumtagh Desert is an ideal natural model for studying the formation and evolution of the desert because the Quaternary strata containing ancient aeolian sands are widely distributed. The integrated field investigation and studies on sedimentary, chronology and palynology of typical profiles named Suosuo gully, Xiaoquan gully and gravel body with ancient aeolian sand layers showed that Kumtagh Desert was probably formed as early as 2,097.7±314.7 ka BP. During the period of 386.9±58.0 ka BP to 285.9±42.9 ka BP, the desert largely expanded and formed its modern distribution pattern. The desert was originally developed in the southwest, subsequently, expanded to the north and northeast. The sedimentary facies of Suosuo gully profile revealed that the desert experienced at least 19 cycles of advance and inverse processes of desertification with an average period of 110 ka in the Quaternary. The neotectonic movements played an important role in the formation, development and geomorphology of the desert. On one hand, the movements caused the formation of intermontane fault basin, which was further developed towards the closed drought basin, and caused the formation of natural environment. On the other hand, under the control of surrounding faults, the unique broom-shaped desert landscape was formed, and the gullies and sand ridges in this region experienced an abrupt directional change from north by west to north by east at the location of 39°45′-39°55′N. The unique landscape of gravel body that occurred widely in the northern desert was formed after 285.9±42.9 ka BP. The results in this paper provide the scientific basis for studying the formation age and evolutionary process under the dry climate and environment in the northwestern China, and the uplifting of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau as well as its responses to the global climate changes.

Key wordsfertile island      geostatistics      plant population      soil chemical properties      spatial heterogeneity     
Received: 16 August 2010      Published: 07 June 2011
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JinNian TANG, ZhiZhu SU, Feng DING, ShuJuan ZHU, YouHao E, XinWei ZHAI, ZhiYu YI, HuJun LIU, JinChun ZHANG, FaMing LI. The formation age and evolution of Kumtagh Desert. Journal of Arid Land, 2011, 3(2): 114-122.

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