Geomorphological Evolution and Palaeoenvironmental Change in the Western Alashan Plateau, China

BingQi Zhu (Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100101, China)


Although neotectonic activity is considered to be the main factor of theterrain evolution of the Qinghai Tibet Plateau and its surrounding high-altitude areas, further geomorphological analysis and literature analysis areneeded for the understanding of the geomorphic evolution and the Quaternary environment change of the western area of the Alxa Plateau nearthe northern Tibet Plateau. The purpose of this study is to investigate thedistribution of site-specific geomorphic units of the landforms developedin the vast topography of Ejina Basin (Western Alxa), in order to identifythe geostructural and climatic causes of the geomorphic landscape and itsimpact on the change of paleoenvironment. At present, the climate andhydrological conditions in Ejina are relatively monotonous and stable. Inaddition to tectonic dynamic factors, the most widely distributed landform in the basin is climate landform. There are both geomorphologicaland sedimentological anomalies of Aeolian landforms occurred in thewhole basin, indicating that the underlying surface effect (retention effect) of river (Ejina River) and its related uneven ground and weak winderosion (deflation) process in the nearby area may be the important factors controlling the formation of Ejina dunes, rather than the arid climate.It is believed that the extensive interaction between the aeolian and fluvialprocesses is the main mechanism of the regional geomorphic difference inEjina Basin. According to the comparability of regional geomorphologyand sedimentology, the period of the formation of relic geomorphologyin the edge of Ejina Basin can be reasonably attributed to the local glacialmaximum of the last glacial. The geomorphic transformation from quasiplain and desert valley to desert plain, the appearance of widely movingsand dunes and the presence of large ancient lake geomorphology allindicate that the drought index of Ejina Basin is increasing on the scaleof geomorphic formation. Paleogeomorphological and chronological evidences show that the climatic and hydrological conditions of the basin inthe last glacial period and the early Holocene are much better than thoseat present. For example, the average annual precipitation in the area before 39-23ka BP is between 60-350 mm (about 36 mm today), but thereare large waves in the Holocene. The coexistence of various climates andlandforms in Ejina Basin and the resulting geomorphic diversity shouldbe the composite result of various geomorphic processes and surface processes besides glaciation. The low aridity (relative humidity) in the EjinaRegion in the late Pleistocene may be the result of the enhancement of thewesterly rain belt and the weakening of the Asian Winter Monsoon in thearid region of Central Asia.


Relic Landform; Geomorphic processes ;aeolian-fluvial interaction; Late Pleistocene; Holocene; Western Alashan

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