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Understanding the Interactions between Climate Change, Landscape Evolution, Surface Processes and Tectonics in the Earth System: What Can the Studies of Chinese Deserts Contribute?

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Due to large deserts on Earth surface a thorough understanding of climate change, landscape evolution and geomorphological processes having occurred in deserts is crucial for Earth System Science. The landscapes in deserts are, however, diverse and different over the globe with regard to their geomorphological nature, human activities and geological histories. In the last decades a great number of efforts have been put to the investigation of the initial timing of the occurrence of arid climate, e. g. in northwestern China. Silty sediments in the downwind directions have been used to deduce the histories of deserts. In general, there is a lack of knowledge about processes and landscapes in Chinese drylands between the initial Miocene silt sedimentation at desert margins and the late Quaternary multiple occurrences of wetter climate with assumed large lakes in many of the deserts in northern China. The geomorphological concept of three primary triggering factors, i.e., the sediment supply, sediment availability and transport capacity of wind, and additionally the underground geology need to be fully considered for a better understanding of the environmental histories of sand seas which should not be viewed as equivalent for deserts because sand seas cover between < 1% and ca. 45% of the desert areas in various continents dependent on a complex interaction between various processes of both exogenous and endogenous origins.
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Keywords: Quaternary geology; desert; earth surface process; geomorphology; global change; sand sea

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2016

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