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Responses of the braided channel to reduced discharge and lateral inputs of aeolian sand in the Ulan Buh Desert Reach of the Upper Yellow River

Li, Yongshan, Wang, Haibing, Ma, Qimin
Environmental earth sciences 2018 v.77 no.10 pp. 379
bedload, data collection, dunes, eolian sands, rivers, shrinkage, stream channels, China, Yellow River
The UlanBuh Desert reach belongs to the upper reaches of the Yellow River located in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (China), which has developed a sandy bed. This reach that flows across aeolian dunes field of the UlanBuh Desert has caused large lateral infusion of aeolian sands into riverbed, an abrupt addition of the bedload and a sharp channel widening, forming a typical braided channel. In addition to traditional driving factors such as discharge, suspended sediments and slope, here we also focus on the lateral infusion of aeolian sands into the Yellow River, which may have a significant impact on channel form. To further recognize the desert braided channel change, here based on a long-time series of field dataset from 1966 to 2013, results show that lateral infusion of aeolian sand is the same as discharge as a significant factor to channel form, which is mainly controlled by aeolian activity and discharge conditions. Before the early-1990s, higher discharge and greater intensity of aeolian activity caused a frequent lateral movement and large lateral inputs of aeolian sands into river; this reach showed an unsteady and wider braided channel with a higher braiding intensity. From the early-1990s to 2013, a reduced discharge that caused a decreasing lateral movement, coupled with the decreasing aeolian activity, have resulted in the main flow of the Yellow River far away from sand dunes, which led to a reduction in lateral inputs of aeolian sands. Thus, the braided channel of the UlanBuh Desert reach presented a shrinkage state, gradually changing from a wider and unsteady braided channel to a narrower and relative steady channel form.