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Aeolian desertification in China's northeastern Tibetan Plateau: Understanding the present through the past

Li, Jinchang, Wang, Yuan, Zhang, Lisha, Han, Liuyan, Hu, Guangyin
Catena 2019 v.172 pp. 764-769
climate, cold, desertification, eolian sands, humans, land restoration, luminescence, paleoclimatology, sand, statistical analysis, temperature, wind, China
Under a background of a significantly warming climate, current aeolian desertification in China's northeastern Tibetan Plateau (NETP) has been widely studied, but disagreements related to its causes continue to persist. In order to understand the present through the past, this study determined the various phases of aeolian desertification in the NETP based on the statistical analysis of 40 optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) aeolian sand dates from 23 aeolian sections. Because the redistribution of aeolian sand by wind processes can reduce the number of older sand dates, this research only affects exactly the past millennium. Following this, we analyzed the relationships between aeolian desertification phases in conjunction with reconstructed climatic data. Results revealed three distinct aeolian desertification phases that approximately correspond to 1480 CE, 1680 CE, and 1800 CE, respectively. By comparing these dates to well-established paleoclimate records, we determined that these three aeolian desertification phases all occurred under a cold and dry climate background. Accordingly, aeolian desertification in the NETP today under its current warm and wet climate background can therefore be attributable to irrational human activities rather than rising temperatures. Accordingly, we can infer that under the current warmer and wetter climate background, aeolian desertification in the NETP today can be reversed as long as human activities remain moderate, even without the implementation of artificial revegetation initiatives.