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01.06.2015 | Original Article | Ausgabe 11/2015

Environmental Earth Sciences 11/2015

Geomorphoclimatic characteristics and landform information in the Ejina Basin, Northwest China

Environmental Earth Sciences > Ausgabe 11/2015
Bingqi Zhu, Jingjie Yu, Patrick Rioual, Yan Gao, Yichi Zhang, Leilei Min
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s12665-014-3927-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


Natural environment of mid-latitude deserts of Central Asia is undergoing rapid changes. One of its elements is the relief. What needs to be particularly emphasized is its morphogenesis and landform evolution. In this study, a geomorphological research in the Ejina Basin (Inner Mongolia) is carried out with regard to identifying the main landforms and the contemporary geomorphic processes. We consider ancient and modern landforms as a unit and provide a general explanation for their evolution. Related environmental indications of existing landforms are discussed on the basis of climate geomorphology. Results show that the current basin is under the conditions favorable for the development and dominance of landforms originated from physical processes such as desiccation–deflation and aeolian. The landform system is characterized by its variable structure which is conditioned by specific hydrodynamics processes that existed during glaciations. It is suggested that landform patterns in Ejina are under the strong influence of rapid and/or intensive geomorphic processes. These signatures reflect the regional dynamics of landform evolution as characterized by a very effective integration of tectonic and climate-driven morphogenetic processes. Based on the present day climate data, we infer an obvious linkage of desert gorges and pediments in the basin to ancient humid phases, which provided high energy runoff for the formation of these landforms and were associated with erosional features under more humid and colder climate during the last glacial period. Desert plains and aeolian dunes in the central basin are the related products of contemporary climate. Clear evidences proving the landform inconsistency and landform instability in the Ejina are presented, indicating that the main geomorphic unit is experiencing transformation from alluvial plain to desert plain and then to aeolian dunes. However, the geomorphodiversity in the Ejina should be a compound result of complex surficial processes other than glaciation. Frost weathering, fluvial/alluvial action, desiccation–deflation and aeolian processes as well as climatic changes have played important roles.

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Landforms of desert plains and typical reg of clasts developed on the alluvial plain in the Ejina Basin. (a) Old stream channels are still preserved at the edge of the desert plain; (b) the flat ground surface with little vegetation cover; (c) development of steppe desert on the desert plain; (d) gravels covering on the surface of Gobi desert plain (EPS 10658 kb)
Sedimentation under the surface of desert plains in the Ejina Basin: (a) diluvial-alluvial deposits of alluvial fan in the central basin, (b) complicated sedimentary sequence interlayed by sand, gravel, silt and clay sediments involved alluvial, fluvial, lacustrine and aeolian processes in the central basin, (c) thick clayey deposits in the central basin, (d) erosional terrace in the margin of the basin, (e) thick palaeo-lacustrine section at the low terrain of the northern basin (EPS 9023 kb)
Landforms of pediments and desert gorges in the Ejina Basin. (a) Pediments in the northern basin, (b) pediment in the southern basin, (c) desert gorges in the northern basin, (d) desert gorges covered by aeolian sand in the southern basin (EPS 10605 kb)
Aeolian landforms (dune fields) in the Ejina Basin. (a) Dunes accompanied by Tugai forests (Populus euphratica) and shrubs (e.g. Chinese tamarisk) along the Ejina river banks, (b) Single dunes and dune chains developed along the East River, (c) dunes developed on the Gobi desert plains, (d) active dunes, (e) semi-active dunes, (f) fixed dunes (EPS 10589 kb)
Relationship between aeolian processes (sand dunes) and deflation processes (Gobi desert plains): almost all sand dunes are developed on the Gobi desert plains (EPS 10642 kb)
Fluvial landforms in the Ejina Basin. (a) satellite image of the river channel (East River), Gobi and dune distribution on a short section in the central part of the Ejina Basin, (b) wide and flat sandy riverbed (no water flowing at the time), (c) sedimentation of the sandy riverbed (top 1 m), (d) intermittent flood discharge with muddy water derived from the Heihe River (EPS 8954 kb)
Overview of the northern basin by satellite image (Landsat TM, RGB 7-4-2) (a), Lake Garsunnuoer (b), Lake Sugunuoer (c) and Lake Juyanze (d) in the Ejina Basin (EPS 10670 kb)
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