›› 2013, Vol. 23 ›› Issue (5): 793-816.doi: 10.1007/s11442-013-1045-3

• Special Research on Sanjiangyuan • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A broad overview of landscape diversity of the Yellow River source zone

Tami NICOLL1, Gary BRIERLEY1, YU Guo-an2   

  1. 1. School of Environment, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand;
    2. Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2012-05-30 Revised:2013-03-28 Online:2013-10-15 Published:2013-10-15
  • About author:Tami Nicoll (1980-), PhD Candidate, specialized in fluvial geomorphology. E-mail: t.nicoll@auckland.ac.nz
  • Supported by:

    International Science & Technology Cooperation Program of China, No.2011DFG93160; No.2011DFA20820; National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41001008


Pronounced variability in the landscapes of the upper Yellow River basin reflects complex inter-relationships between tectonics, climate and surficial processes over time. While the process of landscape classification necessarily involves assumptions and the simplification of reality, it still provides a useful organizational framework within which the nature and controls upon these relationships can be examined. This paper groups the landscapes of the Yellow River source zone into 10 primary classes through GIS analysis of global SRTM 90 m DEM. Landscapes of this region range from the high-elevation, low-relief plains of the upper plateau, through the narrow high-relief valleys of the Anyemaqen Shan (Mountains) in the central basin, to the dramatically incised landscapes within the Tongde and Gonghe sedimentary basins at the downstream end of the study area. A description of each of the landscape classes is presented and the interplay between tectonics, climate and surficial processes over time is examined. The importance of placing the landscapes into the context of the evolutionary history of the Yellow River source zone is emphasized, in particular the evolution of the drainage system and its influence upon present landscape dynamics.

Key words: landscape classification, diversity, connectivity, Yellow River