Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2020, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (9): 1495-1506.doi: 10.1007/s11442-020-1795-7

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

GIS and DEM based analysis of incision and drainage reorganization of the Buyuan River basin in the upper Lancang-Mekong of China since the Late Pleistocene

GU Zhenkui(), FAN Hui*(), YANG Kun   

  1. Yunnan Key Laboratory of International Rivers and Transboundary Eco-Security, Institute of International Rivers and Eco-Security, Yunnan University, Kunming 650091, China
  • Received:2019-12-25 Accepted:2020-03-10 Online:2020-09-25 Published:2020-11-25
  • Contact: FAN Hui;
  • About author:Gu Zhenkui, PhD, specialized in fluvial geomorphology. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    National Key R&D Program of China(2016YFA0601601);China Postdoctoral Science Foundation(2019M653506);National Science and Technology Support Program of China(2013BAB06B03)


River incision and drainage reorganization have an important impact on the site selection of many major projects including city, road and others, and are the key issues of Quaternary environmental changes. Studies of river incision and river-network adjustment have traditionally been based on extensive field evidence, such as sediment age and beheaded river system. The Buyuan River basin is a large sub-basin of the upper Lancang-Mekong, with high mountains and extremely active erosion. The latter affects the preservation of the Quaternary period sediments leading to difficulties in understanding the main evolution characteristics of the basin. This study investigates differences in the equilibrium state of the longitudinal profile, infers incision rates, and evaluates drainage divide migration timelines using the stream-power incision model, the latest morphological dating, and Chi-plots (χ-z) based on digital elevation models (DEMs) on the GIS software platform. The final results show that two significant erosion base-level decreases occurred in the Late Pleistocene at least. The incision rate of the mainstream might have been 0-2.99 mm/yr since 100 ka BP and 0-3.28 mm/yr since 46 ka BP. The Chi-values across the divides suggest that space limited (or constrained) river reorganization and that there is no severe reorganization in the basin; the imbalance of traceable erosion only exists in local areas. The main driving force for the geomorphologic evolution of the Buyuan River basin is likely climate fluctuations rather than strong tectonic uplift since the Late Pleistocene.

Key words: incision rate, river reorganization, morphometric dating, Buyuan River, Lancang-Mekong