›› 2013, Vol. 23 ›› Issue (5): 817-832.doi: 10.1007/s11442-013-1046-2

• Special Research on Sanjiangyuan • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Fluvial diversity in relation to valley setting in the source region of the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers

YU Guo-an1, LIU Le2, LI Zhiwei2, LI Yanfu2, HUANG Heqing1, Gary BRIERLEY3, Brendon BLUE3, WANG Zhaoyin2, PAN Baozhu4   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China;
    2. State Key Laboratory of Hydroscience and Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China;
    3. School of Environment, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand;
    4. Changjiang River Scientific Research Institute, Wuhan 430010, China
  • Received:2012-05-30 Revised:2013-03-28 Online:2013-10-15 Published:2013-10-15
  • Contact: Huang Heqing, Professor, E-mail: huanghq@igsnrr.ac.cn E-mail:huanghq@igsnrr.ac.cn
  • About author:Yu Guo-an, Ph.D, E-mail: yuga@igsnrr.ac.cn
  • Supported by:

    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41001008; No.51209010; International Science & Technology Cooperation Program of China, No.2011DFA20820; No.2011DFG93160


The spatial distribution of valley setting (laterally-unconfined, partly-confined, or confined) and fluvial morphology in the source region of the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers is contrasted and analyzed. The source region of the Yangtze River is divided into 3 broad sections (I, II and III) based on valley setting and channel gradient, with the upstream and downstream sections being characterized by confined (some reaches partly-confined) valleys, while the middle section is characterized with wide and shallow, laterally-unconfined valleys. Gorges are prominent in sections I and III, while braided channel patterns dominate section II. By contrast, the source region of the Yellow River is divided into 5 broad sections (sections I-V) based on valley characteristics and channel gradient. Sections I, II and IV are alluvial reaches with mainly laterally-unconfined (some short reaches partly-confined) valleys. Sections III and V are mainly confined or partly-confined. Greater morphological diversity is evident in the source region of the Yellow River relative to the upper Yangtze River. This includes braided, anabranching, anastomosing, meandering and straight alluvial patterns, with gorges in confined reaches. The macro-relief (elevation, gradient, aspect, valley alignment and confinement) of the region, linked directly to tectonic movement of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, tied to climatic, hydrologic and biotic considerations, are primary controls upon the patterns of river diversity in the region.

Key words: valley setting, fluvial morphology, river patterns, spatial distribution, source region of the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers