The Sanjiangyuan is a very special place. Its distinctive geography, ecology and history imbue a suite of unique, irreplaceable values, in biophysical, socio-cultural and economic terms. Because of its high species richness and abundance of endemic species, this area, along with Southeast China and the Himalayan biodiversity hotspot, is considered to be one of the 34 most important centres of biodiversity in the world (Myers et al., 2000). The challenging environmental setting, it terms of its altitude, tectonic setting and climate, alongside significant development pressures, present major challenges for sustainability and conservation planning. In this special issue we draw together a series of papers that outline how geomorphic (landscape) considerations present an integrative biophysical template with which to develop and enact scientifically informed environmental management activities in this region. The fundamental premise here is a simple one: geodiversity underpins biodiversity and land use potential, thereby fashioning ecosystem values and socio-cultural and economic opportunities.
It is a key premise of ‘ecosystem approaches' to natural resources management that we must have an appropriate understanding of biodiversity values, and controls upon them, if we wish to manage them effectively. These biodiversity values, and associated ecosystem functionality, vary with space and time and are tied directly to landscape-scale relationships and evolutionary traits. In riverine systems, nested hierarchical principles provide a useful platform to assess relationships between landscape components across a range of scales. These understandings are most instructively synthesized through catchment-scale analyses. This paper outlines a rationale for systematic catchment-wide appraisals of river geodiversity. An initial application of these principles is presented for the Yellow River source zone in Qinghai Province, western China. Geo-ecological relationships are outlined for five broad sections of the trunk stream, highlighting implications for the management of these individual landscape compartments and for the system as a whole.
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.
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.
The 270 km long section of the Upper Yellow River at the First Great Bend is comprised of single channel and multiple channel systems that alternate among anastomosing, anabranching, meandering and braided reaches. The sequence of downstream pattern changes is characterized as: anastomosing-anabranching, anabranching-meandering, meandering-braided and braided-meandering. Remote sensing images, DEM data and field investigations are used to assess and interpret controls on these reach transitions. Channel slope and bed sediment size are key determinants of transitions in channel planform. Anastomosing reaches have a relatively high bed slope (0.86‰) and coarser sediment bed material (d50 = 3.5 mm). In contrast, meandering reaches have a low slope (0.30‰) and fine sediment bed material (d50 = 0.036 mm). The transition from a meandering to braided pattern is characterized by an increase in channel width-depth ratio, indicating the important role of bank strength (i.e. cohesive versus non-cohesive versus channel boundaries). Interestingly, the braided-meandering and meandering-braided transitions are coincident with variable flow inputs from tributary rivers (Baihe and Heihe rivers respectively). Theoretical analysis of the meandering-braided transition highlights the key control of channel width-depth ratio as a determinant of channel planform.
There is growing concern over the effects of climate change on glacier melt and hydrology. In this article, we used two natural small-scale basins, Tuotuo River and Buqu River in the source region of the Yangtze River, China, to show the impacts of glacier melt on stream flow. Changes in the extent of glaciers and ice volume in 1970, 1992 and 2009 are evaluated using remote sensing images. Changes to the glacier surface area over the same time interval are estimated through the delineation of glacier outlines and positions using Landsat TM/ETM+ imagery. By 2009, the glacier surface area had decreased by 20.83% and 34.81% of the 1970 values in Tuotuo River and Baqu River basins respectively. The total meltwater supply in each basin is estimated to be 2.56×109 m3/yr and 1.24×109 m3 /yr respectively. Mass balance calculations show that glaciers in the study area suffered a constant mass loss of snow and ice, accumulatively approximately-24 m over the past 40 years. The annual and summer stream flow tended to increase in Tuotuo River basin from 1970 to 2009 while a negative trend of change was shown in Buqu River basin during 1970-1986. Glaciers became shorter, narrower and thinner under the effect of atmospheric warming. Streamflow increase has been recorded at Tuotuo River station in response to increased glacier and permafrost melt. However, streamflow decrease has been recorded at Yanshiping station on Buqu River, where glacier melt has lagged behind atmospheric warming. These results show a close but variable linkage among climate change, glacier melting and water resources in the source region of the Yangtze River.
As they are products of glacier movement, the water body composition and water quality attributes of glacial lakes have distinct characteristics compared with inland lakes. Although satellite remote sensing provides an effective approach to monitor water quality, lack of in-situ measurement data on the status and environment surrounding glacial lakes presents a major constraint in relating satellite data to water quality indicators. This study presents findings of a preliminary investigation into water quality attributes of 3 glacial lakes in the Mount Qomolangma region. Suspended particulate matter (SPM), light absorption attributes of phytoplankton, nonalgal particles (NAP), and colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) were measured. The suspended substance concentration varies markedly from 0-320 mg/L. This is considered to reflect differing stages of lake development. The chlorophyll concentration is much lower than that found for inland lakes, as landscapes that surround these high altitude lakes have almost no vegetation growth. The phytoplankton and CDOM concentration depend on long-term stability of lake slopes. Given the lack of exogenous and endogenous inputs in the Qomolangma region, CDOM in glacial lakes is significantly lower than in inland lakes. These preliminary findings could support efforts to appraise estimates of water quality parameters using remotely sensed images.
This study presents findings of the first systematic analysis of aquatic biotic assemblages in the source region of the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers. It provides an initial basis with which to select representative organisms as indicators to assess the aquatic ecological status of rivers in this region. Macroinvertebrates are considered to be good indicators of long-term environmental changes due to their restricted range and persistence over time. Field investigations of macroinvertebrates were conducted in August 2009 in the source region of the Yellow River, and in July 2010 in the source region of the Yangtze River. Altogether 68 taxa of macroinvertebrates belonging to 29 families and 59 genera were identified. Among them were 8 annelids, 5 mollusks, 54 arthropods and 1 other animal. In the source region of the Yellow River, taxa number, density and biomass of macroinvertebrates were 50, 329 individuals m-2 and 0.3966 g dry weight m-2, respectively. Equivalent figures for the source region of the Yangtze River were 29, 59 individuals m-2 and 0.0307 g dry weight m-2. The lower benthic animal resources in the source region of the Yangtze River are ascribed to higher altitude, higher sediment concentration and wetland degradation. Preliminary findings of this exploratory study indicate that hydroelectric power stations had a weak impact on benthic dwellers but wetland degradation caused by a series of human activities had a catastrophic impact on survival of macroinvertebrates. Ecological protection measures such as conservative grazing and vegetation management are required to minimize grassland degradation and desertification, and reduce soil erosion rate and river sediment discharge.
An evolutionary model of sedimentary environments since late Marine Isotope Stage 3 (late MIS 3, i.e., ca. 39 cal ka BP) along the middle Jiangsu coast is presented based upon a reinterpretation of core 07SR01, new correlations between adjacent published cores, and shallow seismic profiles recovered in the Xiyang tidal channel and adjacent northern sea areas. Geomorphology, sedimentology, radiocarbon dating and seismic and sequence stratigraphy are combined to confirm that environmental changes since late MIS 3 in the study area were controlled primarily by sea-level fluctuations, sediment discharge of paleo-rivers into the South Yellow Sea (SYS), and minor tectonic subsidence, all of which impacted the progression of regional geomorphic and sedimentary environments (i.e., coastal barrier island, freshwater lacustrine swamp, river floodplain, coastal marsh, tidal sand ridge, and tidal channel). This resulted in the formation of a fifth-order sequence stratigraphy, comprised of the parasequence of the late stage of the last interstadial (Para-Sq2), including the highstand and forced regressive wedge system tracts (HST and FRWST), and the parasequence of the postglacial period (Para-Sq1), including the transgressive and highstand system tracts (TST and HST). The tidal sand ridges likely began to develop during the postglacial transgression as sea-level rise covered the middle Jiangsu coast at ca. 9.0 cal ka BP. These initially submerged tidal sand ridges were constantly migrating until the southward migration of the Yellow River mouth to the northern Jiangsu coast during AD 1128 to 1855. The paleo-Xiyang tidal channel that was determined by the paleo-tidal current field and significantly different from the modern one, was in existence during the Holocene transgressive maxima and lasted until AD 1128. Following the capture of the Huaihe River in AD 1128 by the Yellow River, the paleo-Xiyang tidal channel was infilled with a large amount of river-derived sediments from AD 1128 to 1855, causing the emergence of some of the previously submerged tidal sand ridges. From AD 1855 to the present, the infilled paleo-Xiyang tidal channel has undergone scouring, resulting in its modern form. The modern Xiyang tidal channel continues to widen and deepen, due both to strong tidal current scouring and anthropogenic activities.
Since the 1970s, remote sensing images have provided new information for the delineation and analysis of coastline changes, especially focusing on the short timescale changes. This paper, based on the Landsat MSS imagery, focuses on the coastline evolution of Yancheng, northern Jiangsu, China since the mid-Holocene. A zebra stripe image, which could reveal the ancient coastal evolution of Yancheng, was extracted from a Landsat MSS image. Based on the extracted black-white stripes, 19 surface sediment samples were recovered and analyzed to recognize the sedimentary characteristics of these stripes. It shows that most sand and silty sand samples appear on the white stripes, while silt and silty clay samples are on the black stripes. Sandy and muddy sediments present an alternating distribution pattern on the Yancheng coastal plain. A historical coastline map was drawn according to the previous research achievements of the paleo-coastal sand barriers and paleo-coastlines, and was superimposed on the zebra stripe image. The trend of the extracted zebra stripes is consistent with the historical coastlines, and it should be the symbol of the Yancheng coastline evolution. On the basis of ten sets of black-white stripes and previous research results, we divided the progression of Yancheng coastal evolution into three stages (i.e., the early stable stage (6500 a BP-AD 1128), the rapid deposition stage (AD 1128-1855) and the adjustment stage (AD 1855-present)). Ten sets of black-white stripes were identified as the characteristic pattern of the coastline evolution on the Yancheng coastal plain.
Modern climate research has shown that the Asian summer monsoon water vapor transport is limited to the eastern part of the Qilian Mountains. On the Holocene millennial-scale, whether the northwest boundary of the summer monsoon varies according to climate change is a key scientific issue. Yanchi Lake is located in the northern Qilian Mountains and the middle of the Hexi Corridor, where the modern climate is less affected by the Asian summer monsoon. It is a key research area for examining the long-term variations of the Asian summer monsoon. Paleoclimatic data, including AMS 14C dates of pollen concentrates and bulk organic carbon, lithology, grain-size, mineral composition and geochemical proxies were acquired from sediments of Yanchi Lake. The chronological results show that the lower part of the lacustrine section is formed mainly in the Late Glacial and early Holocene period, while the proxies' data indicate the lake expansion is associated with high content of mineral salts. The middle part of this section is formed during the transitional period of the early and middle Holocene. Affected by the reworking effect, the pollen concentrates AMS 14C dates from the middle part of the section are generally older than those from the lower part. Since the mid-Holocene, Yanchi Lake retreated significantly and the deposition rate dropped obviously. The Yanchi Lake record is consistent with the Late Glacial and Holocene lake records in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the climatic records in typical monsoon domain, which indicate the lake expansion and the strong Asian summer monsoon during the Late Glacial and early Holocene. The long-term monsoonal pattern is different from the lake evolution in Central Asia on the Holocene millennial-scale. This study proves the monsoon impacts on the northwestern margin of the summer monsoon, and also proves the fact that the northern boundary of the summer monsoon moves according to millennial-scale climate change.
This paper seeks to quantify the social and economic impact of resettlement based on the physiographic element changes post relocation. We focus on communities affected by the Nuozhadu hydropower project, the largest existing hydropower project on the mainstream of the Upper Mekong River. Soil and meteorological data were collected from the Soil Spatial Database and the China Terrestrial Ecological Information Spatial Meteorology Database, while social and economic data were collected via field surveys. We have three major conclusions: (1) Communities will be relocated to a new climate and new elevation, moving from a north tropical climate zone under 700 m to a subtropical climate zone above 700 m. (2) Physiographic element changes due to relocation will reduce household economic income. After relocation, the annual family income of the Shidaimao group decreased by 62%; the annual family income of the other 5 study groups (Lasa, Hani, Nochangchangyi, Mengsa, and Dawazi) dropped by 65%. (3) Communities relocated across the study township are 61.1% less connected with their former relatives after relocation while family-to-family free labor exchange, a previous community norm, decreased by 91%. China's dam resettlement compensation system focuses on the loss of economic resources after relocation. However, this study finds that the physiographic elements of the relocation sites are an important driver of ensuring economic growth and stability after relocation. As a result, we recommend more attention be paid to physiographic continuity when designing relocation models.
In this article my aim is to demonstrate that for Geography the Geoparks are structures more important than the National Parks. After briefly exposing this opinion, I'll sustain it with the help of a recent book,Interpretation Evaluation for Geoparks: Theory into Practice, written by Dr. Wei Dongying, a Chinese geographer: quite obviously, when dealing with Geoparks.