Geomorphology is one of the main subdisciplines of geography. The research achievements and prospects in geomorphology have received considerable attention for a long time. In this paper, a general retrospect of geomorphologic research in China over the past 60 years was firstly addressed, especially the research progress during the last 40 years. Based on a summary of experience and a tendency of development, perspectives of geomorphologic research direction in the future were provided. It is concluded that the discipline of geomorphology has made great progress in the aspects of geomorphologic types, regionalization, as well as their subdisciplines such as dynamic geomorphology, tectonic geomorphology, climatic geomorphology, lithological geomorphology, palaeogeomorphology. We believe that persisting in the unity principle between morphological and genetic types would be conductive for the development of traditional landforms and integrated landforms. In addition, five perspectives aim to enhance China’s geomorphologicl research capacity were proposed. They are: (1) strengthening the research of basic geomorphologic theory and the research of integrated geomorphology to expand the research space; (2) focusing more on the research of geomorphologic structure and geomorphologic function to improve the application ability of geomorphology; (3) constructing a comprehensive resource, environmental, and geomorphologic information system and building a sharing platform to upgrade the intelligent information industry of geomorphology; (4) putting more efforts on the research of coastal geomorphology and marine geomorphology to assist the transformation of China from a maritime country to an ocean power; and (5) cultivating talents and constructing research teams to maintain a sustainable development of China’s geomorphologic research.
There is a wide diversity of landforms in China. The topography of three major terraces, decreasing in height stepwise from west to east, was formed by the early Miocene. With the commencement of the Great Northern Hemisphere Glaciations (GHGs) and the glacial-interglacial cycles in the Pleistocene, thick loess deposits accumulated in north China, and fluvial terraces were formed and lakes expanded and contracted in eastern and central China. The earliest evidence of hominins in China is dated to ~1.7 Ma; they occupied the monsoon-dominated region for a long interval, until the late Pleistocene, ~50 ka. In this study, we investigated a large area rich in the relics and artifacts of early man. The results indicate that the early humans occupied riverine areas, especially medium-sized fluvial basins, and lake shores. Even in the relatively recent geological past, the occupation and abandonment of settlements were directly forced by the shifting of sand dune fields in the desert-loess transitional zone, which in turn was closely associated with variations in the monsoon climate and vegetation patterns. Our observations indicate that landforms were one of the main determinants of early human behavior, in that loess tableland, large alluvial plains, desert-Gobi areas, and the Tibetan Plateau, were not suitable environments for early human settlement. We infer that the early humans in China adapted their behavior to specific landforms and landform processes. The monsoon climate, which shapes the large-scale step-like pattern of fluvial landforms, promotes vegetation coverage and dominates soil formation, provides a crucial context for early human adaptation. The adaptation of early humans to earth surface processes in East Asia is investigated for the first time in this study. Future investigations will provide further information that will increase our understanding of the linkage between early human behavior and landform processes in East Asia.
The geomorphological evolution of the Northeastern Tibetan Plateau (NETP) could provide valuable information for reconstructing the tectonic movements of the region. And the considerable uplift and climatic changes at here, provide an opportunity for studying the impact of tectonic and monsoon climate on fluvial morphological development and sedimentary architecture of fluvial deposits. The development of peneplain-like surface and related landscape transition from basin filling to incision indicate an intense uplift event with morphological significance at around 10-17 Ma in the NETP. After that, incision into the peneplain was not continuous but a staircase of terraces, developed as a result of climatic influences. In spite of the generally persisting uplift of the whole region, the neighbouring tectonic blocks had different uplift rates, leading to a complicated fluvial response with accumulation terraces alternating with erosion terraces at a small spatial and temporal scale. The change in fluvial activity as a response to climatic impact is reflected in the general sedimentary sequence on the terraces from high-energy (braided) channel deposits (at full glacial) to lower-energy deposits of small channels (towards the end of the glacial), mostly separated by a rather sharp boundary from overlying flood-loams (at the glacial-interglacial transition) and overall soil formation (interglacial). Pronounced incision took place at the subsequent warm-cold transitions. In addition, it is hypothesized that in some strongly uplifted blocks energy thresholds could be crossed to allow terrace formation as a response to small climatic fluctuations (103-104 year timescale). Although studies of morpho-tectonic and geomorphological evolution of the NETP, improve understanding on the impacts of tectonic motions and monsoonal climate on fluvial processes, a number of aspects, such as the distribution and correlation of peneplain and the related morphological features, the extent and intensity of tectonic movements influencing the crossing of climatic thresholds, leading to terrace development, need to be studied further.
Paleo-dune deposits have been widely used as a proxy indicator of past dune activity, which is further used to reconstruct paleoclimates. However, recent studies have critically examined the reproducibility of dune chronologies and the complexity of paleo-dune deposits as paleoenvironmental records. This paper addresses questions on the paleoenvironmental implications of dune chronostratigraphies that have been raised by those reviews, in the specific case of crescentic dunes, using a case study from the Mu Us dune field, north-central China. The processes of turn-over and stabilization of relatively small crescentic dunes are first investigated by observational evidence. In combination with the analysis of a simplified sand preservation model and stratigraphic records, the effect of dune morphodynamics on sand preservation is demonstrated. It is especially evident that thick, nearly instantaneously deposited sand units record dune stabilization near the very end of a dune activity episode, while thin sand units may signal the preservation of sand deposited earlier in episodes of activity. Interpreting the distribution of luminescence ages that indicate sand deposition over time is not as simple as assumed in some previous work. Low frequency of sand ages could indicate an interval of either dune field stabilization or extensive dune activity but poor sand preservation. A peak of sand age frequency likely represents a shift in dune field activity towards stabilization, not a peak of active dune extent, especially if it partially overlaps with an independently identified interval of stabilization (e.g. one recorded by paleosols). The nature and magnitude of these biases in the distribution of sand ages over time are strongly affected by the magnitude of net sand accumulation, which is in turn related to sand supply, transport capacity and sand availability, and ultimately climate change. Relatively short dune stabilization and turn-over time (101 to 102 yrs) indicate that dune geomorphic processes can quickly respond to short-term disturbance, but the chronology of that response must be interpreted in light of how those processes influence age distributions.
There are a series of basins in the Fenwei Graben. Field survey found that there took place several paleolake regressions or intensive stream down-incisions in all basins during the Mid-Late Quaternary. The lowest and oldest paleosol/loess units overlying three of the lacustrine terraces or alluvial ones and some paleomagenetism data from the lacustrine sediment indicate that the onset times of three paleolake regressions or intensive stream down-incisions are synchronous with the formation of L9, L6 and L2 respectively in the Weihe Basin, S8, S5 and S1 respectively in the Linfen-Taiyuan-Xingding Basins, and L8, L5 and L1 respectively in the Datong Basin. The difference in the onset time of each lake regressions or intensive stream down-incision in different basins reveals that the farther the basin is from the Tibetan Plateau, the later it took place. Taking these field facts and the former research results in terms of the regional tectonic movement into account, it is inferred that the tectonic movement of the Tibetan Plateau most probably controlled such geomorphological- sedimentary evolution in the graben.
Both interchannel wetlands and multi-channels are crucial geomorphologic units in an anastomosing river system. Planform characteristics and development of interchannel wetlands and multi-channels control the characteristics of anastomosing rivers. To understand the role that interchannel wetlands play in the development of anastomosing rivers, a study was conducted on the Maqu Reach of the Upper Yellow River (MRUYR), a gravel-bed anastomosing river characterized by highly developed interchannel wetlands and anabranches. Geomorphologic units in the studied reach were extracted from high resolution satellite imagery in Google Earth. The size distributions of interchannel wetlands and interchannel wetland clusters (IWCs), a special combination of interchannel wetlands and anabranches, were investigated. Geomorphologic parameters, including the ratio of interchannel wetland area to IWC area (P), shoreline density (Dl), and node density (Dn) were used to analyze planform characteristics of IWCs and the development of multi-channels in the studied reach. The results suggest that small or middle sized interchannel wetlands and large or mega sized IWCs are more common at the study site. The area of IWC (Su) is highly correlated with other geomorphologic parameters. P increases with increasing Su, and the upper limit is about 80%, which indicates that the development of interchannel wetlands and anabranches in the IWC is in the equilibrium stage. In contrast, Dl and Dn show a tendency to decrease with increasing Su due to diverse evolution processes in IWCs with different sizes. There are three main reasons leading to the formation of IWCs: varying stream power due to the meandering principal channel; development of the river corridor due to the weakening of geologic structure control; and high stability of interchannel wetlands due to conservation by shoreline vegetation.
Geomorphometry, the science of digital terrain analysis (DTA), is an important focus of research in both geomorphology and geographical information science (GIS). Given that 70% of China is mountainous, geomorphological research is popular among Chinese scholars, and the development of GIS over the last 30 years has led to significant advances in geomorphometric research. In this paper, we review Chinese progress in geomorphometry based on the published literature. There are three major areas of progress: digital terrain modelling methods, DTA methods, and applications of digital terrain models (DTMs). First, traditional vector- and raster-based terrain modelling methods, including the assessment of uncertainty, have received widespread attention. New terrain modelling methods such as unified raster and vector, high-fidelity, and real-time dynamic geographical scene modelling have also attracted research attention and are now a major focus of digital terrain modelling research. Second, in addition to the popular DTA methods based on topographical derivatives, geomorphological features, and hydrological factors extracted from DTMs, DTA methods have been extended to include analyses of the structure of underlying strata, ocean surface features and even socioeconomic spatial structures. Third, DTMs have been applied to fields including global climate change, analysis of various typical regions, lunar surface and other related fields. Clearly, Chinese scholars have made significant progress in geomorphometry. Chinese scholars have had the greatest international impact in areas including high-fidelity digital terrain modelling and DTM-based regional geomorphological analysis, particularly in the Loess Plateau and the Tibetan Plateau regions.
Developing approaches to automate the analysis of the massive amounts of data sent back from the Moon will generate significant benefits for the field of lunar geomorphology. In this paper, we outline an automated method for mapping lunar landforms that is based on digital terrain analysis. An iterative self-organizing (ISO) cluster unsupervised classification enables the automatic mapping of landforms via a series of input raster bands that utilize six geomorphometric parameters. These parameters divide landforms into a number of spatially extended, topographically homogeneous segments that exhibit similar terrain attributes and neighborhood properties. To illustrate the applicability of our approach, we apply it to three representative test sites on the Moon, automatically presenting our results as a thematic landform map. We also quantitatively evaluated this approach using a series of confusion matrices, achieving overall accuracies as high as 83.34% and Kappa coefficients (K) as high as 0.77. An immediate version of our algorithm can also be applied for automatically mapping large-scale lunar landforms and for the quantitative comparison of lunar surface morphologies.