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Late Holocene Vegetation and Climate Oscillations in the Qaidam Basin of the Northeastern Tibetan Plateau

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Yan Zhao*
MOE Key Laboratory of Western China's Environmental System, College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
Zicheng Yu
MOE Key Laboratory of Western China's Environmental System, College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lehigh University, 31 Williams Drive, Bethlehem, PA 18015, USA
Xiuju Liu
Large Lakes Observatory, University of Minnesota, 2205 East 5th Street, Duluth, MN 55812, USA
Cheng Zhao
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lehigh University, 31 Williams Drive, Bethlehem, PA 18015, USA
Fahu Chen
MOE Key Laboratory of Western China's Environmental System, College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
Ke Zhang
MOE Key Laboratory of Western China's Environmental System, College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
*Corresponding author. Fax: +1 86 931 891 2330.


Pollen evidence from sediment cores at Hurleg and Toson lakes in the Qaidam Basin was obtained to examine vegetation and climatic change in the northeastern Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. The chronologies were controlled by 210Pb and 137Cs analysis and AMS 14C dating. Pollen assemblages from both lakes are dominated by Chenopodiaceae (∼ 40%), Artemisia (∼ 30–35%) and Poaceae (∼ 20–25%), with continued occurrence but low abundance of Nitraria, Ephedra, and Cyperaceae. Artemisia/Chenopodiaceae (A/C) pollen ratios from two lakes show coherent large oscillations at centennial timescale during the last 1000 yr. A/C ratios were high around AD 1170, 1270, 1450, 1700 and 1920, suggesting that the vegetation was more “steppe-like” under a relatively moist climate than that during the intervening periods. Wet-dry climate shifts at the two lakes (2800 m asl) are in opposite phases to precipitation changes derived from tree-ring records in the surrounding mountains (> 3700 m asl) and to pollen and snow accumulation records from Dunde ice core (5300 m asl), showing that a dry climate in the basin corresponds with a wet interval in the mountains, especially around AD 1600. This contrasting pattern implies that topography might have played an important role in mediating moisture changes at regional scale in this topographically complex region.

Original Articles
University of Washington

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