Is The Enclosed Qaidam Basin In The Tibetan Plateau Accumulative Or Erosive?

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Zhongping Lai, China University of Geosciences Wuhan, Wuhan, China
The Qaidam Basin (QB) is an inter-mountane basin in the northeastern Tibetan Plateau (QTP), and various palaeoenvironmental reconstructions have been undertaken assuming that the sediments contain continuous and high-resolution records. The climate is hyper-arid today, and is one of the most arid places in the world. The Chaerhan salt lake is the depo-center for the QB during the Quaternary. The Shell Bar, located in this lake with million of ARTICULATED Corbicula shells living in freshwater, had been previously interpreted to be shorelines representing high lake stand, with 14C ages of 30-40 ka BP. Our new interpretation proposes that it appears to have been formed by an active stream or a small river that flowed into the Chaerhan playa after a lake regressed from the basin floor. The river incised a channel into the lacustrine muds of that former lake, and the accumulation of Corbicula shells and the thin salt crust layer on top provided resistance to the wind erosion that have deflated the surrounding lake sediments, leaving it in topographical relief. At present the channel rises up to 2-3 m above the playa. Our OSL dating results shows that it has an age of about 100 ka. Since the Chaerhan playa is the depositional center of the inland QB during the Quaternary, this implies that the area has experienced considerable deflation since ca. 100 ka. When looking at the chronological data published so far in the basin, we found similar ages of 100 ka for the surface sediments, which indicate that the basin in general has experienced dramatic wind erosion.

Different opinions exist towards the dust source of the Chinese Loess Plateau (CLP) which is located to the east of the QB. It has been argued that the QB contributed little dust to the CLP, as the dust generated in the QB could not reach the CLP. However, some others proposed the opposite. Our geochemistry data show that the similarities of major-element analysis for samples from the QB (both lacustrine and loess), Qinghai Lake (loess), and the Chinese Loess Plateau (loess) indicate that the QB is an important dust source for the loess in Qinghai Lake and the Chinese Loess Plateau. Our numerical modeling showed that dust could be transported from the QB to the Loess Plateau during the glacial periods. Field observation also supports our new model of the geomorphic process in the enclosed basin.