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《Journal of Glaciology and Geocryology》 2005-04
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Some Problems of Freeze-thaw Desertification in the Tibetan Plateau: A Case Study on the Desertification Regions of the Western and Northern Plateau

LI Sen+{1, 2}, GAO Shang-Yu+3, YANG Ping+4, CHEN Huai-Shun+4(1. Resources and Environment Science Research Institute, Foshan University, Foshan Guangdong 528000, China;2. State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, CAS, Xian Shaanxi710054, China; 3. Center of Desert Research, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China; 4. Cold andArid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, CAS, Lanzhou Gansu 730000, China)  
As a process of land degeneration, freeze-thaw desertification takes place in the high altitude regions due to increase in the depth of seasonal thaw layer, which causes an intensive freeze-thaw or sloping process in surface earth. The freeze-thaw desertification always results in the soil and vegetation degenerations. According to the ecological datum plane theory, the freeze-thaw desertification in the plateau can be classified into four types with different landscape indicators and characteristics, i.e. extremely severe, severe, medium and slight degrees. The land area of the freeze-thaw desertification in the western and northern Tibetan Plateau amounts to 44303.73 km+2 and occupies 9.61% of the whole area of the northern and western plateau. The freeze-thaw desertification lands embed in sheet and spot shape in the study area. Long-term freeze-thaw process, low temperature instability of permafrost and covering of sparse vegetation will be thought as the environmental background of the freeze-thaw desertification in the plateau. Over the last 40 years, the air temperature in the Tibetan Plateau increases with a rate of 0.26 /10a. Moreover, the number of population and livestock on the Tibetan Plateau is growing rapidly and grassland has long been overgrazed. In addition, mice and rabbits have also been rampant, having intensified the freeze-thaw processes of the ground surface and enlarged the thawing area, forming the desertification land ultimately. Seasonal thawing layer increasing leads to the drop of groundwater level and the desiccation of surface soil, resulting in the desertification process on the surface and increased recharge to the ground runoff, which will in turn thaw the freeze-thaw interface of the permafrost. The surface soil is sinking and then the slope process is intensified. These are the main processes for the formation of the freeze-thaw desertification. Analyzing the climate data found that the freeze-thaw desertification on the Tibetan Plateau would continue in the coming 20 to 30 years, with a rate similar to that of the last decades but the extent would be more severe. The estimated area of the desertification land on the northern and western parts of the plateau would reach 49334.78 km+2, 50471.22 km+2, and 51633.85 km+2 by the year 2010, 2020 and 2030, respectively. Restoring the grass vegetation, reducing the capacity pressures on the grassland through carrying out the ecological construction and developing substitute industries are the major countermeasures preventing the freeze-thaw desertification. The activities of mice and rabbits should also be monitored in order to prevent the burrowing processes and protect the frozen land environment. Biological and engineering measures could also be considered.
【Fund】: 国家自然科学基金项目(40271012);; 西藏自治区重点科技项目(200101046)资助
【CateGory Index】: X171
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