Hydrological fluctuations in the Tarim Basin, northwest China, over the past millennium

Kangkang Li*, Xiaoguang Qin, Gill Plunkett, David Brown, Bing Xu, Lei Zhang, Zhaoyan Gu, Guijin Mu, Hongjuan Jia, Zhiqiang Yin, Jiaqi Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Reconstruction of stream organization and flow dynamics in arid regions has proven challenging due to a lack of high-resolution geological archives. Here we present the most comprehensive datasets compiled from geomorphological investigations on the paleo-channels for the last-millennial Tarim River, which is the longest endorheic river in China crossing the world’s second largest desert (Taklamakan). The dating of the records is underpinned by precise radiocarbon dates and tree-ring analyses of sub-fossilized plant remains. Results show the late medieval channels of the Tarim River had a high connectivity that conveyed flows over 1200 km, contributing to the formation of significant riparian forests in the desert regions ~1170 CE. A distinct low-flow interval (ca 1500–1650 CE) is first identified by integration of dendrochronological data and Bayesian modeled radiocarbon dates. We argue that the present-day organization of streams in the lower Tarim River was proto-formed after the dry period, possibly led by episodic flood-induced diversion. Our study describes the centennial-scale cyclic dynamics in the Tarim River flow over the past millennium, offering a robust long-term record for hydrological prediction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-372
Number of pages6
Issue number5
Early online date14 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 01 May 2024

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  • Geology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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