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Evolution of the Lop Desert and the Lop Nor

Zhao Songqiao and Xia Xuncheng
The Geographical Journal
Vol. 150, No. 3 (Nov., 1984), pp. 311-321
Published by: geographicalj
DOI: 10.2307/634326
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/634326
Page Count: 11
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Evolution of the Lop Desert and the Lop Nor
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Abstract

The Lop Desert, or the Lop Depression, is located in the innermost part of the largest continent (Eurasia) in the world. It is also the lowest part, or sink, of the largest inland basin (Tarim Basin) in China. With an elevation of 810-900 m a.s.l. in its peripheral area and 780-795 m a.s.l. in the depression's centre, it has an area of about 50 000 km2. The climate is extremely arid with mean annual precipitation generally less than 20 mm, and the vegetation is very sparse with extensive barren tracts. The region is thinly populated with settlements and farmlands (about 15 000 ha in total) confined to small patches along a few perennial rivers which flow from the neighbouring high mountains into the depression and quickly fade out. Yet, in this extensive and wild desert land, there once flourished ancient oasis civilizations such as Loulan and Miran. It was also traversed by the old Silk Road. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, many internationally known explorers and scientists have made explorations in this region, and the so-called 'wandering lake'-the Lop Nor-has become the subject of speculation and controversy among geographers around the world. Some preliminary conclusions concerning the geomorphological evolution of the Lake can now be drawn as a result of the detailed field study made by the Lop Nor Scientific Expedition, Academia Sinica (1979-82).

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