Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Optically stimulated luminescence dating of sandy deposits from Gulang county at the southern margin of the Tengger Desert, China


Aeolian deposits from the deserts in northern China have been used for palaeoenvironmental research to understand aeolian sedimentology and its dynamic connection to past climate conditions. The Tengger Desert in China is sensitive to the waxing and waning of the monsoonal system. In response to past climate change, the southern margin of the Tengger Desert has evolved significantly since the last glacial period. However, previous attempts to date aeolian deposits in this region were mainly based on radiocarbon dating, which has problems when applied to aeolian deposits. Moreover, sedimentary records are limited. Accordingly, past aeolian activity in this desert remains poorly understood. In the present study, we dated sand samples from Gulang county at the southern margin of the Tengger Desert using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) to understand the history of aeolian activity in this region. Our samples represented well-sorted aeolian sands and sandy loess. Aeolian sands are evidence of dune field buildup and sparse vegetation cover whereas sandy loess is evidence of improved stabilization of sand dunes resulting from ameliorated vegetation cover. Certain samples showed a decline in the equivalent dose (De) values when successive integration intervals were applied, which resulted from unstable OSL signals from non-fast components in the initial part of the decay curve. In order to obtain reliable De estimates, we investigated component-resolved and different background subtraction approaches, and compared the resultant De estimates. We adopted the early background subtraction method to derive De values. Luminescence chronologies and sedimentary records indicated that sand dunes accumulation occurred before 10 ka, and sandy loess developed between 9.5 and 7.6 ka when sand dunes were stabilized as a result of increased effective moisture levels. The transition between sand dune mobilization and stabilization emphasizes the significance of an effective moisture threshold in controlling aeolian activity. Mobilization of sand dunes at ~2.3 ka might be related to an increased aridity during the Late Holocene.


OSL dating; sandy deposit; integration interval selection; aeolian activity; Tengger Desert

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