Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Pattern analysis of a linear dune field on the northern margin of Qarhan Salt Lake, northwestern China


In terms of formation mechanisms of linear dunes, there are open arguments for their widespread distribution and multi-morphological diversities. In order to clarify the formation mechanism of linear dunes of Qarhan Salt Lake, we used pattern analysis method to analyze the statistical characteristics and spatial variation of their pattern parameters. Except at the west-northwest margin, the pattern parameters showed regular spatial variation from the up-middle part towards the downwind end of the dune field. Based on the cumulative probability plots for inter-crest spacing and crest length, we divided the linear dunes into three groups, which corresponding to the three evolution stages of these dunes. The first group comprises erosional relics, with shorter crests, smaller inter-crest spacing and more random dune orientation. The second group comprises dunes whose sand supply is just sufficient to maintain stability and these dunes are approaching the net erosion stage. The crest length and inter-crest spacing of these dunes are much larger than those of the first group, and dune orientation is closer to the resultant drift direction (RDD). The last group comprises linear dunes that are still undergoing vertical accretion and longitudinal elongation, which follows the RDD of the modern wind regime. The presence of regular spatial variation of pattern parameters and a similar geometry with the vegetated linear dunes suggest that deposition and erosion coexist in the development and evolution of linear dunes of Qarhan Salt Lake, i.e. deposition predominates at the downwind end of linear dunes in the vertical accretion and longitudinal elongation stage, whereas erosion mainly occurs at the upwind end of linear dunes in the degradation stage. Therefore, the formation mechanism of linear dunes in Qarhan Salt Lake can be reasonably explained by the combination of depositional and erosional theories.

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