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Human activity accelerating the rapid desertification of the Mu Us Sandy Lands, North China-Evidence from Micro-charcoal Assemblages

Author(s): Yunfa Miao ; Heling Jin ; Jianxin Cui

Year: 2017

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Summary

Over the past several thousand years, the arid and semiarid regions of China have experienced a series of asynchronous desertification events in its semiarid sandy and desert areas, but the precise identification of the driving forces of such events has remained elusive. Identified are two rapid desertification events (RDEs) at ~4.6 ± 0.2 ka BP and ~3.3 ± 0.2 ka BP from the JJ Profile, located in the eastern Mu Us Sandy Lands. These RDEs appear to have occurred immediately following periods marked by persistently frequent and intense fires based on the micro-charcoal assemblages. We argue that such fire patterns, directly linked to an uncontrolled human use of vegetation as fuel, played a key role in accelerating RDEs by ensuring that the land surface was degraded beyond the threshold required for rapid desertification. Today, the Mu Us Sandy Lands are an important agro-pastoral transition zone and a powerful ecologically-protective screen preventing the incursion of deserts from the south and east. According to this analysis, future major ecological rehabilitation should focus on improving vegetation coverage and avoiding fire hazards to reduce the risk of desertification. The micro-charcoal might be considered as an important proxy for investigating the fire process and ancient human activities.


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Human activity accelerating the rapid desertification of the Mu Us Sandy Lands, North China-Evidence from Micro-charcoal Assemblages. Yunfa Miao, Heling Jin, Jianxin Cui. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 428818)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: 66.885; min lat: -8.928 ; max long: 147.568; max lat: 54.059 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15026

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America