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Modern eolian and fluvial processes and their interactions in an ephemeral desert stream in Inner Mongolia, China

Abstract

Purpose

Floods and eolian activities are the dominant external agents to shape the topographic forms in ephemeral desert streams of drylands. So far, few studies have discussed the modern processes of eolian–fluvial interactions. To bridge this gap, we studied the modern interactions of eolian and fluvial process in a desert ephemeral river, the Maobula Gully in Inner Mongolia, which exhibits typical eolian–fluvial interactions.

Materials and methods

Multisource data such as integrated particle size data, hydrological data from the Tugerige Hydrological Station, high-spatial-resolution satellite images, and an eolian sediment saltation emission model were integrated to analyze the effects of eolian and fluvial delivery to the sediment on the riverbed, the eolian sediment feeding rate to the gully, the transport of sediment in flood events, and the interactions between eolian and fluvial processes.

Results and discussion

The desert reach of the Maobula Gully is a replacement reach between coarse sediment from the upper reaches and eolian sediment from the Kubuqi Desert. The annual eolian sediment feeding into the gully exhibited a significant decreasing trend. The eolian sediment into the gully increases the available sediment and the bed roughness, affecting the transport of sediment during floods. The sediment concentration and yields in flood events are mainly decided by the discharge and water yield, respectively. Through a comparison of the channel forms between 1970 and 2013, a recovery mechanism in the Maobula Gully was identified, which involves the equilibrium state between abrupt flood erosion and continuous dune migration.

Conclusions

This study analyzed the modern processes of eolian and fluvial processes and their interactions in a typical ephemeral desert stream named the Maobula Gully, and some interesting results were found. We believe that the methodology and results could provide references and evidence for understanding the mechanisms of fluvial and eolian interactions in other ephemeral desert streams around the world.

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Acknowledgments

Some of the data was provided by the Environmental and Ecological Science Data Center for West China, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (http://westdc.westgis.ac.cn).

Funding

This work was financially supported by the National Nature Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41601009) and the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant No. 2016YFC0500902).

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Correspondence to Heqiang Du.

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Du, H., Wang, T., Xue, X. et al. Modern eolian and fluvial processes and their interactions in an ephemeral desert stream in Inner Mongolia, China. J Soils Sediments 20, 1140–1156 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-019-02452-x

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Keywords

  • Eolian and fluvial processes
  • Ephemeral desert stream
  • Recovery mechanism
  • Sediment replacement