Climatic and tectonic controls on the fluvial morphology of the Northeastern Tibetan Plateau (China)

Xianyan Wang*, Jef Vandenberghe, Huayu Lu, Ronald van Balen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The geomorphological evolution of the Northeastern Tibetan Plateau (NETP) could provide valuable information for reconstructing the tectonic movements of the region. And the considerable uplift and climatic changes at here, provide an opportunity for studying the impact of tectonic and monsoon climate on fluvial morphological development and sedimentary architecture of fluvial deposits. The development of peneplain-like surface and related landscape transition from basin filling to incision indicate an intense uplift event with morphological significance at around 10–17 Ma in the NETP. After that, incision into the peneplain was not continuous but a staircase of terraces, developed as a result of climatic influences. In spite of the generally persisting uplift of the whole region, the neighbouring tectonic blocks had different uplift rates, leading to a complicated fluvial response with accumulation terraces alternating with erosion terraces at a small spatial and temporal scale. The change in fluvial activity as a response to climatic impact is reflected in the general sedimentary sequence on the terraces from high-energy (braided) channel deposits (at full glacial) to lower-energy deposits of small channels (towards the end of the glacial), mostly separated by a rather sharp boundary from overlying flood-loams (at the glacial-interglacial transition) and overall soil formation (interglacial). Pronounced incision took place at the subsequent warm-cold transitions. In addition, it is hypothesized that in some strongly uplifted blocks energy thresholds could be crossed to allow terrace formation as a response to small climatic fluctuations (103–104 year timescale). Although studies of morpho-tectonic and geomorphological evolution of the NETP, improve understanding on the impacts of tectonic motions and monsoonal climate on fluvial processes, a number of aspects, such as the distribution and correlation of peneplain and the related morphological features, the extent and intensity of tectonic movements influencing the crossing of climatic thresholds, leading to terrace development, need to be studied further.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1325-1340
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geographical Sciences
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • climatic impact
  • fluvial deposit
  • fluvial terraces
  • Miocene uplift
  • Northeastern Tibetan Plateau
  • peneplain
  • tectonic impact


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