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The Gobi Desert () is a large
desert upright=1.5, alt=see caption, Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali ("Empty quarter") in the United Arab Emirates">Rub'_al_Khali.html" ;"title="Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali">Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali ("Empty quarter") in the United Arab ...

desert
or brushland region in
East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, Hemispheres. It shares the ...

East Asia
. It covers parts of
Northern
Northern
and
Northeastern China Northeast China, is a geographical region of China. It usually corresponds specifically to the three provinces east of the Greater Khingan Range, namely Liaoning Liaoning (), is a coastal province A province is almost always an admini ...

Northeastern China
and of Southern
Mongolia Mongolia (, mn, Монгол Улс, Mongol Uls, Mongolian script, Traditional Mongolian: '; literal translation, lit. "Mongol Nation" or "State of Mongolia") is a landlocked country in East Asia. It is bordered by Russia Mongolia–Russia ...

Mongolia
. The desert basins of the Gobi are bounded by the
Altai Mountains The Altai Mountains (), also spelled Altay Mountains, are a mountain range A mountain range is a series of mountains ranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain system or mountain belt is a group of mountain ranges with simila ...

Altai Mountains
and the grasslands and
steppe File:Steppe of western Kazakhstan in the early spring.jpg, Steppe in Kazakhstan In physical geography, a steppe () is an ecoregion characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes. Steppe biomes may ...

steppe
s of Mongolia on the north, by the
Taklamakan Desert The Taklamakan Desert (; zh, s=塔克拉玛干沙漠, p=Tǎkèlāmǎgān Shāmò, Xiao'erjing Xiao'erjing or Xiao'erjin or Xiaor jin or in its shortened form, Xiaojing, literally meaning "children's script" or "minor script" (cf. "original s ...

Taklamakan Desert
to the west, by the
Hexi Corridor The Hexi Corridor (, Xiao'erjing: حْسِ ظِوْلاْ, IPA: /xɤ˧˥ɕi˥ tsoʊ˨˩˦lɑŋ˧˥/), also known as the Gansu Corridor, is an important historical region located in the modern Gansu province of China China, officially the ...

Hexi Corridor
and
Tibetan Plateau The Tibetan Plateau (, also known as the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau or the Qing–Zang Plateau () or as the Himalayan Plateau in India, is a vast elevated plateau In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λ ...
to the southwest and by the
North China Plain 200px, The North China Plain is shown in dark. The Yellow River is shown as "Río Amarillo". The North China Plain () is a large-scale downfaulted rift basin formed in the late Paleogene The Paleogene ( ; also spelled Palaeogene or Palæogene; ...
to the southeast. The Gobi is notable in history as the location of several important cities along the
Silk Road The Silk Road () was and is a network of trade route A trade route is a logistical network identified as a series of pathways and stoppages used for the commercial transport of cargo. The term can also be used to refer to trade over bodies of ...

Silk Road
. The Gobi is a
rain shadow A rain shadow is an area of significantly reduced rain Rain is liquid water in the form of drop (liquid), droplets that have condensation, condensed from atmosphere, atmospheric water vapor and then precipitation (meteorology), become he ...

rain shadow
desert, formed by the
Tibetan Plateau The Tibetan Plateau (, also known as the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau or the Qing–Zang Plateau () or as the Himalayan Plateau in India, is a vast elevated plateau In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λ ...
blocking precipitation from the
Indian Ocean The Indian Ocean is the third-largest of the world's five oceanic divisions, covering or 19.8% of the water on Earth's surface. It is bounded by Asia to the north, Africa to the west and Australia (continent), Australia to the east. To the s ...

Indian Ocean
reaching the Gobi territory. It is the sixth largest desert in the world and the second largest in Asia after the
Arabian Desert The Arabian Desert ( ar, ٱلصَّحْرَاء ٱلْعَرَبِيَّة) is a vast desert upright=1.5, alt=see caption, Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali ("Empty quarter") in the United Arab Emirates">Rub'_al_Khali.html" ;"title="Sand ...

Arabian Desert
.


Geography

The Gobi measures over from southwest to northeast and from north to south. The desert is widest in the west, along the line joining the
Lake Bosten Bosten Lake (, Uyghur: / / ''Baghrash Köli / Baƣrax Kɵli'', Chagatai: ''Bostang'') is a freshwater lake on the northeastern rim of the Tarim Basin The Tarim Basin is an endorheic basin in Northwest China occupying an area of about and o ...
and the
Lop Nor Lop Nur or Lop Nor (from a Mongolian Mongolian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Mongolia, a country in Asia * Mongolian people, or Mongols * Mongolia (1911–24), the government of Mongolia, 1911–1919 and 1921–1924 * Mongol ...

Lop Nor
(87°–89° east). It occupies an arc of land in area as of 2007; it is the sixth-largest desert in the world and Asia's second largest. Much of the Gobi is not sandy but has exposed bare rock. In its broadest definition, the Gobi includes the long stretch of desert extending from the foot of the
Pamirs The Pamir Mountains are a between , and . It is located at a junction with other notable mountains, namely the , , , and the mountain ranges. They are among the world's highest s. Much of the Pamir Mountains lie in the of . To the south, th ...
(77° east) to the Greater Khingan Mountains, 116–118° east, on the border of
Manchuria Manchuria is an exonym and endonym, exonym for a historical and geographic region of Russia and China in Northeast Asia (mostly in Northeast China today). Its extent may vary depending on the context: * Modern geographical region: ** (most oft ...

Manchuria
; and from the foothills of the Altay, Sayan, and Yablonoi mountain ranges on the north to the
Kunlun The Kunlun Mountains ( zh, s=昆仑山, t=崑崙山, p=Kūnlún Shān, ; mn, Хөндлөн Уулс, ''Khöndlön Uuls''; ug, كۇئېنلۇن تاغ تىزمىسى) constitute one of the longest mountain chains in Asia, extending for more tha ...

Kunlun
,
Altyn-Tagh Altyn-Tagh (also Altun Mountains, Altun Shan; , Pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China, Taiwan (ROC), and Singapore. It ...
, and Qilian mountain ranges, which form the northern edges of the
Tibetan Plateau The Tibetan Plateau (, also known as the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau or the Qing–Zang Plateau () or as the Himalayan Plateau in India, is a vast elevated plateau In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λ ...
, on the south. A relatively large area on the east side of the Greater Khingan range, between the upper waters of the
Songhua The Songhua River (also Haixi or Xingal, russian: Сунгари ''Sungari'') is one of the primary List of rivers of China, rivers of China, and the longest tributary of the Amur. It flows about from the Changbai Mountains on the China–North ...

Songhua
(Sungari) and the upper waters of the Liao-ho, is reckoned to belong to the Gobi by conventional usage. Some
geographer A geographer is a physical scientist, social scientist or humanist whose area of study is geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, feat ...
s and
ecologists This is a list of notable ecologists. A-D * John Aber (United States) * Aziz Ab'Saber (Brazil) * Charles Christopher Adams (United States) * Warder Clyde Allee (USA) * H. G. Andrewartha, Herbert G. Andrewartha (Australia) * Sarah Martha Baker ( ...
prefer to regard the western area of the Gobi region (as defined above): the basin of the Tarim in
Xinjiang Xinjiang (),, SASM/GNC: ''Xinjang''; zh, c=, p=Xīnjiāng; alternately romanized as Sinkiang officially the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and formerly romanized as Sinkiang, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous ...

Xinjiang
and the desert basin of Lop Nor and Hami (
KumulKumul may refer to: Place name *Kumul Khanate, a semi-autonomous vassal state within the Qing Empire and the Republic of China *Hami, also known as Kumul, in Xinjiang Animal *Kumul (bird), ''Paradisaea raggiana'', the national bird of Papua New Gui ...
), as forming a separate and independent desert, called the
Taklamakan Desert The Taklamakan Desert (; zh, s=塔克拉玛干沙漠, p=Tǎkèlāmǎgān Shāmò, Xiao'erjing Xiao'erjing or Xiao'erjin or Xiaor jin or in its shortened form, Xiaojing, literally meaning "children's script" or "minor script" (cf. "original s ...

Taklamakan Desert
. Archeologists and paleontologists have done excavations in the
Nemegt Basin Image:Map_mn_umnugobi_aimag.png, 300px, Map of Mongolia, showing Ömnögovi Province. The Nemegt Basin is a geographical area in the northwestern Gobi Desert, in Ömnögovi Province, southern Mongolia. It is known locally as the "Valley of the Dra ...
in the northwestern part of the Gobi Desert (in Mongolia), which is noted for its fossil treasures, including early mammals, dinosaur eggs, and prehistoric , some 100,000 years old.


Climate

The Gobi is overall a cold desert, with frost and occasionally snow occurring on its
dune A dune is a landform A landform is a natural or artificial feature of the solid surface of the Earth or other planetary body A planet is an astronomical body Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the sc ...

dune
s. Besides being quite far north, it is also located on a plateau roughly above sea level, which contributes to its low temperatures. An average of approximately of rain falls annually in the Gobi. Additional moisture reaches parts of the Gobi in winter as snow is blown by the wind from the
Siberia Siberia (; rus, Сибирь, r=Sibir', p=sʲɪˈbʲirʲ, a=Ru-Сибирь.ogg) is an extensive geographical region spanning much of Northern Asia. Siberia has been Russian conquest of Siberia, part of modern Russia since the latter half of th ...

Siberia
n Steppes. These winds may cause the Gobi to reach in winter to in summer.''Planet Earth'', BBC TV series 2006 UK, 2007 US, "Episode 5". However, the
climate Climate is the long-term pattern of weather Weather is the state of the atmosphere, describing for example the degree to which it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloud cover, cloudy. On Earth, most weather phenomena ...

climate
of the Gobi is one of great extremes, combined with rapid changes of temperature of as much as . These can occur not only seasonally but within 24 hours. In southern Mongolia, the temperature has been recorded as low as . In contrast, in Alxa, Inner Mongolia, it rises as high as in July. Average winter minimums are a frigid , while summertime maximums are a warm . Most of the
precipitation In meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences Atmospheric science is the study of the Earth's atmosphere File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. L ...
falls during the summer. Although the southeast
monsoon A monsoon () is traditionally a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation In meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences which includes atmospheric chemistry and atmospheric ph ...

monsoon
s reach the southeast parts of the Gobi, the area throughout this region is generally characterized by extreme dryness, especially during the winter, when the
Siberian anticyclone The Siberian High (also Siberian Anticyclone; russian: Азиатский антициклон ''Aziatsky antitsiklon'') is a massive collection of cold dry air that accumulates in the northeastern part of Eurasia from September until April. It is ...
is at its strongest. The southern and central parts of the Gobi Desert have variable plant growth due to this
monsoon A monsoon () is traditionally a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation In meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences which includes atmospheric chemistry and atmospheric ph ...

monsoon
activity. The more northern areas of the Gobi are very cold and dry, making it unable to support much plant growth; this cold and dry weather is attributed to Siberian-Mongolian high pressure cells. Hence, the icy and snowstorms of spring and early summer plus early January (winter).


Conservation, ecology, and economy

The Gobi Desert is the source of many important fossils finds, including the first dinosaur eggs, twenty-six of which, averaging 9 inches (23 cm) in length, were uncovered in 1923. Despite the harsh conditions, these deserts and the surrounding regions sustain many animals, including black-tailed gazelles,
marbled polecat The marbled polecat (''Vormela peregusna'') is a small mammal belonging to the monotypic genus ''Vormela'' within the mustelid subfamily Ictonychinae. ''Vormela'' is from the German language, German word , which means "little worm". The specific ...

marbled polecat
s,
wild Bactrian camel The wild Bactrian camel (''Camelus ferus'') is a critically endangered species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical proces ...
s,
Mongolian wild ass The Mongolian wild ass (''Equus hemionus hemionus''), also known as Mongolian khulan, is the nominate subspecies of the onager. It is found in southern Mongolia and northern China. It was previously found in eastern Kazakhstan and southern Siberi ...
and sandplovers. They are occasionally visited by
snow leopard The snow leopard (''Panthera uncia''), also known as the ounce, is a felid Felidae () is a Family (biology), family of mammals in the Order (biology), order Carnivora, colloquially referred to as cats, and constitutes a clade. A member of t ...

snow leopard
s,
Gobi bear The Gobi bear (''Ursus arctos gobiensis''), known in Mongolian language, Mongolian as the ''Mazaalai'' (), is a subspecies of the brown bear (''Ursus arctos'') that is found in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. It is listed as critically endangered by ...
s, and
wolves The wolf (''Canis lupus''), also known as the gray wolf or grey wolf, is a large canine native to Eurasia Eurasia () is the largest continental area on Earth, comprising all of Europe and Asia. Primarily in the Northern Hemisphere, N ...

wolves
.
Lizard Lizards (suborder Lacertilia) are a widespread group of Squamata, squamate reptiles, with over 6,000 species, ranging across all continents except Antarctica, as well as most oceanic island chains. The group is paraphyletic as it excludes the s ...

Lizard
s are especially well-adapted to the climate of the Gobi Desert, with approximately 30 species distributed across its southern Mongolian border. The most common vegetation in the Gobi desert are shrubs adapted to drought. These shrubs included gray sparrow's saltwort (''Salsola passerina''), gray sagebrush, and low grasses such as needle grass and bridlegrass. Due to livestock grazing, the amount of shrubs in the desert has decreased. Several large nature reserves have been established in the Gobi, including Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, Great Gobi A and Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area. The area is vulnerable to trampling by
livestock Livestock are the domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another group to secure a more predictabl ...
and off-road vehicles (effects from human intervention are greater in the eastern Gobi Desert, where rainfall is heavier and may sustain livestock). In Mongolia, grasslands have been degraded by goats, which are raised by nomadic herders as source of
cashmere wool Cashmere wool, usually simply known as cashmere, is a fiber obtained from cashmere goats, Changthangi, pashmina goats, and some other breeds of goat. It has been used to make yarn, textiles and clothing for hundreds of years. Cashmere is closely ...
. Large copper deposits are being mined by
Rio Tinto Group Rio Tinto Group is an Anglo-Australian Multinational corporation, multinational and the world's second-largest metals and mining corporation, behind BHP, producing iron ore, copper, diamonds, gold and uranium. The company was founded in 1873, wh ...
. The mine was and remains controversial. There was significant opposition in Mongolia's parliament to the terms under which the mine will proceed, and some are calling for the terms to be renegotiated. Specifically, the contention revolves primarily around the question of whether negotiations were fair (Rio Tinto is far better resourced) and whether Rio Tinto will pay adequate taxes on the revenues it derives from the mine (an agreement was reached whereby the operation will be exempt from windfall tax).


Desertification

The Gobi Desert is expanding through
desertification Desertification is a type of land degradation Land degradation is a process in which the value of the biophysical environment is affected by a combination of human-induced processes acting upon the land. It is viewed as any change or distu ...
, most rapidly on the southern edge into China, which is seeing of grassland overtaken every year. Dust storms have increased in frequency in the past 20 years, causing further damage to China's agriculture economy. However in some areas desertification has been slowed or reversed. The northern and eastern boundaries between desert and grassland are constantly changing. This is mostly due to the climate conditions before the growing season, which influence the rate of
evapotranspiration Evapotranspiration (ET) is the sum of water evaporation and transpiration from a surface area to the Atmosphere of Earth, atmosphere. Evaporation accounts for the movement of water to the air from sources such as the soil, canopy interception, and ...

evapotranspiration
and subsequent plant growth. The expansion of the Gobi is attributed mostly to human activities, locally driven by
deforestation deforestation in 1750-2004 (net loss) showing anthropogenic modification of remaining forest. File:MODIS (2020-08-01).jpg, 300px, Dry seasons, exacerbated by climate change, and the use of slash-and-burn methods for clearing tropical forest ...

deforestation
,
overgrazing Overgrazing occurs when plants are exposed to intensive grazing In agriculture Agriculture is the science, art and practice of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentism, sedentary huma ...

overgrazing
, and depletion of water resources, as well as to
climate change Contemporary climate change includes both the global warming caused by humans, and its impacts on Earth's weather patterns. There have been previous periods of climate change, but the current changes are more rapid than any known event ...
. China has tried various plans to slow the expansion of the desert, which have met with some success. The Three-North Shelter Forest Program (or "Green Great Wall") was a Chinese government tree-planting project begun in 1978 and set to continue through 2050. The goal of the program is to reverse desertification by planting
aspen Aspen is a common name for certain tree species; some, but not all, are classified by botanists in the section (botany), section Populus sect. Populus, ''Populus'', of the ''Populus'' genus. Species These species are called aspens: *''Populus ...

aspen
and other fast-growing trees on some 36.5 million hectares across some 551 counties in 12 provinces of northern China.


Ecoregions

The Gobi, broadly defined, can be divided into five distinct dry
ecoregions An ecoregion (ecological region) or ecozone (ecological zone) is an ecology, ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than a bioregion, which in turn is smaller than a biogeographic realm. Ecoregions cover relatively large ar ...

ecoregions
, based on variations in climate and topography: * Eastern Gobi desert steppe, the easternmost of the Gobi ecoregions, covering an area of . It extends from the
Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is a landlocked of the . Its border includes most of the length of China's with the country of . Inner Mongolia also accounts for a small section of China's with (). Its capit ...

Inner Mongolia
n
Plateau In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (geology), rocks of which it is composed, and the proces ...

Plateau
in China northward into Mongolia. It includes the
Yin Mountains The Yin Mountains, also known by several other names, are a mountain range stretching across about of northern China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and depen ...
and many low-lying areas with salt pans and small ponds. It is bounded by the Mongolian-Manchurian grassland to the north, the Yellow River Plain to the southeast, and the Alashan Plateau semi-desert to the southeast and east. * Alashan Plateau semi-desert, lies west and southwest of the Eastern Gobi desert steppe. It consists of the desert basins and low mountains lying between the Gobi Altai range on the north, the
Helan Mountains The Helan Mountains, frequently called Alashan Mountains in older sources, are an isolated desert mountain range forming the border of Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia or Nei Mongol (; ''Öbür Monggol'', /ɵwɵr mɔŋɢɔɮ/, Mongolian Cyri ...
to the southeast, and the
Qilian Mountains The Qilian Mountains (, also romanized as Tsilien; Mongghul: Chileb), together with the Altyn-Tagh Altyn-Tagh (also Altun Mountains, Altun Shan; , Pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization s ...
and northeastern portion of the Tibetan Plateau on the southwest. * Gobi Lakes Valley desert steppe, ecoregion lies north of Alashan Plateau semi-desert, between the Gobi Altai range to the south and the
Khangai Mountains The Khangai Mountains ( mn, Хангайн нуруу, Hangain nuruu); is an old mountain range in central Mongolia Mongolia (, Mongolian language, Mongolian: , Mongolian script, Traditional Mongolian: ') is a landlocked country in East ...
to the north. *
Dzungarian Basin Junggar Basin is one of the largest sedimentary basins in Northwest China. It is located in Xinjiang, and enclosed by the Tarbagatai Mountains of Kazakhstan in the northwest, the Altai Mountains of Mongolia in the northeast, and the Tian Shan, Heav ...
semi-desert, includes the desert basin lying between the Altai mountains on the north and the
Tian Shan The Tian Shan,; dng, Тянсан, ; otk, 𐰴𐰣 𐱅𐰭𐰼𐰃, ; tr, Tanrı Dağı; mn, Тэнгэр уул, ; ug, تەڭرىتاغ, , ; kk, Тәңіртауы / Алатау, , ; ky, Теңир-Тоо / Ала-Тоо, , ; uz, Tyan- ...

Tian Shan
range on the south. It includes the northern portion of China's Xinjiang province and extends into the southeastern corner of Mongolia. The Alashan Plateau semi-desert lies to the east, and the
Emin Valley steppe The Emin Valley () is located on the China–Kazakhstan border The China–Kazakhstan border or the Sino-Kazakhstan border ( kz, Қазақстан-Қытай мемлекеттiк шекарасы, russian: Казахстанско-китайс ...
to the west, on the China-
Kazakhstan Kazakhstan ( kk, Қазақстан, Qazaqstan; russian: Казахстан, Kazakhstan), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan,; russian: Республика Казахстан, Respublika Kazakhstan, link=no) is a country located mainly in ...

Kazakhstan
border. * Tian Shan range, separates the Dzungarian Basin semi-desert from the
Taklamakan Desert The Taklamakan Desert (; zh, s=塔克拉玛干沙漠, p=Tǎkèlāmǎgān Shāmò, Xiao'erjing Xiao'erjing or Xiao'erjin or Xiaor jin or in its shortened form, Xiaojing, literally meaning "children's script" or "minor script" (cf. "original s ...

Taklamakan Desert
, which is a low, sandy desert basin surrounded by the high mountain ranges of the Tibetan Plateau to the south and the
Pamirs The Pamir Mountains are a between , and . It is located at a junction with other notable mountains, namely the , , , and the mountain ranges. They are among the world's highest s. Much of the Pamir Mountains lie in the of . To the south, th ...

Pamirs
to the west. The Taklamakan Desert ecoregion includes the Desert of Lop.


Eastern Gobi desert steppe

The surface is extremely diversified, although there are no great differences in vertical elevation. Between
Ulaanbaatar Ulaanbaatar (; mn, Улаанбаатар, , "Red Hero"), previously anglicised as Ulan Bator, is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that ar ...

Ulaanbaatar
() and the small lake of Iren-dubasu-nor (), the surface is greatly eroded. Broad flat depressions and basins are separated by groups of flat-topped mountains of relatively low elevation ), through which archaic rocks crop out as crags and isolated rugged masses. The floors of the depressions lie mostly between above sea-level. Further south, between Iren-dutiasu-nor and the
Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin: uə xɔ Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is ...
, comes a region of broad tablelands alternating with flat plains, the latter ranging at altitudes of 1000–1100 m and the former at . The slopes of the plateaus are more or less steep and are sometimes penetrated by "bays" of the lowlands. As the border-range of the Hyangan is approached, the country steadily rises up to and then to . Here small lakes frequently fill the depressions, though the water in them is generally salt or brackish. Both here and for south of Ulaanbaatar, streams are frequent and grass grows more or less abundantly. Through all the central parts, until the bordering mountains are reached, trees and shrubs are utterly absent. Clay and sand are the predominant formations; the watercourses, especially in the north, being frequently excavated deep. In many places in the flat, dry valleys or depressions farther south, beds of
loess Loess (, ; from German ''Löss'' ) is a clastic, predominantly silt-sized sediment Sediment is a naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering and erosion, and is subsequently sediment transport, transported by ...
, thick, are exposed. West of the route from Ulaanbaatar to
Kalgan Zhangjiakou (; ; ) also known as Kalgan and by several other names Other most often refers to: * Other (philosophy), a concept in psychology and philosophy Other or The Other may also refer to: Books * The Other (Tryon novel), ''The Other'' ...
, the country presents approximately the same general features, except that the mountains are not so irregularly scattered in groups but have more strongly defined strikes, mostly east to west, west-north-west to east-south-east, and west-south-west to east-north-east. The altitudes are higher, those of the lowlands ranging from , and those of the ranges from higher, though in a few cases they reach altitudes of . The elevations do not form continuous chains, but make up a congeries of short ridges and groups rising from a common base and intersected by a labyrinth of ravines, gullies, glens, and basins. But the tablelands, built up of the horizontal red deposits of the Han-gai ( Obruchev's Gobi formation) which are characteristic of the southern parts of eastern Mongolia, are absent here or occur only in one locality, near the Shara-muren river. They are greatly intersected by gullies or dry watercourses. Water is scarce, with no streams, no lakes, no wells, and precipitation falls seldom. The prevailing winds blow from the west and northwest, and the pall of dust overhangs the country as in the
Taklamakan The Taklamakan Desert (; zh, s=, p=Tǎkèlāmǎgān Shāmò, Xiao'erjing: , dng, Такәламаган Шамә; ug, تەكلىماكان قۇملۇقى; also spelled Taklimakan and Teklimakan) is a desert in Southwest Xinjiang in Northwest ...

Taklamakan
and the desert of Lop. Characteristic of the flora are wild garlic, ''Kalidium gracile'', wormwood, saxaul, '' Nitraria schoberi'', ''
Caragana ''Caragana'' is a genus of about 80–100 species of flowering plant The flowering plants, also known as Angiospermae (), or Magnoliophyta (), are the most diverse group of Embryophyte, land plants, with 64 Order(biology), orders, 416 Family (b ...
'',
Ephedra , an alkaloid found in ephedra Ephedra is a medicinal preparation from the plant '' Ephedra sinica''. Several additional species belonging to the genus ''Ephedra (genus), Ephedra'' have traditionally been used for a variety of medicinal purposes, ...
, saltwort and the
grass Poaceae () or Gramineae () is a large and nearly ubiquitous family In , family (from la, familia) is a of people related either by (by recognized birth) or (by marriage or other relationship). The purpose of families is to maintain ...
'' Lasiagrostis splendens''. The taana wild onion ''Allium polyrrhizum'' is the main Browsing (herbivory), browse eaten by many herd animals, and Mongolians claim that this is essential in producing the proper, hazelnut-like notes of camel Kumis, airag (fermented milk). The vast desert is crisscrossed by several trade routes, some of which have been in use for thousands of years. Among the most important are those from Zhangjiakou, Kalgan (at the Great Wall) to Ulaanbaatar (); from Jiuquan (in Gansu) to Hami ; from Hami to Beijing (); from Hohhot to Hami and Barkul; and from Lanzhou (in Gansu) to Hami.


Alashan Plateau semi-desert

The southwestern portion of the Gobi, known also as the Hetao, Xitao and the Little Gobi, fills the space between the great north loop of the
Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin: uə xɔ Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is ...
on the east, the Ejin River on the west, and the
Qilian Mountains The Qilian Mountains (, also romanized as Tsilien; Mongghul: Chileb), together with the Altyn-Tagh Altyn-Tagh (also Altun Mountains, Altun Shan; , Pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization s ...
and narrow rocky chain of Longshou, in altitude, on the southwest. The Ordos Desert, which covers the northeastern portion of the Ordos Plateau, in the great north loop of the Yellow River, is part of this ecoregion. It belongs to the middle basin of the three great depressions into which Potanin divides the Gobi as a whole. "Topographically," says Nikolai Przhevalsky, "it is a perfectly level plain, which in all probability once formed the bed of a huge lake or inland sea." He concludes this based on the level area of the region as a whole, the hard saldgine clay and the sand-strewn surface and, lastly, the salt lakes which occupy its lowest parts. For hundreds of kilometers, nothing can be seen but bare sands; in some places, they continue so far without a break that the Mongols call them ''Tengger'' (i.e. sky). These vast expanses are absolutely waterless, nor do any oases relieve the unbroken stretches of yellow sand, which alternate with equally vast areas of saline clay or, nearer the foot of the mountains, with barren shingle. Although on the whole a level country with a general altitude of , this section, like most other parts of the Gobi, is crowned by a network of hills and broken ranges of at least 300 m in elevation. The vegetation is confined to a few varieties of bushes and a dozen kinds of grasses and herbs, the most conspicuous being saxaul (''Haloxylon ammondendron'') and ''Agriophyllum gobicum''. The others include prickly convolvulus, field wormwood (''Artemisia campestris''), acacia, ''Inula ammophila'', ''Sophora flavescens'', ''Convolvulus ammanii'', ''Peganum'' and ''Astragalus'' species, but all dwarfed, deformed and starved. The fauna consists of little but antelope, wolf, fox, hare, hedgehog, marten, numerous lizards and a few birds, e.g. the sandgrouse, lark, stonechat, sparrow, crane, Henderson's ground jay (''Podoces hendersoni''), horned lark (''Eremophila alpestris''), and crested lark (''Galerida cristata'').


Dzungarian Basin semi-desert

The Yulduz valley or valley of the Haidag-gol (–) is a mini desert enclosed by two prominent members of the Shanashen Trahen Osh mountain range, namely the chucis and the kracenard pine rallies, running perpendicular and far from one another. As they proceed south, they transcend and transpose, sweeping back on east and west respectively, with
Lake Bosten Bosten Lake (, Uyghur: / / ''Baghrash Köli / Baƣrax Kɵli'', Chagatai: ''Bostang'') is a freshwater lake on the northeastern rim of the Tarim Basin The Tarim Basin is an endorheic basin in Northwest China occupying an area of about and o ...
in between. These two ranges mark the northern and the southern edges respectively of a great swelling, which extends eastward for nearly twenty degrees of longitude. On its northern side, the Chol-tagh descends steeply, and its foot is fringed by a string of deep depressions, ranging from Lukchun ( below sea level) to Hami City, Hami ( above sea-level). To the south of the Kuruk-tagh lie the desert of Lop Nur, the Kum-tagh desert, and the valley of the Bulunzir-gol. To this great swelling, which arches up between the two border-ranges of the Chol-tagh and Kuruk-tagh, the Mongols give the name of ''Ghashuun-Gobi'' or "Salt Desert". It is some across from north to south, and is traversed by a number of minor parallel ranges, ridges and chains of hills. Down its middle runs a broad stony valley, wide, at an elevation of . The Chol-tagh, which reaches an average altitude of , is absolutely sterile, and its northern foot rests upon a narrow belt of barren sand, which leads down to the depressions mentioned above. The Kuruk-tagh is the greatly disintegrated, denuded and wasted relic of a mountain range which used to be of incomparably greater magnitude. In the west, between Lake Bosten and the Tarim River, Tarim, it consists of two, possibly of three, principal ranges, which, although broken in continuity, run generally parallel to one another, and embrace between them numerous minor chains of heights. These minor ranges, together with the principal ranges, divide the region into a series of long; narrow valleys, mostly parallel to one another and to the enclosing mountain chains, which descend like terraced steps, on the one side towards the depression of Lukchun and on the other towards the desert of Lop. In many cases these latitudinal valleys are barred transversely by ridges or spurs, generally elevations en masse of the bottom of the valley. Where such elevations exist, there is generally found, on the east side of the transverse ridge, a cauldron-shaped depression, which some time or other has been the bottom of a former lake, but is now nearly a dry salt-basin. The surface configuration is in fact markedly similar to that which occurs in the inter-mount latitudinal valleys of the Kunlun Mountains. The hydrography of the Ghashiun-Gobi and the Kuruk-tagh is determined by the aforementioned arrangements of the latitudinal valleys. Most of the principal streams, instead of flowing straight down these valleys, cross them diagonally and only turn west after they have cut their way through one or more of the transverse barrier ranges. To the highest range on the great swelling Grigory Grum-Grshimailo gives the name of Tuge-tau, its altitude being above the level of the sea and some above the crown of the swelling itself. This range he considers to belong to the Choltagh system, whereas Sven Hedin would assign it to the Kuruk-tagh. This last, which is pretty certainly identical with the range of Kharateken-ula (also known as the Kyzyl-sanghir, Sinir, and Singher Mountains), that overlooks the southern shore of the Lake Bosten, though parted from it by the drift-sand desert of Ak-bel-kum (White Pass Sands), has at first a west-northwest to east-southeast strike, but it gradually curves round like a scimitar towards the east-northeast and at the same time gradually decreases in elevation. At 91° east, where the principal range of the Kuruk-tagh system wheels to the east-northeast, four of its subsidiary ranges terminate, or rather die away somewhat suddenly, on the brink of a long narrow depression (in which Sven Hedin sees a northeast bay of the former great Central Asian lake of Lop-nor), having over against them the écheloned terminals of similar subordinate ranges of the Pe-shan (Boy-san) system (see below). The Kuruk-tagh is throughout a relatively low, but almost completely barren range, being entirely destitute of animal life, save for hares, antelopes and wild camels, which frequent its few small, widely scattered oases. The vegetation, which is confined to these same areas, is of the scantiest and is mainly confined to bushes of Haloxylon ammodendron, saxaul ''(Haloxylon)'', ''Anabasis (plant), anabasis'', reeds (kamish), tamarisks, Populus, poplars, and Ephedra (plant), Ephedra.


European exploration

The Gobi had a long history of human habitation, mostly by nomadic peoples. By the early 20th century, the region was under the nominal control of Manchu-China, and inhabited mostly by Mongols, Uyghur people, Uyghurs, and Kazakhs. The Gobi Desert as a whole was known only very imperfectly to outsiders, as information was confined to observations by individual travelers engaging in their respective itineraries across the desert. Among the European explorers who contributed to the understanding of the Gobi, the most important were the following: * Jean-François Gerbillon (1688–1698) * Eberhard Isbrand Ides (1692–1694) * Lorenz Lange (1727–1728 and 1736) * Fuss and Alexander G. von Bunge (1830–1831) * Hermann Fritsche (1868–1873) * Pavlinov and Z.L. Matusovski (1870) * Ney Elias (1872–1873) * Nikolai Przhevalsky (1870–1872 and 1876–1877) * Zosnovsky (1875) * Mikhail V. Pevtsov (1878) * Grigory Potanin (1877 and 1884–1886) * Béla Széchenyi and Lajos Lóczy (1879–1880) * The brothers Grigory Grum-Grshimailo (1889–1890) and M. Y. Grigory Grum-Grshimailo * Pyotr Kuzmich Kozlov (1893–1894 and 1899–1900) * Vsevolod I. Roborovsky (1894) * Vladimir Obruchev (1894–1896) * Karl Josef Futterer and Dr. Holderer (1896) * Charles-Etienne Bonin (1896 and 1899) * Sven Hedin (1897 and 1900–1901) * K. Bogdanovich (1898) * Ladyghin (1899–1900) and Katsnakov (1899–1900) * Jacques Bouly de Lesdain and Martha Mailey, 1902.


See also

* Asian Dust * Geography of Mongolia * Geography of China * Green Wall of China * List of deserts by area * Mongolian death worm (''olgoi khorkhoi''), said to inhabit the Gobi in Mongolia


Citations


General references

* Owen Lattimore. (1973) "Return to China's Northern Frontier". ''The Geographical Journal'', Vol. 139, No. 2 (June 1973), pp. 233–242.


Further reading

* Cable, Mildred and French, Francesca (1943). ''The Gobi Desert''. Landsborough Publications, London
OCLC 411792
* Man, John (1997). ''Gobi: Tracking the Desert''. Yale University Press, New Haven, . * Stewart, Stanley (2001). ''In the Empire of Genghis Khan: A Journey Among Nomads''. HarperCollins Publishers, London, . * Thayer, Helen (2007). ''Walking the Gobi: 1,600 Mile-trek Across a Desert of Hope and Despair''. Mountaineer Books, Seattle, WA, . * Younghusband, Francis (1904). ''The Heart of a Continent''. John Murray.


External links




Flickr: Photos tagged with gobi
{{Authority control Gobi Desert, Biota of China Biota of Mongolia Deserts and xeric shrublands Deserts of China Deserts of Mongolia Geography of Inner Mongolia Physiographic provinces Sites along the Silk Road