Gobi Desert
Overview
 
The Gobi is a large desert
Desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

 region in Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

. It covers parts of northern
North China
thumb|250px|Northern [[People's Republic of China]] region.Northern China or North China is a geographical region of China. The heartland of North China is the North China Plain....

 and northwestern China
Northwestern China
Northwestern China includes the autonomous regions of Xinjiang and Ningxia and the provinces of Shaanxi, Gansu, and Qinghai.-Administrative divisions:ProvincesAutonomous Regions-Outer Northwest China:...

, and of southern Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

. The desert basins of the Gobi are bounded by the Altai Mountains and the grasslands and steppe
Steppe
In physical geography, steppe is an ecoregion, in the montane grasslands and shrublands and temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biomes, characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes...

s of Mongolia on the north, by the Hexi Corridor
Hexi Corridor
Hexi Corridor or Gansu Corridor refers to the historical route in Gansu province of China. As part of the Northern Silk Road running northwest from the bank of the Yellow River, it was the most important route from North China to the Tarim Basin and Central Asia for traders and the military. The...

 and Tibetan Plateau
Tibetan Plateau
The Tibetan Plateau , also known as the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau is a vast, elevated plateau in Central Asia covering most of the Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai, in addition to smaller portions of western Sichuan, southwestern Gansu, and northern Yunnan in Western China and Ladakh in...

 to the southwest, and by the North China Plain
North China Plain
The North China Plain is based on the deposits of the Yellow River and is the largest alluvial plain of eastern Asia. The plain is bordered on the north by the Yanshan Mountains and on the west by the Taihang Mountains edge of the Shanxi plateau. To the south, it merges into the Yangtze Plain...

 to the southeast. The Gobi is most notable in history as part of the great Mongol Empire
Mongol Empire
The Mongol Empire , initially named as Greater Mongol State was a great empire during the 13th and 14th centuries...

, and as the location of several important cities along the Silk Road
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

.

The Gobi is made up of several distinct ecological and geographic regions based on variations in climate and topography.
Encyclopedia
The Gobi is a large desert
Desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

 region in Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

. It covers parts of northern
North China
thumb|250px|Northern [[People's Republic of China]] region.Northern China or North China is a geographical region of China. The heartland of North China is the North China Plain....

 and northwestern China
Northwestern China
Northwestern China includes the autonomous regions of Xinjiang and Ningxia and the provinces of Shaanxi, Gansu, and Qinghai.-Administrative divisions:ProvincesAutonomous Regions-Outer Northwest China:...

, and of southern Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

. The desert basins of the Gobi are bounded by the Altai Mountains and the grasslands and steppe
Steppe
In physical geography, steppe is an ecoregion, in the montane grasslands and shrublands and temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biomes, characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes...

s of Mongolia on the north, by the Hexi Corridor
Hexi Corridor
Hexi Corridor or Gansu Corridor refers to the historical route in Gansu province of China. As part of the Northern Silk Road running northwest from the bank of the Yellow River, it was the most important route from North China to the Tarim Basin and Central Asia for traders and the military. The...

 and Tibetan Plateau
Tibetan Plateau
The Tibetan Plateau , also known as the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau is a vast, elevated plateau in Central Asia covering most of the Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai, in addition to smaller portions of western Sichuan, southwestern Gansu, and northern Yunnan in Western China and Ladakh in...

 to the southwest, and by the North China Plain
North China Plain
The North China Plain is based on the deposits of the Yellow River and is the largest alluvial plain of eastern Asia. The plain is bordered on the north by the Yanshan Mountains and on the west by the Taihang Mountains edge of the Shanxi plateau. To the south, it merges into the Yangtze Plain...

 to the southeast. The Gobi is most notable in history as part of the great Mongol Empire
Mongol Empire
The Mongol Empire , initially named as Greater Mongol State was a great empire during the 13th and 14th centuries...

, and as the location of several important cities along the Silk Road
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

.

The Gobi is made up of several distinct ecological and geographic regions based on variations in climate and topography. One is the Eastern Gobi desert steppe Ecoregion, a Palearctic
Palearctic
The Palearctic or Palaearctic is one of the eight ecozones dividing the Earth's surface.Physically, the Palearctic is the largest ecozone...

 ecoregion
Ecoregion
An ecoregion , sometimes called a bioregion, is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than an ecozone and larger than an ecosystem. Ecoregions cover relatively large areas of land or water, and contain characteristic, geographically distinct assemblages of natural...

 in the Deserts and xeric shrublands
Deserts and xeric shrublands
Deserts and xeric shrublands is a biome characterized by, relating to, or requiring only a small amount of moisture.-Definition and occurrence:...

 Biome
Biome
Biomes are climatically and geographically defined as similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, and are often referred to as ecosystems. Some parts of the earth have more or less the same kind of abiotic and biotic factors spread over a...

, home to the Bactrian camel
Bactrian camel
The Bactrian camel is a large, even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of central Asia. It is presently restricted in the wild to remote regions of the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts of Mongolia and Xinjiang. A small number of wild Bactrian camels still roam the Mangystau Province of southwest...

 and various other animals.. It is a rain shadow
Rain shadow
A rain shadow is a dry area on the lee side of a mountainous area. The mountains block the passage of rain-producing weather systems, casting a "shadow" of dryness behind them. As shown by the diagram to the right, the warm moist air is "pulled" by the prevailing winds over a mountain...

 desert formed by the Himalaya range blocking rain-carrying clouds from reaching the Gobi from the Indian Ocean.

Geography

The Gobi measures over 1610 km (1,000.4 mi) from southwest to northeast and 800 km (497.1 mi) from north to south. The desert is widest in the west, along the line joining the Lake Bosten
Lake Bosten
Bosten Lake is a freshwater lake located northeast of Korla, Xinjiang, China in the Bayin'gholin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture. Covering an area of about , it is the largest lake in Xinjiang and one of the largest inland freshwater lakes in China...

 and the Lop Nor (87°-89° east). It occupies an arc of land 1295000 km² (500,002 sq mi) in area as of 2007, making it fifth largest in the world and Asia's largest. Much of the Gobi is not sandy but is covered with bare rock.

The Gobi has several different Chinese names, including 沙漠 (Shāmò, actually a generic term for deserts in general) and 瀚海 (Hànhǎi, "endless sea"). In its broadest definition, the Gobi includes the long stretch of desert and semi-desert area extending from the foot of the Pamirs, 77° east, to the Greater Khingan
Greater Khingan
The Greater Khingan Range , also called the Greater Hing'an Range or Greater Hinggan Range, is a volcanic mountain range in the northeastern part of the People's Republic of China. The range extends roughly 1,200 km from north to south, narrowing towards the south...

 Mountains, 116°-118° east, on the border of Manchuria
Manchuria
Manchuria is a historical name given to a large geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria usually falls entirely within the People's Republic of China, or is sometimes divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast...

; and from the foothills of the Altay, Sayan
Sayan Mountains
The Sayan Mountains are a mountain range between northwestern Mongolia and southern Siberia, Russia.The Eastern Sayan extends from the Yenisei River at 92° E to the southwest end of Lake Baikal at 106° E...

, and Yablonoi
Yablonoi Mountains
The Yablonoi Mountains or Yablonovy Mountains is a mountain range in Siberia. It is in Transbaikal in Russia....

 mountain ranges on the north to the Kunlun
Kunlun
Kunlun may refer to:*Kunlun fault, a geological fault on the northern side of the Tibetan Plateau*Kunlun Mountains, a long mountain chain in Asia*Kunlun Nu, a wuxia romance written by Pei Xing*Kunlun Pass, in Guangxi, China...

, Altyn-Tagh
Altyn-Tagh
Altyn-Tagh, Astyn-Tagh, Altun Mountains, Altun Shan or Aerjin Shan Tagh proper is a part of the range south of Lop Nor), is a mountain range in northwestern China that separates the eastern Tarim Basin from the Tibetan Plateau...

, and Qilian mountain ranges, which form the northern edges of the Tibetan Plateau
Tibetan Plateau
The Tibetan Plateau , also known as the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau is a vast, elevated plateau in Central Asia covering most of the Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai, in addition to smaller portions of western Sichuan, southwestern Gansu, and northern Yunnan in Western China and Ladakh in...

, on the south.

A relatively large area on the east side of the Greater Khingan range, between the upper waters of the Songhua (Sungari) and the upper waters of the Liao-ho, is also reckoned to belong to the Gobi by conventional usage. On the other hand, geographer
Geographer
A geographer is a scholar whose area of study is geography, the study of Earth's natural environment and human society.Although geographers are historically known as people who make maps, map making is actually the field of study of cartography, a subset of geography...

s and ecologists
Ecology
Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

 prefer to regard the western area of the Gobi region (as defined above), the basin of the Tarim
Tarim Basin
The Tarim Basin is a large endorheic basin occupying an area of about . It is located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China's far west. Its northern boundary is the Tian Shan mountain range and its southern is the Kunlun Mountains on the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. The...

 in Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

 and the desert basin of Lop Nor and Hami (Kumul) as forming a separate and independent desert, called the Taklamakan Desert.

The Nemegt Basin
Nemegt Basin
The Nemegt Basin is situated in the northwestern part of the Gobi Desert, in the Ömnögovi Province in the southern part of Mongolia. It is known locally as the valley of the dragons, since it is a source of many fossil finds, including dinosaurs, dinosaur eggs and trace fossils.The main geological...

 in the northwestern part of the Gobi Desert (in Mongolia) is famous for its fossil treasures, including early mammals
Prehistoric mammal
Prehistoric mammals are groups of mammals that lived before humans developed writing. 164 million years ago, in the Jurassic period, Castorocauda lutrasimilis, a mammal-like animal weighing about 500 grams , had a full mammalian pelt, with guard hairs and under fur, webbed feet, and scales on the...

, dinosaur eggs, and even prehistoric stone implements, some 100,000 years old.

Climate

The Gobi is a cold desert, and it is not uncommon to see frost and occasionally snow on its dunes. Besides being quite far north, it is also located on a plateau roughly 910–1,520 meters (3,000–5,000 ft) above sea level, which further contributes to its low temperatures. An average of approximately 194 millimeters (7.6 in) of rain falls per year in the Gobi. Additional moisture reaches parts of the Gobi in winter as snow is blown by the wind from the Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

n Steppes. These winds cause the Gobi to reach extremes of temperature ranging from –40°C (–40°F) in winter to +50°C (122°F) in summer.

The climate
Climate
Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods...

 of the Gobi is one of great extremes, combined with rapid changes of temperature
Temperature
Temperature is a physical property of matter that quantitatively expresses the common notions of hot and cold. Objects of low temperature are cold, while various degrees of higher temperatures are referred to as warm or hot...

, not only through the year but even within 24 hours, by as much as 35 °C (95 °F).
Temperature
Sivantse (1190 m) Ulaanbaatar
Ulaanbaatar
Ulan Bator or Ulaanbaatar is the capital and largest city of Mongolia. An independent municipality, the city is not part of any province, and its population as of 2008 is over one million....

 (1150 m)
Annual mean −2.5 °C 2.8 °C (37 °F)
January mean −26.5 °C −16.5 °C
July mean 17.5 °C (63.5 °F) 19 °C (66.2 °F)
Extremes −43 °C −47 °C


Even in southern Mongolia the thermometer
Thermometer
Developed during the 16th and 17th centuries, a thermometer is a device that measures temperature or temperature gradient using a variety of different principles. A thermometer has two important elements: the temperature sensor Developed during the 16th and 17th centuries, a thermometer (from the...

 goes down as low as −32.8 °C, and in Alxa
Alxa League
Alxa League is one of 12 prefecture level divisions and three extant leagues of Inner Mongolia. The league borders Mongolia to the north, Bayan Nur to the northeast, Wuhai and Ordos to the east, Ningxia to the southeast, and Gansu to the south and west. The capital is Bayan Hot in the aimag's...

, Inner Mongolia it rises as high as 37 °C (98.6 °F) in July.

Average winter minimals are a frigid −40 °C while summertime temperatures are warm to hot, highs range up to 50 °C (122 °F). Most of the precipitation
Precipitation (meteorology)
In meteorology, precipitation In meteorology, precipitation In meteorology, precipitation (also known as one of the classes of hydrometeors, which are atmospheric water phenomena is any product of the condensation of atmospheric water vapor that falls under gravity. The main forms of precipitation...

 falls during the summer.

Although the southeast monsoon
Monsoon
Monsoon is traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation, but is now used to describe seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea...

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 is at its strongest. Hence, the icy sandstorms
Dust storm
A dust / sand storm is a meteorological phenomenon common in arid and semi-arid regions. Dust storms arise when a gust front or other strong wind blows loose sand and dirt from a dry surface. Particles are transported by saltation and suspension, causing soil to move from one place and deposition...

 and snowstorms
Winter storm
A winter storm is an event in which the dominant varieties of precipitation are formed that only occur at low temperatures, such as snow or sleet, or a rainstorm where ground temperatures are low enough to allow ice to form...

 of spring and early summer plus early January (winter)

Conservation, ecology, economy

The Gobi Desert is the source of many important fossil finds, including the first dinosaur eggs.

These deserts and the surrounding regions sustain many animals, including black-tailed gazelles, marbled polecat
Marbled polecat
The marbled polecat is a small mammal belonging to the monotypic genus Vormela within the Mustelinae subfamily. Vormela is from the German word Würmlein, which means "little Worm". The term peregusna comes from pereguznya, which is Ukrainian for polecat...

s, bactrian camels, Mongolian wild ass
Mongolian Wild Ass
The Mongolian Wild Ass is a subspecies of the Onager. It may be synonymous with the Gobi Kulan, Chigetai or Dziggetai...

 and sandplovers
Plover
Plovers are a widely distributed group of wading birds belonging to the subfamily Charadriinae. There are about 40 species in the subfamily, most of them called "plover" or "dotterel". The closely related lapwing subfamily, Vanellinae, comprises another 20-odd species.Plovers are found throughout...

, and are occasionally visited by snow leopard
Snow Leopard
The snow leopard is a moderately large cat native to the mountain ranges of South Asia and Central Asia...

s, brown bear
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

s, and wolves. The desert features a number of drought-adapted shrubs such as gray sparrow's saltwort, gray sagebrush, and low grasses such as needle grass and bridlegrass. There are several large nature reserves in the Gobi, like Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park
Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park
right|thumb|A [[yurt|ger]] with the [[Gurvan Saikhan Uul|Gurvan Saikhan Mountains]] behindGobi Gurvansaikhan National Park is a national park in southern Mongolia. The park was established in 1993, and expanded to its current size in 2000...

, Great Gobi A and Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area
Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area
Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area is a nature reserve in Gobi desert, situated in the southeastern part of Mongolia at the border to China. A smiliar reserve in a drier part of the Gobi exists further to the east with Great Gobi A Strictly Protected Area....

.

The area is vulnerable to trampling by livestock
Livestock
Livestock refers to one or more domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food, fiber and labor. The term "livestock" as used in this article does not include poultry or farmed fish; however the inclusion of these, especially poultry, within the meaning...

 and off-road vehicles (human impacts are greater in the eastern Gobi Desert, where rainfall is heavier and may sustain livestock). In Mongolia, grasslands have been degraded by goats, raised by nomadic herders as source of cashmere wool
Cashmere wool
Cashmere wool, usually simply known as cashmere, is a fiber obtained from Cashmere and other types of goats. The word cashmere derives from an old spelling of Kashmir. Cashmere is fine in texture, and strong, light, and soft. Garments made from it provide excellent...

. Economic trends of livestock privatization and the collapse of the urban economy have caused people to return to rural lifestyles, a movement contrary to urbanization
Urbanization
Urbanization, urbanisation or urban drift is the physical growth of urban areas as a result of global change. The United Nations projected that half of the world's population would live in urban areas at the end of 2008....

.

Large copper and gold deposits located at Oyuu Tolgoi
Oyuu Tolgoi
The Oyu Tolgoi mine is a combined open pit and underground mining project in Khanbogd sum within the south Gobi Desert, approximately east of the Ömnögovi Province capital Dalanzadgad. The site was discovered in 2001 and is being developed as a joint venture between Ivanhoe Mines, Rio Tinto and...

, about 80 kilometers from the Chinese border into Mongolia, are being investigated for mining operations.

Desertification

Currently, the Gobi desert is expanding at an alarming rate, in a process known as desertification
Desertification
Desertification is the degradation of land in drylands. Caused by a variety of factors, such as climate change and human activities, desertification is one of the most significant global environmental problems.-Definitions:...

. The expansion is particularly rapid on the southern edge into China, which has seen 3600 km² (1,390 sq mi) of grassland overtaken every year by the Gobi Desert. Dust storms, which used to occur regularly in China, have seen a dramatic increase in occurrence in the past 20 years, mainly due to desertification, and causing further damage to China's agriculture economy.

The expansion of the Gobi is attributed mostly to human activities, notably deforestation
Deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

, overgrazing
Overgrazing
Overgrazing occurs when plants are exposed to intensive grazing for extended periods of time, or without sufficient recovery periods. It can be caused by either livestock in poorly managed agricultural applications, or by overpopulations of native or non-native wild animals.Overgrazing reduces the...

, and depletion of water resources. China has made various plans to try to slow the expansion of the desert, which have met with some small degree of success, but usually have no major impact. The most recent plan involves the planting of the Green Wall of China
Green Wall of China
The Green Wall of China, also known as the Green Great Wall or Great Green Wall , will be a series of human-planted forest strips in the People's Republic of China, designed to hold back the expansion of the Gobi Desert...

, a huge ring of newly planted forests that the Chinese government hopes will act as a buffer against further expansion.

Ecoregions of the Gobi

The Gobi, broadly defined, can be divided into five distinct dry ecoregions.

The 'Eastern Gobi desert steppe' is the easternmost of the Gobi ecoregions, covering an area of 281800 km² (108,804 sq mi). It extends from the Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China, located in the northern region of the country. Inner Mongolia shares an international border with the countries of Mongolia and the Russian Federation...

n Plateau
Plateau
In geology and earth science, a plateau , also called a high plain or tableland, is an area of highland, usually consisting of relatively flat terrain. A highly eroded plateau is called a dissected plateau...

 in China northward into Mongolia. It includes the Yin Mountains
Yin Mountains
The Yin Mountains are mountains in the steppe forming the southern border of the eastern Gobi Desert of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, as well as the northern part of Hebei province....

 and many low-lying areas with salt pans and small ponds. It is bounded by the Mongolian-Manchurian grassland
Mongolian-Manchurian grassland
The Mongolian-Manchurian grassland ecoregion, also known as the Mongolian-Manchurian steppe, in the temperate grassland Biome, is found in Mongolia, the Chinese Autonomous region of Inner Mongolia and northeastern China.-Setting:...

 to the north, the Yellow River Plain to the southeast, and the Alashan Plateau semi-desert to the southeast and east.

The 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 to the southeast, and the Qilian Mountains and northeastern portion of the Tibetan Plateau on the southwest.

The 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 to the north.

The Dzungarian Basin semi-desert includes the desert basin lying between the Altai mountains on the north and the Tian Shan
Tian Shan
The Tian Shan , also spelled Tien Shan, is a large mountain system located in Central Asia. The highest peak in the Tian Shan is Victory Peak , ....

 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 to the west, on the China-Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

 border.

The Tian Shan range separates the Dzungarian Basin semi-desert from the 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
Pamir Mountains
The Pamir Mountains are a mountain range in Central Asia formed by the junction or knot of the Himalayas, Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun, and Hindu Kush ranges. They are among the world’s highest mountains and since Victorian times they have been known as the "Roof of the World" a probable...

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

Eastern Gobi desert steppe

Here the surface is extremely diversified, although there are no great differences in vertical elevation. Between Ulaanbaatar
Ulaanbaatar
Ulan Bator or Ulaanbaatar is the capital and largest city of Mongolia. An independent municipality, the city is not part of any province, and its population as of 2008 is over one million....

 (48°00′N 107°00′E) and the little lake of Iren-dubasu-nor (43°45′N 111°50′E ) the surface is greatly eroded, and consists of broad flat depressions and basins separated by groups of flat-topped mountains of relatively low elevation 150 metre), through which archaic rocks crop out as crags and isolated rugged masses. The floors of the depressions lie mostly between 900 metre above sea-level. Farther south, between Iren-dutiasu-nor and the Hwang-ho comes a region of broad tablelands alternating with flat plains, the latter ranging at altitudes of 1000–1100 m and the former at 1070 metre. 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 1370 m (4,494.8 ft) and then to 1630 m (5,347.8 ft). Here small lakes frequently fill the depressions, though the water in them is generally salt or brackish. Both here and for 320 km (199 mi) south of Ulaanbaatar, streams are frequent and grass grows more or less abundantly. There is, however, through all the central parts, until the bordering mountains are reached, an utter absence of trees and shrubs. Clay and sand are the predominant formations, the watercourses, especially in the north, being frequently excavated 2 metre deep, and in many places in the flat, dry valleys or depressions farther south beds of loess
Loess
Loess is an aeolian sediment formed by the accumulation of wind-blown silt, typically in the 20–50 micrometre size range, twenty percent or less clay and the balance equal parts sand and silt that are loosely cemented by calcium carbonate...

, 5 metre thick, are exposed. West of the route from Ulaanbaatar to Kalgan
Kalgan
Kalgan may refer to:* Kalgan, Western Australia, a town*Kalgan River, in Western Australia*An earlier name for Zhangjiakou, in Hebei Province, China*A name used by World Of Warcraft developer Tom Chilton...

 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 too are higher, those of the lowlands ranging from 1000 metre, and those of the ranges from 200 metre higher, though in a few cases they reach altitudes of 2400 m (7,874 ft). The elevations do not, however, 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
Tablelands
Tablelands may refer to:* Areas also called plateaus* The Tablelands in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada...

, built up of the horizontal red deposits of the Han-gai (Obruchev
Vladimir Obruchev
Vladimir Afanasyevich Obruchev was a Russian and Soviet geologist who specialized in the study of Siberia and Central Asia. He was also one of the first Russian science fiction authors.- Scientific research :...

'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, and are then greatly intersected by gullies or dry watercourses. Here there is, however, a great dearth of water, no streams, no lakes, no wells, arid precipitation falls but seldom. The prevailing winds blow from the west and northwest and the pall of dust overhangs the country as in the Takla Makan and the desert of Lop. Characteristic of the flora are wild garlic, Kalidium gracile, wormwood, saxaul
Saxaul
The saxaul, black saxaul, sometimes sacsaoul or saksaul , is a plant belonging to the Amaranthaceae.-Description:The saxaul ranges in size from a large shrub to a small tree, 2-8 m tall. It has a brown trunk 4-10 cm in diameter. The wood is heavy and coarse and the bark is spongy and water-soaked...

, Nitraria
Nitraria
Nitraria is a genus of flowering plants in the family Nitrariaceae, native to Africa, Europe, Asia, Russia and Australia.There are about 9 species including:*Nitraria billardierei DC. , known as Nitre Bush or Dillon Bush...

 schoberi
, Caragana
Caragana
Caragana is a genus of about 80 species of flowering plants in the family Fabaceae, native to Asia and eastern Europe.They are shrubs or small trees growing 1-6 m tall...

, Ephedra
Ephedra (genus)
Ephedra is a genus of gymnosperm shrubs, the only genus in its family, Ephedraceae, and order, Ephedrales. Ephedra grows in dry climates over wide areas of the northern hemisphere, including southwestern North America, Europe, north Africa, and southwest and central Asia, and, in the southern...

, saltwort and the grass
Poaceae
The Poaceae is a large and nearly ubiquitous family of flowering plants. Members of this family are commonly called grasses, although the term "grass" is also applied to plants that are not in the Poaceae lineage, including the rushes and sedges...

 Lasiagrostis splendens. The taana wild onion Allium
Allium
Allium is a monocot genus of flowering plants, informally referred to as the onion genus. The generic name Allium is the Latin word for garlic....

 polyrrhizum
is the main browse eaten by many herd animals, and Mongolians claim that this is essential to produce the correct, slightly hazelnut-like flavour of camel airag
Airag
Airag may refer to*Airag, also spelled ayrag, the Mongolian word for fermented horse milk; see kumis, the name under which it is more widely known throughout Central Asia. It is an alcoholic spirit that people drank in the Khan era....

 (fermented milk).

This great desert country of Gobi is crossed by several trade routes, some of which have been in use for thousands of years. Among the most important are those from Kalgan
Zhangjiakou
Zhangjiakou, also known also by several other names, is a prefecture-level city in northwestern Hebei province of North China, adjacent to Beijing to the southeast. Its administrative area has a population of 4.35 million, and covers...

 (at the Great Wall) to Ulaanbaatar (960 km (597 mi)), from Jiuquan
Jiuquan
- Suzhou town :The administrative center of the "prefecture-level city" of Jiuquan is the "District" of Suzhou , which occupies 3,386 square km in the eastern part of Jiuquan "prefecture-level city", and had a population of 340,000 as of 2002....

 (in Gansu
Gansu
' is a province located in the northwest of the People's Republic of China.It lies between the Tibetan and Huangtu plateaus, and borders Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia to the north, Xinjiang and Qinghai to the west, Sichuan to the south, and Shaanxi to the east...

) to Hami 670 km (416 mi) from Hami to Beijing (2000 km (1,243 mi)), from Hohhot
Hohhot
Hohhot , is a city in north-central China and the capital of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, serving as the region's administrative, economic, and cultural centre....

 to Hami and Barkul, and from Lanzhou
Lanzhou
Lanzhou is the capital and largest city of Gansu Province in Northwest China. A prefecture-level city, it is a key regional transportation hub, allowing areas further west to maintain railroad connections to the eastern half of the country....

 (in Gansu) to Hami.

Alashan Plateau semi-desert

The southwestern portion of the Gobi, known also as the Hsi-tau and the Little Gobi, fills the space between the great north loop of the Yellow River
Yellow River
The Yellow River or Huang He, formerly known as the Hwang Ho, is the second-longest river in China and the sixth-longest in the world at the estimated length of . Originating in the Bayan Har Mountains in Qinghai Province in western China, it flows through nine provinces of China and empties into...

 on the east, the Ejin River
Ejin River
The Ejin River , also known as the Heihe River , is a major river system that originates on the northern Gansu side of the Qilian Shan mountains...

 on the west, and the Qilian Mountains and narrow rocky chain of Longshou , 3200 metre in altitude, on the southwest. The Ordos Desert
Ordos Desert
The Ordos Desert is a desert and steppe region lying on a plateau in the south of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China . The soil of the Ordos is a mixture of clay and sand and, as a result, is poorly suited for agriculture. It extends over an area of...

, which covers the northeastern portion of the Ordos Plateau, in the great north loop of the Huang He, 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 Przhevalsky
Nikolai Przhevalsky
Nikolai Mikhaylovich Przhevalsky and Prjevalsky, ; —), was a Russian geographer of Polish background and explorer of Central and Eastern Asia. Although he never reached his final goal, Lhasa in Tibet, he travelled through regions unknown to the west, such as northern Tibet, modern Qinghai and...

, "it is a perfectly level plain, which in all probability once formed the bed of a huge lake or inland sea." The data upon which he bases this conclusion are 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 there is nothing to 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 1000 metre, this section, like most other parts of the Gobi, is crowned by a chequered network of hills and broken ranges going up 300 m higher. 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
Convolvulus
Convolvulus is a genus of about 200 species of flowering plants in the bindweed family Convolvulaceae, with a cosmopolitan distribution. Common names include bindweed and morning glory, both names shared with other closely related genera....

, field wormwood (Artemisia campestris), acacia
Acacia
Acacia is a genus of shrubs and trees belonging to the subfamily Mimosoideae of the family Fabaceae, first described in Africa by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1773. Many non-Australian species tend to be thorny, whereas the majority of Australian acacias are not...

, Inula
Inula
Inula is a large genus of about 90 species of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae, native to Europe, Asia and Africa. The genus is thought by some to be paraphyletic, based on the study of the different phenolic compounds the various species have.They are mostly perennial herbs that vary...

 ammophila
, Sophora
Sophora
Sophora is a genus of about 45 species of small trees and shrubs in the subfamily Faboideae of the pea family, Fabaceae. The species are native to southeast Europe, southern Asia, Australasia, various islands in the Pacific Ocean, western South America, the western United States, the Southern US...

 flavescens
, Convolvulus ammanii, Peganum
Peganum
Peganum L. is a genus under the recently separated family Nitrariaceae . Formerly it used to be included in the family Zygophyllaceae....

and Astragalus
Astragalus
Astragalus is a large genus of about 3,000 species of herbs and small shrubs, belonging to the legume family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. The genus is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere...

, but all dwarfed, deformed and starved. The fauna consists of little else except antelopes, the 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
Crested Lark
The Crested Lark, Galerida cristata, breeds across most of temperate Eurasia from Portugal to northeast China and eastern India, and in Africa south to Niger...

 (Galerida cristata).

Dzungarian Basin semi-desert

The Yulduz valley or valley of the Haidag-gol (43°N 83°E ′region:CN65"–43°N 86°E ′region:CN65") 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 so as to leave room for the Lake Bosten
Lake Bosten
Bosten Lake is a freshwater lake located northeast of Korla, Xinjiang, China in the Bayin'gholin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture. Covering an area of about , it is the largest lake in Xinjiang and one of the largest inland freshwater lakes in China...

. 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 (130 m (427 ft) below sea level) to Hami (850 m (2,789 ft) above sea-level). To the south of the Kuruk-tagh lie the desert of Lop Nur
Lop Nur
Lop Lake or Lop Nur is a group of small, now seasonal salt lake sand marshes between the Taklamakan and Kuruktag deserts in the Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, southeastern portion of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China.The lake system into which the Tarim...

, 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
Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

 give the name of Ghashuun-Gobi or Salt Desert. It is some 130 kilometre across from north to south, and is traversed by a number of minor parallel ranges, ridges and chains of hills, and down its middle runs a broad stony valley, 40 kilometre wide, at an elevation of 900 metre. The Chol-tagh, which reaches an average altitude of 1800 m (5,905.5 ft), 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 formerly was of incomparably greater magnitude. In the west, between Lake Bosten and the Tarim
Tarim
Tarim may refer to:*The Tarim Basin, China**The Tarim Mummies, a series of mummies which have been excavated at Niya, an oasis in the Tarim Basin.*The Tarim River, China*Tarim, Yemen...

, 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
Kunlun Mountains
The Kunlun Mountains are one of the longest mountain chains in Asia, extending more than 3,000 km. In the broadest sense, it forms the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau south of the Tarim Basin and the Gansu Corridor and continues east south of the Wei River to end at the North China Plain.The...

. The hydrography
Hydrography
Hydrography is the measurement of the depths, the tides and currents of a body of water and establishment of the sea, river or lake bed topography and morphology. Normally and historically for the purpose of charting a body of water for the safe navigation of shipping...

 of the Ghashiun-Gobi and the Kuruk-tagh is determined by these chequered 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 Gruni-Grzhimailo gives the name of Tuge-tau, its altitude being 2700 m (8,858 ft) above the level of the sea and some 1200 m (3,937 ft) above the crown of the swelling itself. This range he considers to belong to the Choltagh system, whereas Sven Hedin
Sven Hedin
Sven Anders Hedin KNO1kl RVO was a Swedish geographer, topographer, explorer, photographer, and travel writer, as well as an illustrator of his own works...

 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 westnorthwest to eastsoutheast strike, but it gradually curves round like a scimitar towards the eastnortheast and at the same time gradually decreases in elevation. In 91° east, while the principal range of the Kuruk-tagh system wheels to the eastnortheast, 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 relatively favoured spots, is of the scantiest and is mainly confined to bushes of saxaul
Haloxylon ammodendron
The saxaul, black saxaul, sometimes sacsaoul or saksaul , is a plant belonging to the Amaranthaceae.-Description:The saxaul ranges in size from a large shrub to a small tree, 2-8 m tall. It has a brown trunk 4-10 cm in diameter. The wood is heavy and coarse and the bark is spongy and water-soaked...

 (Haloxylon), anabasis
Anabasis (plant)
Anabasis is a genus of the family Amaranthaceae .- Systematics :The genus name Anabasis was published in 1753 by Carl von Linné in Species Plantarum. Type species is Anabasis aphylla L....

, reeds (kamish), tamarisks, poplar
Poplar
Populus is a genus of 25–35 species of deciduous flowering plants in the family Salicaceae, native to most of the Northern Hemisphere. English names variously applied to different species include poplar , aspen, and cottonwood....

s, and Ephedra
Ephedra
Ephedra refers to the plant Ephedra sinica. E. sinica, known in Chinese as ma huang , has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for 5,000 years for the treatment of asthma and hay fever, as well as for the common cold...


European exploration up to 1911

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, Uyghurs
Uyghur people
The Uyghur are a Turkic ethnic group living in Eastern and Central Asia. Today, Uyghurs live primarily in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China...

, and Kazakhs
Kazakhs
The Kazakhs are a Turkic people of the northern parts of Central Asia ....

. The Gobi desert as a whole was only very imperfectly known to outsiders, information being confined to the observations which individual travellers had made from their respective itineraries across the desert. Amongst the European explorers who contributed to early 20th century understanding of the Gobi, the most important were:
  • Jean-François Gerbillon
    Jean-François Gerbillon
    Jean-François Gerbillon was a French missionary, who worked in China.He entered the Society of Jesus, 5 Oct, 1670, and after completing the usual course of study taught grammar and humanities for seven years...

     (1688–1698)
  • Eberhard Isbrand Ides
    Eberhard Isbrand Ides
    Eberhard Isbrand Ides was a Danish traveller and diplomat. In 1692 he travelled to China as a Russian ambassador, returning in 1694.He was one of the most important early Europeans to describe the Gobi Desert...

     (1692–1694)
  • Lorenz Lange
    Lorenz Lange
    Lorenz Lange was a Swedish engineer, diplomat and explorer in the 18th century.He entered Russian service in 1712 and was sent as a special envoy of Peter the Great to China in 1715. His mission was to promote Russian commercial interests...

     (1727–1728 and 1736)
  • Fuss and Alexander G. von Bunge
    Alexander G. von Bunge
    Alexander Georg von Bunge was a Baltic German botanist. He was a professor of botany at the University of Tartu, and was director of the department from 1842 until 1844...

     (1830–1831)
  • Hermann Fritsche (1868–1873)
  • Pavlinov
    Pavlínov
    Pavlínov is a village and municipality in Žďár nad Sázavou District in the Vysočina Region of the Czech Republic.The municipality covers an area of , and has a population of 255 ....

     and Z.L. Matusovski (1870)
  • Ney Elias
    Ney Elias
    Ney Elias, CIE, was a British explorer, geographer, and diplomat, most known for his extensive travels in Asia. Modern scholars speculate that he was a key intelligence agent for Britain during the Great Game. Elias traveled extensively in the Karakoram, Hindu Kush, Pamirs, and Turkestan regions...

     (1872–1873)
  • Nikolai Przhevalsky
    Nikolai Przhevalsky
    Nikolai Mikhaylovich Przhevalsky and Prjevalsky, ; —), was a Russian geographer of Polish background and explorer of Central and Eastern Asia. Although he never reached his final goal, Lhasa in Tibet, he travelled through regions unknown to the west, such as northern Tibet, modern Qinghai and...

     (1870–1872 and 1876–1877)
  • Zosnovsky (1875)
  • Mikhail V. Pevtsov (1878)
  • Grigory Potanin
    Grigory Potanin
    Grigory Nikolayaevich Potanin was a Russian explorer of Inner Asia who aligned himself with the Siberian separatist movement...

     (1877 and 1884–1886)
  • Count Béla Széchenyi and Lajos Lóczy (1879–1880)
  • The brothers G. E. Grumm-Grshimailo
    G. E. Grumm-Grshimailo
    Grigory Yefimovich Grumm-Grzhimaylo was a Russian entomologist, best known for his expeditions to Central Asia , West Mongolia and Tuva, and the Russian Far East.-Life and work:...

     (1889–1890) and ? Grumm-Grshimailo.
  • Pyotr Kuzmich Kozlov (1893–1894 and 1899–1900)
  • Vsevolod I. Roborovsky (1894)
  • Vladimir Obruchev
    Vladimir Obruchev
    Vladimir Afanasyevich Obruchev was a Russian and Soviet geologist who specialized in the study of Siberia and Central Asia. He was also one of the first Russian science fiction authors.- Scientific research :...

     (1894–1896)
  • Karl Josef Futterer and Dr. Holderer (1896)
  • Charles-Etienne Bonin (1896 and 1899)
  • Sven Hedin
    Sven Hedin
    Sven Anders Hedin KNO1kl RVO was a Swedish geographer, topographer, explorer, photographer, and travel writer, as well as an illustrator of his own works...

     (1897 and 1900–1901)
  • K. Bogdanovich (1898)
  • Ladyghin (1899–1900) and Katsnakov (1899–1900)

See also

  • Asian Dust
    Asian Dust
    Asian Dust is a seasonal meteorological phenomenon which affects much of East Asia sporadically during the springtime months...

  • Geography of Mongolia
    Geography of Mongolia
    Mongolia is a landlocked country in Northern Asia, strategically located between China and Russia. The terrain is one of mountains and rolling plateaus, with a high degree of relief. Overall, the land slopes from the high Altay Mountains of the west and the north to plains and depressions in the...

  • Geography of China
    Geography of China
    China stretches some across the East Asian landmass bordering the East China Sea, Korea Bay, Yellow Sea, and South China Sea, between North Korea and Vietnam in a changing configuration of broad plains, expansive deserts, and lofty mountain ranges, including vast areas of inhospitable terrain...

  • Green Wall of China
    Green Wall of China
    The Green Wall of China, also known as the Green Great Wall or Great Green Wall , will be a series of human-planted forest strips in the People's Republic of China, designed to hold back the expansion of the Gobi Desert...

  • Legendary Mongolian Death Worm
    Mongolian Death Worm
    The Mongolian death worm is a creaturereported to exist in the Gobi Desert. It is generally considered a cryptid: an animal whose sightings and reports are disputed or unconfirmed.It is described as a bright red worm with a wide body that is long....

     (olgoi khorkhoi), said to inhabit the Gobi in Mongolia
  • List of deserts by area

External links

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