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Gobi Desert (4.-6. August)



After a very rough car ride and staying overnight in the mountains, we arrived at the Gobi desert. It is the second largest desert in the world after the Sahara Desert. Its landscape includes sandy dunes, rugged mountain ranges and inhospitable salt lakes. The steppe desert is located in the north of China and extends into southern Mongolia, whereby it continues to expand, especially into China. In the meantime, it has reached an area of 2 million km², which is more than five times that of Germany (franks-travelbox.com).

Figure 1: Typical landscape of the Gobi desert in the region "Khukhmorit". Due to the many precipitations you will often find tender green.

As the summer 2018 was exceptionally wet in Mongolia, we not only experienced thunderstorms, strong rain, and hail during our journey, but also witnessed the power of water erosion in the mountains and into the dessert. This showed us very directly, how water erosion is fostered by the frequently occurring overgrazing. Our travelling further into the Gobi got interrupted due to destroyed bridges and flooded river beds that are usually dry (wadi). So, we just made it into the semi desert.

The landscape of our study are was characterized by the wadi, and hilly regions with intensively weathered granitic rocks. The sand resulting from the physical weathering accumulated in some areas as sand dunes. The vegetation is sparse with scattered thorny bushes. But because of the frequent rain events in the summer 2018, one often finds herbaceous vegetation, especially chives, which decorate the barren landscape with a tender green (see pictures). The soils investigated in this area included Regosols, Cambisols, Fluvisols, Solonetz, and Arenosols.

Due to risk of another flood event, we placed our tents on a small plateau adjacent to the wadi. Due to lack of fire wood, we used Yak feces for cooking and for our camp fire. This provided a special flavor to our food. In the last night, there was another thunderstorm. But instead of rain, this time we had to deal with a sand storm.