Erhai is Yunnan's second largest lake. This reading list covers its geology and ecology.

C R Allen and A R Gillespie:

Red River and associated faults, Yunnan Province, China

Quaternary geology, slip rates, and seismic hazard

Abstract: The 900-km-long right-slip Red River fault of southernmost China and northern Vietnam is a profound structural discontinuity that is mechanically associated with the collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates. Although history records no large earthquakes resulting from slippage along at least the principal segment of the fault in China, youthful landforms and disruptions of young sedimentary rocks indicate that it has generated large earthquakes during the Pleistocene and Holocene epochs. The historic quiescence thus must be regarded as being indicative of a current seismic gap, although the recurrence interval between major earthquakes is evidently much longer than for many other major active fault systems. That recent displacement has been primarily right lateral is indicated by consistently displaced drainages, ranging in offset from 9 m to 6 km, and the freshness of the smallest and most recent offsets implies repeated Holocene movements. Although physiographic features typical of active faulting such as scarps and drainage diversions are present throughout, the general absence of sag ponds reflects both the high rate of dissection of the fault by the Red River and its tributaries and the lower degree of activity as compared to highly active faults such as the San Andreas fault of California. In its middle 170 km, the fault zone is made up of two branches. The range-front branch demarcates the northeastern base of the Ailao Mountains and, at least locally, has an appreciable component of dip slip. The mid-valley branch, in large part previously unrecognized, traverses principally deeply dissected Cenozoic valley fill northeast of the range-front fault and has undergone almost pure lateral slip. Lateral postfill offsets along the range-front branch diminish toward the southeast, whereas those along the mid-valley branch diminish northwestward; the net effect is that the total postfill offset across both branches is almost uniform. The Red River and its major tributaries appear to have experienced about 5.5 km of right slip since the beginning of a major episode of incision that continues to the present day. Restoration of this offset provides a remarkable alignment of most large tributaries as well as removing a major kink in the course of the Red River itself. Using maximum credible rates of incision, we estimate an average fault-slip rate of 2 to perhaps 5 mm/yr. At this long-term rate of slip, the smallest offsets observed along the fault (9 m) would occur no more frequently than every 1,800 to 4,500 yr on the average. This is consistent with the historical record of fault dormancy for the past 300 yr. North of the Red River fault, there is a large seismically active region laced with numerous faults of north and northwesterly trends. Several of these faults display clear and even spectacular evidence of youthful normal faulting, and some appear to have left-lateral components as well. These faults, as well as the Red River fault itself, are accommodating regional east-west crustal extension and north-south shortening.


Early collection of essays on the formation of the Bai people.

J A Dearing:

Using multiple archives to understand past and present climate–human–environment interactions

The lake Erhai catchment, Yunnan Province, China

Abstract: A 6.48 m sediment core sequence from Erhai lake, Yunnan Province, provides a multi-proxy record of Holocene environmental evolution and human activity in southwest China. These sedimentary records provide proxy time series for catchment vegetation, flooding, soil erosion, sediment sources and metal workings. They are complemented by independent regional climate time-series from speleothems, archaeological records of human habitation, and a detailed documented environmental history. The article attempts to integrate these data sources to provide a Holocene scale record of environmental change and human–environment interactions. These interactions are analysed in order to identify the roles of climate and social drivers on environmental change, and the lessons that may be learned about the future sustainability of the landscape. The main conclusions are: lake sediment evidence for human impacts from at least 7,500 cal year BP is supported by a terrestrial record of cultural horizons that may extend back to *9,000 cal year BP. A major shift in the pollen assemblage, defined by detrended correspondence analysis, at *4,800 cal year BP marks the transition from a ‘nature-dominated’ to a ‘humandominated’ landscape. From 4,300 cal year BP, a change in river discharge responses may signal the beginning of hydraulic modification through drainage and irrigation. Major increases in disturbed land taxa and loss of forest taxa from 2,200 cal year BP onward, also associated with the start of significant topsoil erosion, register the expansion of agriculture by Han peoples. It is also the start of silver smelting linked to trade along the SW Silk Road with Dali becoming a regional centre. Peak levels of disturbed land taxa, topsoil and gully erosion are associated with the rise and fall of the Nanzhao (CE 738–902) and Dali (CE 937–1253) Kingdoms, and the documented environmental crisis that occurred in the late Ming and Qing dynasties (CE 1644–1911). The crisis coincides with a stronger summer monsoon, but exploitation of marginal agricultural land is the main driver. These historical perspectives provide insight into the resilience and sustainability of the modern agricultural system. The largest threat comes from high magnitude-low frequency flooding of lower dry farmed terraces and irrigated valley plains. A sustainable future depends on reducing the use of high altitude and steep slopes for grazing and cultivation, maintaining engineered flood defences and terraces, and anticipating the behaviour of the summer monsoon.

Duan Yanxue:


Geological history of the Erhai region.

Lin Shaomeng and D Walker:

Late Pleistocene and Holocene Vegetation History at Xi Hu, Er Yuan, Yunnan Province, Southwest China

Abstract: Pollen diagrams from a swampy lake at 26?N, 100?E and 1980 m a.s.l. record the vegetation history on 1000 m of slopes above it from about 17,000 BP to the present day. The main stages are: 17,000-15,000 BP: montane conifers above, Pinus-evergreen sclero- phyllous Quercus below. 15,000-14,000 BP: montane conifers temporarily restricted. 14,000-10,500 BP: montane conifers above, evergreen and deciduous forests, Pinus forests and semi-arid scrub below. 10,500-0 BP: Pinus forests with evergreen broadleaved component dominating all slopes. Sediment stratigraphy and pollen analysis together suggest the following climatic sequence: 17,000-15,000 BP: cold semi-humid. 15,000-10,500 BP: fluctuating with some periods of intense seasonality, becoming warmer toward the end. 10,500-0 BP: similar to present sub-tropical monsoon climate. There is no certain evidence of climatic change after 10,500 BP. Although human settlement has probably been continuous since 3000 BP, often dense and associated with major hydraulic engineering works, the pollen diagrams do not show any clear indications of their impact on the vegetation; this is probably due to unsuitability of the investigated sites for this purpose. All the material studied is younger than the last glacial maximum (Dali stage) of Yunnan, and the Pleistocene-Holocene transi- tion is associated with the vegetational and climatic events described at about 10,500 BP.

Descriptions of three new fishes from Yunnan, collected by Mr. J. Graham