The Gobi is a large desert region in Asia. It covers parts of northern and northwestern China, and of southern Mongolia. The desert basins of the Gobi are bounded by the Altai Mountains and the grasslands and steppes of Mongolia on the north, by the Hexi Corridor and Tibetan Plateau to the southwest, and by the North China Plain to the southeast. The Gobi is most notable in history as part of the great Mongol Empire, and as the location of several important cities along the Silk Road.
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 ecoregion in the Deserts and xeric shrublands Biome, home to the Bactrian camel and various other animals. It is a rain shadow desert formed by the Himalaya range blocking rain-carrying clouds from the Indian Ocean from reaching the Gobi territory.
Geography of the Gobi Desert
The Gobi measures over 1,610 km (1,000 mi) from southwest to northeast and 800 km (500 mi) from north to south. The desert is widest in the west, along the line joining the Lake Bosten and the Lop Nor (87¡ã-89¡ã east). It occupies an arc of land 1,295,000 km2 (500,002 sq mi) in area as of 2007; it is the fifth-largest desert in the world and Asia's largest. Much of the Gobi is not sandy but has exposed bare rock.
The Gobi has several different Chinese names, including Shamo( a generic term for deserts in general) and Hanhai, ("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, 77o east, to the Greater Khingan Mountains, 116o-118o east, on the border of Manchuria; and from the foothills of the Altay, Sayan, and Yablonoi mountain ranges on the north to the Kunlun, Altyn-Tagh, and Qilian mountain ranges, which form the northern edges of the Tibetan Plateau, 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 reckoned to belong to the Gobi by conventional usage. Some geographers and ecologists prefer to regard the western area of the Gobi region (as defined above): the basin of the Tarim in Xinjiang and the desert basin of Lop Nor and Hami (Kumul), as forming a separate and independent desert, called the Taklamakan Desert.
Archeologists and paleontologists have done excavations in the Nemegt Basin in the northwestern part of the Gobi Desert (in Mongolia), which is noted for its fossil treasures, including early mammals, dinosaur eggs, and prehistoric stone implements, some 100,000 years old.
Climate of Gobi Desert
The Gobi is a cold desert, with frost and occasionally snow occurring 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 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 Siberian Steppes. These winds cause the Gobi to reach extremes of temperature ranging from ¨C40o (-40oF) in winter to +50oC (122F) in summer.
The climate of the Gobi is one of great extremes, combined with rapid changes of temperature of as much as 35oC (95oF). These can occur not only seasonally but within 24 hours.
In southern Mongolia the temperature has been recorded as low as 32.8 oC (27.0oF), and in Alxa, Inner Mongolia, it rises as high as 37oC (99oF) in July.
Average winter minimums are a frigid 40oC (40oF) while summertime temperatures are warm to hot, with highs that range up to 50oC (122oF). Most of the precipitation falls during the summer.
Although the southeast monsoons 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 and snowstorms of spring and early summer plus early January (winter)
Conservation of Gobi Desert
The Gobi Desert is the source of many important fossil finds, including the first dinosaur eggs.
Despite the harsh conditions, these deserts and the surrounding regions sustain many animals, including black-tailed gazelles, marbled polecats, bactrian camels, Mongolian wild ass and sandplovers. They are occasionally visited by snow leopards, brown bears, and wolves. Drought-adapted shrubs in the desert included gray sparrow's saltwort, gray sagebrush, and low grasses such as needle grass and bridlegrass. 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 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. The economic trends of livestock privatization and the collapse of the urban economy have caused people to return to subsistence rural lifestyles, away from urbanization.
Currently, the Gobi desert is expanding at an alarming rate, in a process known as desertification. The expansion is particularly rapid on the southern edge into China, which has seen 3,600 km2 (1,390 sq mi) of grassland overtaken every year by the Gobi Desert. Dust storms, which used to occur regularly in China, have increased in frequency in the past 20 years, mainly due to desertification. They have caused further damage to China's agriculture economy.
The expansion of the Gobi is attributed mostly to human activities, notably deforestation, overgrazing, and depletion of water resources. China has tried various plans to slow the expansion of the desert, which have met with some small degree of success, but no major effects. The most recent plan involves the planting of the Green Wall of China, a huge ring of newly planted forests; the government hopes the forests will help stabilize the soil, retain moisture, and act as a buffer against further desertification.