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Concept: Yellow River


Assessing oil pollution using traditional field-based methods over large areas is difficult and expensive. Remote sensing technologies with good spatial and temporal coverage might provide an alternative for monitoring oil pollution by recording the spectral signals of plants growing in polluted soils. Total petroleum hydrocarbon concentrations of soils and the hyperspectral canopy reflectance were measured in wetlands dominated by reeds (Phragmites australis) around oil wells that have been producing oil for approximately 10 years in the Yellow River Delta, eastern China to evaluate the potential of vegetation indices and red edge parameters to estimate soil oil pollution. The detrimental effect of oil pollution on reed communities was confirmed by the evidence that the aboveground biomass decreased from 1076.5 g m(-2) to 5.3 g m(-2) with increasing total petroleum hydrocarbon concentrations ranging from 9.45 mg kg(-1) to 652 mg kg(-1). The modified chlorophyll absorption ratio index (MCARI) best estimated soil TPH concentration among 20 vegetation indices. The linear model involving MCARI had the highest coefficient of determination (R(2) = 0.73) and accuracy of prediction (RMSE = 104.2 mg kg(-1)). For other vegetation indices and red edge parameters, the R(2) and RMSE values ranged from 0.64 to 0.71 and from 120.2 mg kg(-1) to 106.8 mg kg(-1) respectively. The traditional broadband normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), one of the broadband multispectral vegetation indices (BMVIs), produced a prediction (R(2) = 0.70 and RMSE = 110.1 mg kg(-1)) similar to that of MCARI. These results corroborated the potential of remote sensing for assessing soil oil pollution in large areas. Traditional BMVIs are still of great value in monitoring soil oil pollution when hyperspectral data are unavailable.

Concepts: Petroleum, People's Republic of China, Approximation, Estimation, Remote sensing, Hyperspectral imaging, Yellow River, Landfill


Time series of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) derived from multiple satellite sensors are crucial data to study vegetation dynamics. The Land Long Term Data Record Version 4 (LTDR V4) NDVI dataset was recently released at a 0.05 × 0.05° spatial resolution and daily temporal resolution. In this study, annual NDVI time series that are composited by the LTDR V4 and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) NDVI datasets (MOD13C1) are compared and evaluated for the period from 2001 to 2014 in China. The spatial patterns of the NDVI generally match between the LTDR V4 and MOD13C1 datasets. The transitional zone between high and low NDVI values generally matches the boundary of semi-arid and sub-humid regions. A significant and high coefficient of determination is found between the two datasets according to a pixel-based correlation analysis. The spatially averaged NDVI of LTDR V4 is characterized by a much weaker positive regression slope relative to that of the spatially averaged NDVI of the MOD13C1 dataset because of changes in NOAA AVHRR sensors between 2005 and 2006. The measured NDVI values of LTDR V4 were always higher than that of MOD13C1 in western China due to the relatively lower atmospheric water vapor content in western China, and opposite observation appeared in eastern China. In total, 18.54% of the LTDR V4 NDVI pixels exhibit significant trends, whereas 35.79% of the MOD13C1 NDVI pixels show significant trends. Good agreement is observed between the significant trends of the two datasets in the Northeast Plain, Bohai Economic Rim, Loess Plateau, and Yangtze River Delta. By contrast, the datasets contrasted in northwestern desert regions and southern China. A trend analysis of the regression slope values according to the vegetation type shows good agreement between the LTDR V4 and MOD13C1 datasets. This study demonstrates the spatial and temporal consistencies and discrepancies between the AVHRR LTDR and MODIS MOD13C1 NDVI products in China, which could provide useful information for the choice of NDVI products in subsequent studies of vegetation dynamics.

Concepts: China, Yangtze River, Water vapor, Vegetation, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, Yellow River, Nanjing, Shanghai


The Endangered Red-crowned Crane (Grus japonensis) is one of the most culturally iconic and sought-after species by wildlife tourists. Here we investigate how the presence of tourists influence the vigilance behaviour of cranes foraging in Suaeda salsa salt marshes and S. salsa/Phragmites australis mosaic habitat in the Yellow River Delta, China. We found that both the frequency and duration of crane vigilance significantly increased in the presence of wildlife tourists. Increased frequency in crane vigilance only occurred in the much taller S. salsa/P. australis mosaic vegetation whereas the duration of vigilance showed no significant difference between the two habitats. Crane vigilance declined with increasing distance from wildlife tourists in the two habitats, with a minimum distance of disturbance triggering a high degree of vigilance by cranes identified at 300 m. The presence of wildlife tourists may represent a form of disturbance to foraging cranes but is habitat dependent. Taller P. australis vegetation serves primarily as a visual obstruction for cranes, causing them to increase the frequency of vigilance behaviour. Our findings have important implications for the conservation of the migratory red-crowned crane population that winters in the Yellow River Delta and can help inform visitor management.

Concepts: Yellow River, Tourism, Crane, Grus, Red-crowned Crane


China’s historiographical traditions tell of the successful control of a Great Flood leading to the establishment of the Xia dynasty and the beginning of civilization. However, the historicity of the flood and Xia remain controversial. Here, we reconstruct an earthquake-induced landslide dam outburst flood on the Yellow River about 1920 BCE that ranks as one of the largest freshwater floods of the Holocene and could account for the Great Flood. This would place the beginning of Xia at ~1900 BCE, several centuries later than traditionally thought. This date coincides with the major transition from the Neolithic to Bronze Age in the Yellow River valley and supports hypotheses that the primary state-level society of the Erlitou culture is an archaeological manifestation of the Xia dynasty.

Concepts: China, Neolithic, Yellow River, Flood, Bronze Age, Xia Dynasty, Erlitou culture, Deluge


Sedimentary dispersal systems with fine-grained beds are common, yet the physics of sediment movement within them remains poorly constrained. We analyze sediment transport data for the best-documented, fine-grained river worldwide, the Huanghe (Yellow River) of China, where sediment flux is underpredicted by an order of magnitude according to well-accepted sediment transport relations. Our theoretical framework, bolstered by field observations, demonstrates that the Huanghe tends toward upper-stage plane bed, yielding minimal form drag, thus markedly enhancing sediment transport efficiency. We present a sediment transport formulation applicable to all river systems with silt to coarse-sand beds. This formulation demonstrates a remarkably sensitive dependence on grain size within a certain narrow range and therefore has special relevance to silt-sand fluvial systems, particularly those affected by dams.

Concepts: Sediment, River, Erosion, Silt, Yellow River, Sand, Sediment transport, Sedimentology


For more than 70 years unusual sauropod trackways have played a pivotal role in debates about the swimming ability of sauropods. Most claims that sauropods could swim have been based on manus-only or manus-dominated trackways. However none of these incomplete trackways has been entirely convincing, and most have proved to be taphonomic artifacts, either undertracks or the result of differential depth of penetration of manus and pes tracks, but otherwise showed the typical pattern of normal walking trackways. Here we report an assemblage of unusual sauropod tracks from the Lower Cretaceous Hekou Group of Gansu Province, northern China, characterized by the preservation of only the pes claw traces, that we interpret as having been left by walking, not buoyant or swimming, individuals. They are interpreted as the result of animals moving on a soft mud-silt substrate, projecting their claws deeply to register their traces on an underlying sand layer where they gained more grip during progression. Other sauropod walking trackways on the same surface with both pes and manus traces preserved, were probably left earlier on relatively firm substrates that predated the deposition of soft mud and silt . Presently, there is no convincing evidence of swimming sauropods from their trackways, which is not to say that sauropods did not swim at all.

Concepts: Yellow River, Evidence, Swimming, Preservation, Sauropoda, Dinosaur, Claw, Gansu


The abundance of dinosaur eggs in Upper Cretaceous strata of Henan Province, China led to the collection and export of countless such fossils. One of these specimens, recently repatriated to China, is a partial clutch of large dinosaur eggs (Macroelongatoolithus) with a closely associated small theropod skeleton. Here we identify the specimen as an embryo and eggs of a new, large caenagnathid oviraptorosaur, Beibeilong sinensis. This specimen is the first known association between skeletal remains and eggs of caenagnathids. Caenagnathids and oviraptorids share similarities in their eggs and clutches, although the eggs of Beibeilong are significantly larger than those of oviraptorids and indicate an adult body size comparable to a gigantic caenagnathid. An abundance of Macroelongatoolithus eggs reported from Asia and North America contrasts with the dearth of giant caenagnathid skeletal remains. Regardless, the large caenagnathid-Macroelongatoolithus association revealed here suggests these dinosaurs were relatively common during the early Late Cretaceous.

Concepts: People's Republic of China, Cretaceous, Yellow River, Dinosaur, Maastrichtian, Plesiosaur, Late Cretaceous, Oviraptorosauria


The Homo erectus cranium from Gongwangling, Lantian County, Shaanxi Province is the oldest fossil hominin specimen from North China. It was found in 1964 in a layer below the Jaramillo subchron and was attributed to loess (L) L15 in the Chinese loess-palaeosol sequence, with an estimated age of ca. 1.15 Ma (millions of years ago). Here, we demonstrate that there is a stratigraphical hiatus in the Gongwangling section immediately below loess 15, and the cranium in fact lies in palaeosol (S) S22 or S23, the age of which is ca. 1.54-1.65 Ma. Closely spaced palaeomagnetic sampling at two sections at Gongwangling and one at Jiacun, 10 km to the north, indicate that the fossil layer at Gongwangling and a similar fossil horizon at Jiacun were deposited shortly before a short period of normal polarity above the Olduvai subchron. This is attributed to the Gilsa Event that has been dated elsewhere to ca. 1.62 Ma. Our investigations thus demonstrate that the Gongwangling cranium is slightly older than ca. 1.62 Ma, probably ca. 1.63 Ma, and significantly older than previously supposed. This re-dating now makes Gongwangling the second oldest site outside Africa (after Dmanisi) with cranial remains, and causes substantial re-adjustment in the early fossil hominin record in Eurasia.

Concepts: China, Geology, Henan, Yellow River, Human evolution, Xi'an, Homo erectus, Shanxi


Cotton-rapeseed or cotton-wheat double cropping systems are popular in the Yangtze River Valley and Yellow River Valley of China. Due to the competition of temperature and light resources during the growing season of double cropping system, cotton is generally late-germinating and late-maturing and has to suffer from the coupling of declining temperature and low light especially in the late growth stage. In this study, late planting (LP) and shading were used to fit the coupling stress, and the coupling effect on fiber cellulose synthesis was investigated. Two cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) cultivars were grown in the field in 2010 and 2011 at three planting dates (25 April, 25 May and 10 June) each with three shading levels (normal light, declined 20% and 40% PAR). Mean daily minimum temperature was the primary environmental factor affected by LP. The coupling of LP and shading (decreased cellulose content by 7.8%-25.5%) produced more severe impacts on cellulose synthesis than either stress alone, and the effect of LP (decreased cellulose content by 6.7%-20.9%) was greater than shading (decreased cellulose content by 0.7%-5.6%). The coupling of LP and shading hindered the flux from sucrose to cellulose by affecting the activities of related cellulose synthesis enzymes. Fiber cellulose synthase genes expression were delayed under not only LP but shading, and the coupling of LP and shading markedly postponed and even restrained its expression. The decline of sucrose-phosphate synthase activity and its peak delay may cause cellulose synthesis being more sensitive to the coupling stress during the later stage of fiber secondary wall development (38-45 days post-anthesis). The sensitive difference of cellulose synthesis between two cultivars in response to the coupling of LP and shading may be mainly determined by the sensitiveness of invertase, sucrose-phosphate synthase and cellulose synthase.

Concepts: China, Cotton, Yangtze River, Cellulose, Huai River, Yellow River, History of China, Qinghai


Marine accumulations of terrigenous sediment are widely assumed to accurately record climatic- and tectonic-controlled mountain denudation and play an important role in understanding late Cenozoic mountain uplift and global cooling. Underpinning this is the assumption that the majority of sediment eroded from hinterland orogenic belts is transported to and ultimately stored in marine basins with little lag between erosion and deposition. Here we use a detailed and multi-technique sedimentary provenance dataset from the Yellow River to show that substantial amounts of sediment eroded from Northeast Tibet and carried by the river’s upper reach are stored in the Chinese Loess Plateau and the western Mu Us desert. This finding revises our understanding of the origin of the Chinese Loess Plateau and provides a potential solution for mismatches between late Cenozoic terrestrial sedimentation and marine geochemistry records, as well as between global CO2 and erosion records.

Concepts: Sediment, Sedimentary rock, People's Republic of China, Erosion, Silt, Yellow River, Geomorphology, Loess Plateau