Tibetan Plateau


German Research Foundtation - DFG (2008-2014)

This research work was integrated in the DFG Priority Programme "Tibetan Plateau: Formation - Climate - Ecosystems (TiP)" and was supported through the bundle project "Landscape and Lake-System Response to Late Quaternary Monsoon Dynamics on the Tibetan Plateau - Northern Transect". 


  • Prof. Dr. Bernd Wünnemann & Dr. Yongzhan Zhang, Nanjing University, China.
  • Dr. Kai Hartmann, Free University Berlin, Germany.
  • Prof. Dr. Frank Lehmkuhl & Dr. Georg Stauch, Technical University Aachen, Germany.
  • Prof. Dr. Steffen Mischke, Potsdam University.
  • Prof. Dr. Ulrike Herzschuh, AWI Potsdam.


Lake-catchment interactions are important processes to decipher climate and non-climate controlled signals along sediment cascades. As part of a bundle project, two lake systems on the northern Tibetan Plateau were studied and analysed for the relationship between lacustrine depositional environment and the influence of monsoon climate since the late glacial to Holocene stage. The project was directed towards the interpretation of allogenic materials in lake sediments, related to changes in runoff, and the mineralogy and geochemistry of endogenic carbonate phases, which reflect the supply of dissoved elements to the lake.

Lake Donggi Cona on the northeastern Tibetan Plateau was mainly controlled by the monsoon system during the Holocene, although non-climatic forcing by tectonic tectonic events crucially influenced the hydrological system by a change from a closed to an open system.

Lake Heihai situated farther to the west on the central northern Tibetan Plateau lies at the northernmost fringe of monsoon influence. Here the depositional environment was strongly controlled by mositure supply across the mountain barrier of the Kunlun Mountains, which only was achieved during the early Holocene insolation maximum.

Future research should be directed to the following aspects: (1) application of the comprehensive approach of system analysis in the sediment cascade from catchment to ddep lake, (2) clarification of the role of early Holocene extended lake coverage on the Tibetan Plateau on self-regulating climate processes (albedo, water-vapour recycling), (3) the role of mountain barriers on monsoon extent, (4) data mining of lacustrine proxy records with sophisticated statistical approaches, such as phase-space analysis, for the inference of temporal-spatial system responses to climate change.

Left photo shows sampling of early Holocene lake sediments, documenting a former high stand of Lake Heihai. The fossil lake marls are affected by permafrost and disrupted by segregation ice. In the background, the glaciated peaks of the Kunlun Mountain Range are visible.