A team of 15 scientists and experts from the China Academy of
Forestry, Gansu Provincial Sand Control Institute, and Lanzhou
University started on an expedition to China's eighth largest
desert, the Kumtag, on Thursday.
This is the first full-scale scientific expedition across the
Kumtag for Chinese scientists, said Wang Jihe, a researcher with
Gansu Provincial Sand Control Institute and head of the
The team will walk across the desert to study its geology,
animals and vegetation, surface water distribution, agriculture,
stockbreeding and other human activities as well as its
desertification process, Wang said.
The team will also collect samples for future research on the
desert's soil, vegetation, climate and water conditions, he
"Kumtag is a natural lab that tells how a desert is formed and
evolves," Wang said. "The study will help us better understand how
the arid region in the northwest was formed in the first place and
how the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau developed into the 'roof of the
Wang said the team also hopes to get some first-hand information
about wild two-humped camels, a rare species that, just like the
giant panda, is under special protection by the Chinese government.
"Kumtag is a known habitat of the camel," he added.
"Kumtag" means "sand hill" in Uygur. As its name suggests, the
desert has the toughest natural conditions in northwest China's
To date, scientists know very little about the Kumtag, which is
located between Lop Nur in Xinjiang
Uygur Autonomous Region and Dunhuang of Gansu
Province and sandwiched between two mountain ranges: the
Tianshan Mountains to the north and Altun Mountains to the
(Xinhua News Agency September 9, 2005)