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CAS Probes Scientific Mysteries of the Highlands

The Chinese Academy of Sciences' (CAS) Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Institute will move in 2005 to Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, according to Yao Tandong, the institute's director. The move will better enable specialists from the institute, now located in Beijing, to conduct research on the plateau together with specially invited, internationally renowned experts.


Some 200 million years ago, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau formed part of the floor of a far larger Mediterranean Sea, with the vast Eurasian Continent to the north and the scorching Indian Subcontinent to the south. Then, about 80 million years ago, the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates collided, causing the land to rise at a relatively rapid pace and forming today's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Dubbed "the roof of the world," the plateau is still rising 0.6 to 0.9 centimeters each year.


"Many people are fascinated by the regional culture of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, but its tectonic movement and various geological effects are more mysterious to scientific circles," said Yao.


Nearly 100 research staff with the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Institute will move to the new building in Lhasa, which is now under construction. They will be able to conduct on-site investigations into such wide-ranging fields as the plateau's lithosphere structure and progression, environmental development, effects of geological change on the atmosphere and biological evolution.


"Research that was previously dispersed and isolated in specialized departments has not been able to solve some major scientific problems," said Yao. "Our institute plans to organize the world's leading scientists to conduct comprehensive and integrated research on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau."


It is hoped that such integrated research will shed light on some long-unsolved mysteries, such as identifying the mechanism that causes the plateau to rise; the effects of this process on weather and climate and its contribution to environmental change throughout Asia; and biological adaptation and evolution processes.


The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is a unique ecological system and a gene bank of highland biological species, as well as an ideal place for research on the earth's deep material and energy transformation.


(China.org.cn by Zhang Tingting, September 15, 2004)

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