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Ecology on World's Highest Plateau Deteriorating: Survey

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in west China, the highest in the world, is rising due to natural geological movements, which has resulted in the deterioration of the local ecological environment, according to an official survey released in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, on Wednesday.
China Geological Survey Bureau (CGS) said that glaciers on the plateau are becoming smaller, the snow lines receding, and the capacity of the so-called water tower in China shrinking.
Meng Xianlai, head of CGS, reported that the 1: 250,000 geochemistry survey of the vast plateau filled the last blank in the medium scale geochemistry map of the country's land.
The constant rise of the plateau, especially the Himalayas, hinders the warm humid current from the south Indian Ocean, leading to drier weather and, further, shrinking glaciers on the plateau, Meng said.
Researches on the evolution of its weather and ecology have found that the plateau experienced twice dramatic rising movements about 100 million and 45 million years ago, respectively. The CGS report concluded that the ongoing rise of the plateau means increasingly dry weather in its heartland, and the weather will be colder too. The existing highland meadow and prairie vegetation will develop in the direction of desert.
Increasing population and excessive exploration in the region would escalate the trend, said Meng.
The survey also shows that lakes and rivers generated from the region are shrinking. 
Widely recognized as the world's third pole, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau covers an area of 1.52 million square km, almost a sixth of China's territory. It is also regarded by many as one of the most ambitious destinations for explorers and researchers.
Some 1,000 geologists from 24 different organizations and institutes had been working on the often snow-capped plateau in the past seven years starting from 1999 on the survey project, which was completed in September this year.

(Xinhua News Agency December 22, 2005)

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