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Scientists Start Expedition to Kumtag Desert
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A team of 15 Chinese scientists started an expedition into China's eighth largest desert, the Kumtag, Thursday.

This is the first full-scale scientific expedition across the Kumtag, said Wang Jihe, a researcher with Gansu Provincial Sand Control Institute and head of the expedition.

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, said Wang.

The scientists, representing Gansu Provincial Sand Control Institute, Chinese Academy of Forestry and Lanzhou University, will also collect samples for future research on the desert's soil, vegetation, climate and water conditions, he added.

"Kumtag is a natural lab that tells how a desert is formed and evolves," said Wang. "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 erected as the roof of the world."

Wang said the team also hope to get some first-hand information about wild two-humped camels, a rare species that, just like the giant panda, is under special preservation by the Chinese government. "Kumtag is known as a major habitat for the camel."

"Kumtag" means "sand hill" in Uygur. As its name suggests, the desert has the toughest natural conditions in northwest China's arid region.

As a matter of fact, 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 on the north and Altun Mountains on the south.

(Xinhua News Agency September 9, 2005)

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