The unBalanced ecoLOGist: All Juniper All the Time, up to 4200 m a.s.l.

The morning, not surprisingly for a dry desert at 3200 m, dawned bright and blue. Apparently the average 200 mm of annual rainfall here all falls during the monsoon season of June-July (into August). The rest of the time it’s dry dry dry.

I was awakened by a trumpet (recorded or live, I couldn’t tell) playing Reveille at about 05:00 to awaken the high school students for their morning calisthenics.

After a quick breakfast of steamed buns, boiled eggs, and fried dough, we set off for a short drive to a nearby valley; the road terminated at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, where apparently the monks enjoy basketball.

The Qu ri gang monastery at the entry to the Qu ri gang valley, 30 minutes outside of Dulan city.

We parked the car just outside the court, and started our walk up the valley to explore the junipers (Juniperus przewalski) treeline.

Juniper is the only tree that grows here, and it reaches treeline at varying elevations depending on temperature and moisture availability. This view is looking towards the north.

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The unBalanced ecoLOGogist: Climbing onto the Roof of the World

Early Saturday morning, Eryuan Liang and I flew from Beijing to Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province, which is the province to the east of Tibet. Qinghai and Tibet together span the Tibetan Plateau, but it’s much easier to travel into and around Qinghai. Even for Chinese scientists like Eryuan, who is a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Tibetan Plateau Research, which itself has a branch campus in Lhasa, it is far easier to do research in Qinghai than it is to do research in Tibet. And here be treelines, which are the focus of this nine-day field expedition.

Panorama from the lower treeline at the Wulan site (click for a larger version)

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