Alluvial-fan successions record changes in hydrological processes and environments that may reflect tectonic activity, climate conditions and changes, intrinsic geomorphic changes, or combinations of these factors. Here, we focus on the evolution of a stream-dominated fan in a tectonic depression of the Xining basin of China, laid down under a semi-arid climate in the northeastern Tibetan Plateau (NETP). The fan succession is composed of three facies associations, from bottom to top: (1) matrix to clast-supported, poorly sorted, planar cross-stratified to crudely stratified sheets of coarse-grained sediments; (2) horizontal laminated sand, laminated layers of reddish fine silt and yellow coarse silt with stacked mounds of sand; and (3) clay-rich deposits with incipient paleosols. The succession shows rapid sediment aggradation from high-energy to low-energy alluvial fans and finally to a floodplain. The dating results using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) method show that a gravelly, high-energy fan was deposited during MIS 6, after which a low-energy fan, mainly composed of sand and silt, was deposited and finally covered by flood loam during the MIS 6–5 transition and the warmer last interglacial. Stacked sand mounds are interpreted from their sediment structure and grain-size distribution as shrub-coppice dunes in low-energy fan deposits. They may be considered as a response to the interaction of alluvial and aeolian processes in a semi-arid environment.
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