Seen in der Wüste Badain Jaran in China

Scientists puzzle: 144 lakes in the middle of China’s Badain Jaran desert – how can that be?


In northwest China, near the Mongolian border, there is a very special desert: the Badain Jaran. This part of the Gobi desert, for example, is home to the world’s largest sand dune, the 450-meter-high “Bilutu”, loudly UNESCO also called the “Everest of the desert”, as well as countless other high dunes. What is really special, however, is a natural phenomenon that nobody would expect in such a region.

Because over the entire Badain Jaran, which has an area of ​​almost 873,000 hectares, a total of 144 lakes, some of them bizarre-colored – which has always puzzled researchers, because 74 of them have water all year round, despite the often scorching heat . Twelve are even freshwater lakes. How is that possible in a region where the average annual rainfall is just 50 to 60 millimeters per square meter? For comparison: In July 2020, an average of 45 liters per square meter fell in Berlin.

Great biodiversity

Man hardly ever intervenes in this untouched naturePhoto: Getty Images

As the “Geo”Reported, scientists have now probably found an answer to this question: The waters are probably fed by springs that run beneath the desert sand – these in turn would be fed by melt water, which would result from the thawing of snow and ice in mountain regions hundreds of kilometers away . However, the precipitation also contributed to the fact that most of the lakes never dried up. The largest of them, Lake Nouerto, even has an area of ​​almost 1.5 square kilometers and is up to 14 meters deep.

A group of researchers who carried out a study entitled “Origin of water in the Badain Jaran desert”Has published, however, contradicts this theory; accordingly, after examining the waters, there would be no reliable facts for either of the two ideas expressed above. Rather, the lakes are believed to have been created by meteorite impacts long ago.

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According to UNESCO, the Badain Jaran is home to an abundance of animal species that is absolutely unusual for a desert – fish as well as crustaceans and mussels are found in the lakes, as well as birds and various other, mostly nocturnal animals live around the waters. The human influence is also extremely low in the region, only a few Mongolian nomad families live in the area together with their camels, sheep and donkeys.


Many of the lakes in the Badain Jaran are spectacularly coloredPhoto: Getty Images

Where does the color of the lakes come from?

And there is another miracle of nature to be heard here, because the dunes of the Badain Jaran “sing” – loudly “World of physics”This phenomenon describes a sound that can sometimes be heard for miles, which is caused by the friction between the grains of sand and their movement. UNESCO has now included the Badain Jaran – by the way, the name aptly means something like “wonder lakes” – in its list of places that would be worthy of a World Heritage status.

Only one question remains to be answered: where does the spectacular color of some of the lakes come from? Scientists have two theories about this: on the one hand, it could arise from special minerals that occur in water, and on the other hand, microorganisms living in the water could cause the phenomenon.