After the iconic outburst of Zonag Lake in Hoh Xil of Tibetan Plateau (TP) in 2011, the causes of the collapse and its impact on the volume of water contained by the downstream lakes have highly been concerned, but the overall changes of the hydrological ecosystem and its impacts on the basin are yet not clear. This paper analyzes the hydrological system (lake area and hydrological connection) and ecosystem (sandstorm activity and vegetation growth status) changes and their impacts on the regional ecological environment after the outburst event, based on remotely sensed images from 2000 to 2020, meteorological observations, and field surveys. The results show that the outburst of Zonag Lake has not only changed the regional hydrology and ecosystem pattern but also caused a trend of degradation in the ecological environment of Zonag Lake Basin. Some lambing areas and active areas of Tibetan antelope in the area are being buried and eroded by the sandstorm. The downstream Yanhu Lake has risen to the highest level and overflowed through the emergency diversion engineering. These impacts are continuously threatening the health of the ecological environment of the world natural heritage site in Hoh Xil, the safety of Qinghai-Tibet highway, Qinghai-Tibet railway, and other engineering facilities, as well as the stability of fluvial geomorphology in the northern most sources of Yangtze River.
Journal of Asian Earth Sciences: X, Volume 6, 1 December 2021,