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Modern impacts on an ancient landscape, the piedmont plain in southwest Turkmenistan

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The piedmont plain in southwestern Turkmenistan has experienced a millennia‐long settlement history despite prevailing arid climates. One of the prerequisites for the various agricultural efforts was irrigation. Most of the water used for irrigation measures came from the adjacent Kopet Dag mountain chain. This situation changed with the introduction of the Karakum canal in the middle of the 20th century. The present study evaluates the rich irrigation history of the piedmont plain by investigating two small catchments that drain the eastern ranges of the Kopet Dag. Within their catchments, geomorphological and hydrological analyses were conducted. We present several Optically Stimulated Luminescence and 14‐C dating results that add to the understanding of the landscape history from the Pleistocene until modern ages. Moreover, modern climatological and hydrological data were analyzed that show a remarkable drop in runoff from the Kopet Dag since the 1960s. WIREs Water 2017, 4:e1202. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1202 This article is categorized under: Engineering Water > Planning Water Science of Water > Water and Environmental Change
General climatic setting of Turkmenistan and the surrounding countries. Gray layers depict the annual mean precipitation (data from 1950 to 2000, worldclim.org database). Indicated in italic bold letters are the Koeppen–Geiger climate zones. The red box delineates the area of interest, see also Figure .
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The Gully near Chacha and sample area “Turk_6” (coordinates: 36.7755°N; 60.5150°E).
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The piedmont plain, the loess hills, and the Kopet Dag mountains (coordinates: 36.8454°N; 60.4147°E).
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The Wadi Meana (coordinates: 36.8726°N; 60.3904°E).
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Compilation of the four sampling sites (black stars indicate sampling points).
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Annual time series of the Meana river's discharge and precipitation at Kaka and Hawdan.
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Annual discharge of the Meana in comparison to monthly precipitation values of the Kaka and Hawdan weather stations.
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The hydrological year of (a) the Chacha river and (b) the Meana river.
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The presented profiles and their sedimentological sequence (for pictures, see Appendix C in Appendix S1).
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Three‐dimensional visualization of the study site. Blue lines indicated water‐bearing channels on the 1:50,000 topographic maps (reference see below).
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Study site map with the main landscape features.
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