Holocene dune activity in the Thar Desert, India

Aayush Srivastava*, David S.G. Thomas, Julie A. Durcan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The Thar Desert dune system in north-west India and eastern Pakistan provides a rich archive of past environmental, geomorphological and climatic change. Much of the knowledge about the timing of dune accumulation in the Thar stems from scattered and sporadic records, based on older luminescence dating protocols. If the Thar dune record is to be incorporated within a growing multiproxy framework of past climate and environmental dynamics, it is necessary to generate a systematic record of the timing of dunefield accumulation. From this, relationships to climate and other drivers of dune activity may then be better established. To this end, an intensive programme of field sampling and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating was carried out from a dunefield in the east-central Thar Desert. This study presents the first detailed Holocene dune accumulation history from the region, and sheds light on the development of the multi-generational parabolic dune systems. In contrast to previously published work, we identify the importance of the Holocene and the last millennium as periods with a number of preserved accumulation phases. OSL ages suggest that accumulation was persistent during the early and mid-Holocene (within 11.7-5.5 ka), late Holocene (2-1 ka), as well as two major phases in the last millennium (600 – 200 a and within the last 70 a). Potential drivers of dune mobility in the last century include a strong anthropogenic dimension. Rapid net accumulation is recorded in the last 70 years, with rates varying between 2 and 5 m/year, in an environment where agricultural pressures have increased dramatically with the advent of irrigation schemes expanding into dunefield areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1407-1418
Number of pages12
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2019


  • Geomorphological change
  • Holocene
  • Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating
  • Parabolic dunes
  • Thar Desert


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