Abstract

Observations have been made on the structure, morphology, and pattern of sand movement on large-scale, roughly elongate, northwest–southeast-aligned aeolian sand dunes in a desert area of northern Saskatchewan, Canada. Transverse profiles show steeper northeast flanks, the lower parts of which are covered with psammophilous grasses. Dune structure is dominated by northeast-dipping accretion laminae, and 14C dates of organic material trapped between such exposed laminae on the southwest flank indicate migration to the northeast at about 0.5 m/year in the last few centuries. On the other hand, there is a progressive increase in height, bulk, symmetry, and peakedness of the dunes from northwest to southeast, suggestive of substantial along-dune sand movement. The present-day wind regime shows a potential resultant sand-transport vector to the southeast, virtually parallel to the dune axis; winds from the north-northeast and northeast dominate the first 6 months of the year, followed by winds from the west-southwest in the latter half. Field evidence of airflow and sand-movement patterns upon the surfaces of two dunes also indicates a strong along-dune component. The dunes are interpreted as hybrid landforms reflecting both transverse and longitudinal processes acting at the present time. Of particular sedimentological significance is the discordance between dune stratigraphy and the wind regime. Dune structure is controlled by a southwest–northeast imbalance in sand movement assumed to result from an asymmetric distribution of sand-trapping vegetation and from a seasonal contrast in sand mobility that partly correlates with seasonality in the wind regime. Both factors promote northeast migration normal to the potential resultant of effective winds.

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