Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Earth, Atmospheric, and Life Sciences


During the Cenozoic, global cooling and uplift of the Tian Shan, Pamir, and Tibetan plateau modified atmospheric circulation and reduced moisture supply to Central Asia. These changes led to aridification in the region during the Neogene. Afterwards, Quaternary glaciations led to modification of the landscape and runoff.

In the Issyk-Kul basin of the Kyrgyz Tian Shan, the sedimentary sequences reflect the development of the adjacent ranges and local climatic conditions. In this work, I reconstruct the late Miocene – early Pleistocene depositional environment, climate, and lake development in the Issyk-Kul basin using facies analyses and stable δ18O and δ13C isotopic records from sedimentary sections dated by magnetostratigraphy and 26Al/10Be isochron burial dating. Also, I present 10Be-derived millennial-scale modern and paleo-denudation rates from across the Kyrgyz Tian Shan and long-term exhumation rates calculated from published thermochronology data. This allows me to examine spatial and temporal changes in surface processes in the Kyrgyz Tian Shan.

In the Issyk-Kul basin, the style of fluvial deposition changed at ca. 7 Ma, and aridification in the basin commenced concurrently, as shown by magnetostratigraphy and the δ18O and δ13C data. Lake formation commenced on the southern side of the basin at ca. 5 Ma, followed by a ca. 2 Ma local depositional hiatus. 26Al/10Be isochron burial dating and paleocurrent analysis show that the Kungey range to the north of the basin grew eastward, leading to a change from fluvial-alluvial deposits to proximal alluvial fan conglomerates at 5-4 Ma in the easternmost part of the basin. This transition occurred at 2.6-2.8 Ma on the southern side of the basin, synchronously with the intensification of the Northern Hemisphere glaciation. The paleo-denudation rates from 2.7-2.0 Ma are as low as long-term exhumation rates, and only the millennial-scale denudation rates record an acceleration of denudation.

This work concludes that the growth of the ranges to the north of the basin led to creation of the topographic barrier at ca. 7 Ma and a subsequent aridification in the Issyk-Kul basin. Increased subsidence and local tectonically-induced river system reorganization on the southern side of the basin enabled lake formation at ca. 5 Ma, while growth of the Kungey range blocked westward-draining rivers and led to sediment starvation and lake expansion. Denudational response of the Kyrgyz Tian Shan landscape is delayed due to aridity and only substantial cooling during the late Quaternary glacial cycles led to notable acceleration of denudation. Currently, increased glacier reduction and runoff controls a more rapid denudation of the northern slope of the Terskey range compared to other ranges of the Kyrgyz Tian Shan.

FoR codes (2008)

040203 Isotope Geochemistry, 040310 Sedimentology, 040605 Palaeoclimatology, 040607 Surface Processes



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.