Yardang (Kalut) in the Lut Desert

IRAN

Yardangs (Kaluts) with Stunning Parallel Ridges in the Lut Desert (photo by Mehran Maghsoudi).

Geological Period

Pliocene – Pleistocene

Main geological interest

Geomorphology and active geological processes
Stratigraphy and sedimentology

Location

Lut desert Shahdad region, Kerman province, Iran.
30°31’48.0″N, 58°13’19.0″E

Yardangs (Kaluts) with Stunning Parallel Ridges in the Lut Desert (photo by Mehran Maghsoudi).

THE HIGHEST, LONGEST, AND MOST CONTINUOUS YARDANGS (KALUTS) OF THE WORLD.

The Lut Desert was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List as the first natural (geological) heritage site of Iran in 2016. One of the main criteria for the recognition of the Lut Desert was the outstanding universal values of the yardangs, which cover about 32% of the core zone of the Lut Desert World Heritage Site (State Party of Iran, 2015). Therefore, the yardangs are one of the main geological elements of the Lut Desert World Heritage Site for which geoconservation measures have been taken and are being developed (by the Lut Desert World Heritage Base, on behalf of the government). The IUCN assessed its conservation status as «good» in 2020 (IUCN, 2020).

General Area of Yardangs (Kaluts): the northwestern part of Yardangs (Kaluts) that is intended for general visits (photo from Lut Desert World Heritage Base Archive).

In the Lut Desert, yardangs (kaluts) have been formed by the action of hydro-aeolian processes in lacustrine strata consisting of silt, clay and silty clay with intercalation of salt and gypsum (called Lut Formation in Iran). During the Pliocene, the current location of the yardangs was a lake. The lake dried up due to climate change. The initial rills and gullies were then created by surface runoff caused by seasonal rains. Finally, aeolian processes (by continuous 120-days long, strong and uniform wind known as Sistan) have dominated, and yardangs have expanded and developed (Maghsoudi, 2021). These yardangs, classified by size, include mega-yardang, meso-yardang, and micro-yardang. Each type exhibits considerable morphological diversity. Currently, the highest yardangs in the world with a height of more than 225 meters, the longest yardangs in the world with a length of more than 40 km and the most continuous yardangs in the world with an area of ~7185 square kilometers are located in the west of the Lut Desert (State Party of Iran, 2015; Maghsoudi et al., 2019). Also, the flow of the permanent Shur River in the northern part of the yardangs and the hottest recorded place on Earth (80.83 ac – Azarderakhsh et al., 2020) in the southern part of yardangs are extraordinary features of this geological heritage. Because of good access, these yardangs have potential for scientific, educational and geotourism uses (Maghsoudi et al., 2019).

There are scientific reports from the early 1900s (Gabriel, 1938). The focused researches began in 1970 by a scientific group from Iran and France. Since then, various reports, books and papers have been published on the yardangs (kaluts).

Geomorphological map: yardangs (kaluts) fields and significant surrounding geodiversity in the western part of the Lut Desert. The area of both Mega-Yardang and Meso-Yardang is the proposed boundary for the geoheritage of yardang (kalut) in the Lut Desert (after Maghsoudi et al., 2019).

Azarderakhsh, M. et al. (2020) ‘Satellite-Based Analysis of Extreme Land Surface Temperatures and Diurnal Variability Across the Hottest Place on Earth’, IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Letters, 17(12), pp. 2025–2029. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1109/LGRS.2019.2962055.

Gabriel, A. (1938) ‘The Southern Lut and Iranian Baluchistan’, The Geographical Journal, 92(3), pp. 193–208. Available at: https://doi.org/10.2307/1788828.

IUCN (2020) Lut Desert – 2020 Conservation Outlook Assessment. IUCN World Heritage Outlook (Online). Available at: https://worldheritageoutlook.iucn.org/explore-sites/wdpaid/555622047.

Maghsoudi, M. et al. (2019) ‘Geotourism Development in World Heritage of the Lut Desert’, Geoheritage, 11(2), pp. 501–516. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12371-018-0303-2.

Maghsoudi, M. (2021) Desert Landscapes and Landforms of Iran. Springer Nature. Available at: https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-030-58912-7.

State Party of Iran (2015) Nomination of Lut Desert as a World Heritage site (Online). Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran: Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/uploads/nominations/1505.pdf.

Mehran Maghsoudi
Director of Lut Desert World Heritage Base

Alireza Amrikazemi
Director of Qeshm Island UNESCO Global Geopark & Member of the Scientific Committee of Lut Desert World Heritage Base

Anvar Moradi
Senior Consultant of Lut Desert World Heritage Base