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Desert riparian vegetation has played a long and leading role in the ecosystem of arid regions with its special water use strategy evolved to adapt to the environment of inland river basin in arid region. But how do the vegetation uptake, distribute and transport water to help it survive the long-term water stress? 

Scientists at the Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography (XIEG) have recently unlocked the secret that hide behind the water use processes of desert riparian vegetation. This may shed some light on the restoration of ecosystem in arid regions. 

Populus euphratica and Tamarix chinensis are two common species growing in the desert riparian forest in the lower reaches of the Tarim River. Long term field monitoring and test analysis on the two sample species have shown that they have developed a unique adaptation strategies to drought stress. 

The vegetation depends mainly on groundwater for water uptake. This will helps when long-term drought occurs. Therefore, the groundwater depth is of great importance for the vegetation’s resistance of water stress. 

Deep root systems of the vegetations will provide water supply for the surrounding shallow root plants through hydraulic lift and water redistribution. The plant community may hence survive the long-term drought threat. 

In intense water-stress conditions, Populus euphratica gives priority to the water supply of the competitive and advantageous branches by improving their ability to acquire water while restraining the growth of inferior branches. 

“Studying the water use processes of desert riparian vegetation in arid regions and analyzing the response and adaptation strategies of plants to drought stress are of great significance for developing ecological restoration measures,” said CHEN Yaning, who led the research. 

The study entitled “Experimental study on water transport observations of desert riparian forests in the lower reaches of the Tarim River in China” was published recently on Int J Biometeorol. 

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