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Study: Climate Change May Accelerate the Decline of Desert Riparian Forest in Lower Tarim River, Northwestern China


In view of the importance of climate to biology, rapid warming will dramatically alter ecosystems. Desert riparian forest is a main natural forest in the lower Tarim River, and Populus euphratica, is a unique species of the desert riparian forest.

Researchers from Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography of Chinese Academy of Sciences reported the relationships between the tree-ring chronology of P. euphratica and main regional climate variables to test whether local climatic change affected tree growth in the desert riparian forest in the lower Tarim River, and to discuss the vulnerability and sensitivity of the desert riparian forest to future scenarios of climate warming.

Research results indicated that, groundwater depth was the key factor for controlling tree growth in the study area. In order to assess sensitivity to climate change of the desert riparian forest, it was necessary to consider the effects of hydrological fluctuations on P. euphratica because the sensitivities of tree growth to precipitation and temperature depend on changes in the groundwater environment. The groundwater depth threshold to distinguish the sensitivity of climate change to P. euphratica growth was 6 to 7 meters.

The study also reveal that warming would accelerate desert riparian forest decline when the groundwater was more than 6 meters because an anomalously high temperature would intensify evapotranspiration and the shortage of soil moisture during growing season, and offset the benefits from precipitation, which will cause more drought if groundwater was not compensated by sufficient runoff. Therefore, global warming would bring great disadvantages to desert riparian forests if the current mode of the ecological water conveyance project continues to be implemented without a fixed time and water amount in the lower Tarim River, which could not steadily raise and actively maintain shallow groundwater depth.

This study has been published in the Ecological Indicators in an article entitled “Climate change may accelerate the decline of desert riparian forest in the lower Tarim River, Northwestern China: Evidence from tree-rings of Populus euphratica”.

Article link: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1aEEf,XRNLctLc



Contact: LIU Jie, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography

E-mail: liujie@ms.xjb.ac.cn