Desert Poplar (scientific name: Populus euphratica), also known as Huyang in China, is a medium-sized deciduous tree. It may grow to a height of about 15 m (49.2 ft) and a girth of 2.5 m (8.2 ft) where conditions are favourable.
Desert poplar bear genes that endows them with the adaptation to withstand chilling winters and broiling summers, aridity and waterlogging, saline-alkali concentrations. Thus, it possess great resilience, and can be regarded as an invaluable natural gene pool.
According to statistics, most of the world’s existing desert poplar are in China, and more than 90% of China’s desert poplar are found in the Tarim Basin in Xinjiang, forming one of the most unique natural landscapes in western China.
The poplar trees in the vicinity of the Tarim River are the oldest poplar trees in the world, emerging with the upheaval of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. This kind of poplar tree has existed for more than 60 million years.
Desert poplar require sandy soil, its forests follow the desert rivers, visible or invisible ones (underground river). When the change of route of the desert rivers happens, death of the desert poplar in a large-scale can happen.
Poplar forests are the dominant species of the desert ecosystem in the temperate arid zone. They are fundamental for maintaining the stability of the river-bank forest in arid zones.
Poplar forests have the ability to conserve the water resource and provide appropriate habitats for various other plants.
They also provide favorable habitats and food resources for micro-organism and animals and the setting in which they can exist and propagate their population.
Poplar stands are an ecological barrier against dust storms. They have strong roots and the main roots reach depths of 6-8 m. Horizontally, the roots may extend for tens of meters.
These attributes ensure that enough water can be absorbed by the tree. The root can also absorb salt from the soil to increase the osmotic pressure across the cell wall, which enhances the ability to absorb water and prevents salinization.
To protect the desert poplars, more effort is needed to encourage seed germination and seedling establishment.
Photos from photo.cctv.com