Degradation of Populus euphratica community in the lower reaches of the Tarim River, Xinjiang, China

LIU Jia-zhen , CHEN Ya-ning , CHEN Yong-jin , ZHANG Na , LI Wei-hong


Received ,Revised , Accepted , Available online

Volume 17,2005,Pages 740-747

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To investigate the relationships between the degradation of plant community and groundwater level in the lower reaches of the Tarim River, nine monitored sections were set along the main stream, where there had been no runoff for nearly 30 years. The characteristics of plant communities were analyzed. It was found that the coverage of trees gradually decreased along the groundwater depth gradient, while the coverage of shrubs slightly increased rather than decreased at first and then gradually decreased, and the coverage of herbs steadily decreased at the beginning and then quickly decreased. The species diversity and species richness of both herbs and woody plants showed obvious degrading trends, while the variations in species evenness were slight. The degrading sequences of species were related to their physiological and ecological characteristics, especially their sensitivity to changes of groundwater table. The herbs with shallow roots first degenerated or disappeared when the groundwater table fell, and then did the deep-rooted herbs, and finally the trees and shrubs with strong tolerance to drought degenerated. The Populus euphratica communities showed typical degrading characteristics, namely the dominant species Populus euphratica remained its dominant status during the degradation. Overall, the existence of strongly tolerant-drought species was the obvious indication of plant species degradation; while simplification of community structure and the decrease of species richness were the obvious indication of plant community degradation.

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