Conservation of riparian forest in the Tarim River basin, Awati county, Xinjiang
Local project coordinator: Turpan Botanical Garden and Xinjiang Insitute of Ecology and Geography, CAS
The remnant riparian forests primarily composed of Populus euphratica in the Tarim River basin form unique ecosystems within the dry and desert areas of Xinjiang province. Despite being a conservation priority for the government of Xinjiang, these forests have been declining sharply in the last two decades due to habitat transformation for agriculture, a shrinking water table and livestock grazing. This project aims to support the restoration and conservation of these important ecosystems mainly by means of in situ conservation, population reinforcement plantings and public outreach campaigns. Fencing of a 0.54 hectare-large pilot site as an initial conservation measure has significantly increased the number of populus plants mostly stemming from suckers, and other species, helping to reduce soil erosion. A 3000m2 demonstration plot been set up in which different recovery techniques are being tested. A series of consultation meetings and workshops have been organised since 2012, bringing together specialists and representatives from local communities, both from Uygur and Chinese ethnicities, to debate conservation issues, restoration techniques and gaps in policy and legislation. A number of outreach and training materials in Uyghur, Chinese and English were developed and disseminated within the local communities and wider public in the city of Aksu.
In 2015, BGCI aims to continue to pursue the restoration trials, in addition to developing further public outreach and school materials, both in Uygur and Chinese. A training seminar on the conservation and habitat restoration of the P. euphratica is scheduled, bringing together representatives from local communities and forestry agencies. Moreover, two awareness campaigns at local primary and middle schools will be undertaken, to foster the knowledge of children of the ecological significance of the P. euphratica forests.