SP 4 -Ecosystem functions and services

The Tarim River on the Northern and Eastern boarder of the Taklamakan desert is about 1300km long and thus one of the longest continental inland waterways worldwide. In an undisturbed state, it is accompanied on both sides by riparian forest dominated by Euphrat poplars (Populus euphratica). In the easternmost part of Tarim the riparian forest prevents the merging of the two deserts Taklamakan and Kum Tagh. The so-called "Green Corridor" is one important ESS/ESF of the riparian forest.

Massive hydro-technical interventions associated with the development of uncultivated land (cotton growing) during the military colonization by state farms in the past decades together with the rising water consumption in the upper and middle reaches led to the widespread destruction of the natural ecosystems and a reduction of many ESS and ESF. The riparian forests along the lower reaches became severely degraded or destroyed along a stretch of 320km. In order to avoid the further expansion of the desert, it is absolutely essential to preserve the riparian forests and to revitalize the variously degraded Populus euphratica stands. Since 2000 the Chinese government has made efforts to restore these ecosystems and to develop models for sustainable land use along the Tarim River.

The general goals of this subproject are:

  • Identify hydrological conditions and their influence on the development of riparian forests
  • Develop a recommendation on how the state of the riparian forests and the linked ESS can be improved while assuring a sustainable economic use
  • Develop a management plan for the riparian forests which can be used as an instrument to mediate between the diverging interests of the different water users, and to show areas for the future remediation and development of riparian forests