Saturday, 15 July 2006

Halophytic Shrub Plantations and Their Role in Rehabilitation of Salt-Affected Soils at the Coast of the Aral Sea.

Nina I. Shevyakova1, Lev O. Karpachevskiy2, S. Lutts3, and Vladimir V. Kuznetsov1. (1) Timiriazev Institute of Plant Physiology, 127276 Moscow, Komarova st., h. 8, Fl. 36, Moscow, Russia, (2) Moscow State Univ, Faculty of Soil Science, Leninskie Gory, h.1, stroenie 12, Moscow, 119992, Russia, (3) Univ Catholique de Louvain, Brussel, Belgium

The main negative consequence of drying out of the Aral Sea is development of extensive cover of coastal deposits on the former sea bottom and lowering of ground water level. After drying out, the sea bottom became the source of salts blown by wind to neighboring areas, thus promoting desertification. In doing so, salts originated from the dry led to degradation of agricultural fields located around the Aral Sea. Planting, growing and harvesting of halophytic plants on the former bottom of the sea appears to be one of the possible solutions of environmental problems the region is faced. The halophyte and hyperhalophyte shrubs were planted on three polygons at a distance of 100 km from the town of Aral٫sk. The polygons were characterized by different edaphic conditions: soil texture, water availability, and salt content. The plots were situated within the littoral zone (former bottom) of the retreating Aral Sea. The role of the following shrubs in salt cycling was examined: Halocnemum, Nitraria, Haloxylon, Tamarix. The adventive roots of such shrubs may extend down to the depth of 30-40 cm into soils with permanently low salt content and sufficiently good moistening in summer. Places with well-established halophyte plantations were featured by a remarkably low rate of salt crust formation and diminished salt deflation already by the third year of the experiment. In addition, by cultivating wild growing halophytes it is possible to increase the seed reserve and retain water, thus helping other plants to colonize salinized lands. This work was supported by INTAS (project no. 1013).

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