Secret to survival explored in salty Taklamakan Desert
[ China UniNews Vol. 4, No. 4
November 2006 ]
Populus euphratica grows in soils containing up to two per cent salinity, and can be found in locations ranging from the semi-arid northwest of China through to western Morocco.
University of Melbourne forest and ecosystem scientist Dr Stefan Arndt says that Populus trees are interesting to biologists because Populus is the first tree, and only the third species, to have its genome sequenced.
“Researchers are excited about the information the genetic sequence may reveal,” he explains. “Genes active in the response of a plant to its environmental stresses, such as salinity, can now be identified and hopefully we will be able to identify the active gene in other plants. With more knowledge of this tree’s biology and physical processes, we will be able to identify and choose suitable trees for other areas affected by salinity.”
Dr Arndt says the problem scientists currently face is an incomplete understanding of Populus euphratica’s mechanisms for tolerance to salt. He is currently engaged in field research with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Dr Zeng Fanjiang in Taklamakan Desert in Xingjiang.
“Taklamakan’s hot summers, freezing winters, sand storms and saline groundwater make it a tough environment for any living being,” explains Dr Arndt.
“We are confident we will soon learn the secrets of survival for trees in salty conditions.”