Floristic diversity of threatened woodlands of Kazakhstan formed by Populus pruinosa Schrenk


Abstract: Climate aridization and increased anthropogenic pressure pose a severe threat to natural vegetation, including coastal plant communities. Those located in river basins of the desert zone of Central Asia are among the most vulnerable. Of the variety of ecosystems of the Ili-Balkhash region of Kazakhstan, forests dominated by a rare relict species Populus pruinosa Schrenk are of particular concern. This species occupies a very narrow ecological niche associated with river banks of the arid zone, which makes it very vulnerable to adverse natural and anthropogenic factors. The main objective of the research conducted was to fill the knowledge gap related to the species diversity of plant communities with the participation of Populus pruinosa. Another goal was to compare the results with the available data on the flora of similar communities from other Kazakh regions. The project has identified 98 plant species belonging to 34 families and 82 genera. Among them were four species of trees (4%), ten shrubs (10%), one species of lianas (1%), and the rest were herbs among which annuals dominated (44 species, or 45%). The flora contained endemic species from the Southern Balkhash region: Berberis iliensis, Rosa silverhielmii, Prangos arenaria, and Tulipa behmiana. Three species (Tulipa kolpakowskiana, Berberis iliensis, and Populus pruinosa) were listed in the Red Book of Kazakhstan. A significant proportion of weeds (32%) indicated a high level of anthropogenic impact on coastal communities (primarily unsystematic cattle grazing). When compared with similar plant communities in Kazakhstan, the species composition was similar in terms of quality indicators, but different in its quantitative characteristics. The results may be used for subsequent monitoring of ecosystems with the participation of Populus pruinosa in the Ili-Balkhash region.

Keywords: Plant communities, Populus pruinosa Schrenk, projective cover, dominant species, local endemic, arid zone

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