Mongolia takes the lead : Willows and poplars to combat desertification (The Hankyoreh)

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Planting anti-desertification trees

In a field in the vicinity of the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator, employees of Korean Air, along with local Mongolians and students, plant poplar and willow trees, May 22. Global warming and desertification are causing rapid changes to many rural areas of Mongolia.


My teepee at home in Belgium (June 2011) - P1060803 (Photo WVC)
My willow teepee at home in Belgium (June 2011); constructed with cuttings of the Globe willow (Salix matsudana), a drought-tolerant tree species –   (Photo WVC  )

Photo P1060803 WVC

COMMENT (Willem Van Cottem)

Willow (Salix) and Poplar (Populus) species are known to be easily rooting trees.  It suffices to push a piece of a branch (a cutting) into moistened soil to get extremely soon a growing young tree.

Instead of first producing young saplings of other tree species in a nursery, and thereby consume a lot of water at daily watering the black polybags, in which the young trees are growing during months before planting in the field, willows can be planted directly in the field during the rainy season.

It is almost unbelievable that it took until 2013 before people combating desertification used this remarkable characteristic of the different willow species to achieve successful reforestation of enormous areas in the shortest time.  And yet, today, I discovered with great pleasure that Mongolian students and citizens, along with employees of Korean Air, started planting willows and poplars.  The article above is not mentioning explicitly that they used cuttings, but I deduce from the accompanying photo that this is the case.  If not, I would advise them to try cuttings out.

Now that we have created a Facebook group, called WILLOW AMBASSADORS (, trying to motivate a large number of people to make this world greener by planting willow cuttings (or cuttings of other easily rooting tree species), this story of Mongolians planting willows and poplars is most welcome.

Let us hope that other countries will follow soon this nice example and cover their free areas with cuttings of trees (S. Korea maybe ?).

As trees absorb CO2 all day long for their process of photosynthesis, this can only help to make our world better.

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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