Planting Saksaul Trees in the Gobi Desert


There are several globally significant purposes of the tree planting process at Gobyn Undur. The first is to reduce desertification. The second is to provide food to local grazing animals. The third is to produce local business and employment. All of these issues are being addressed with the planting of saksaul trees in the Gobi Desert.

Gobi/Saksaul Trees (Haloxylon ammodendron) are small to medium sized trees that can be found in the Gobi Desert and in other similar climactic regions of central Asia. The trees have very small, soft green needles (which are fleshy and succulent) and a grey, white or brown bark. The bark can be pressed to extract water since it has a high water content. In fact, camels and other animals eat the bark and needles as a source of water. The trees can grow to be anywhere from half a meter to 4 meters in height. Saksaul trees have horizontal and vertical root systems, which expand very densely in their search for water. This makes the tree ideal for erosion control as it keeps the desert soil in place. Over time, as the root system develops, it is able to withstand the large thermal shifts in the desert which can range from -51º C (-60º F) to well over 37º C (100º F). The roots also create an anchor that can withstand the very strong Gobi winds, which can reach 140 kilometers per hour. Once the trees are considered dead, the wood is dried and used for fuel. In order to plant the Saksaul trees Gobyn Undur use seeds (see Figure 1), water, and a plastic tube approximately two inches in both diameter and height.