Ground water plays an important role in water supply and the ecology of arid to semiarid areas such as Northwest China, where the landscape is fragile due to frequent drought in the past few decades. This paper discusses the role of ground water in these ecosystems, including the effect of condensation water and water table depth on the growth of plants and degree of soil salinity. The paper also discusses the controlling process for land desertification and soil salinization in Northwest China. Water table depth is a key factor controlling the water balance, ground water flow, and salt transport in the vadose zone. The suitable water table depth for vegetation growth, which can prevent land desertification and soil salinization, is within a range of 2 to 4 m; the optimal depth is ∼3 m. As examples, changes in ecosystems owing to water resources development in Tarim and Manas basins, Xinjiang, China, are discussed.
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