The Tarim basin is a unique ecosystem. The water from the Tarim River supports both wildlife and humans. To analyze the effects of both land use and climate changes on groundwater, a research site was established at Yingibazar, which is a river oasis along the middle section of the Tarim River. A hydrological survey was performed to assess the general water cycle in this area with special emphasis on groundwater replenishment as well as the impact of agricultural irrigation on the riparian natural vegetation with respect to salt transport and depth of groundwater. Although high-resolution input data is scarce for this region, simulation of water cycle processes was performed using the hydrological model MIKE SHE (DHI). The results of the calibrated model show that natural flooding is the major contributor to groundwater recharge. There is also a close interaction between irrigated agricultural areas and the adjacent natural vegetation for groundwater levels and salinity up to 300 m away from the fields. Furthermore, the source of water used for irrigation (i.e.
, river and/or groundwater) has a high impact on groundwater levels and salt transportation efficiency. The ongoing expansion of agricultural areas is rapidly destroying natural vegetation, floodplains, and their natural flow paths. Our results show that more unstable annual Tarim floods will occur in the future under the background of climate change. Therefore, integrated hydrological simulations were also performed for 2050 and 2100 using MIKE SHE. The results confirm that after the glaciers melt in the Tian Shan Mountains, serious aquifer depletion and environmental degradation will occur in the area, causing great difficulties for the local people.
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