Course:FRST370/A case study of the Daolang Ethnic Minority, through the lens of land ownership, management and development of populus euphratica natural reserve in Xinjiang Province, China

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Populus euphratica forest

The Daolang tribe is composed of a large number of Daolang people who originally lived as a nomadic lifestyle and gradually settled in Awati County, Aksu Prefecture, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China. They are the indigenous residents of Awati County. This case study located in Awati County, focuses on the Daolang people and the local government. Through the joint collaboration of ethnic minorities and the Han People, Daolang people alleviated the contradiction between the ownership and management rights of the forest land in the Populus euphratica Nature Reserve. This case also analyzed the problems faced by the local government and Daolang people in the environmental protection of the nature reserve and the development and management of tourism resources. In the end, the two parties cooperated to develop eco-tourism in the Populus euphratica Nature Reserve and promote Daolang culture at the same time.

Keywords: Daolang people, Awati County, local government, Populus euphratica Nature Reserve, tourism


Amati County

Current Situation

Location of Awat County (pink) and Aksu Prefecture (yellow) within Xinjiang autonomous region in China

Amati County belongs to the Aksu Prefecture of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China. It is located at the foot of the southern Tianshan Mountains and the northern part of the Taklimakan Desert. The Aksu River, the Yeerqiang River, and the Hotan River converge here to form the source of the Tarim River. Awati County is a comprehensive economic county with agriculture as the mainstay and comprehensive development of agriculture, industry and trade. It is the country's high-quality cotton production base and the birthplace of Daolang culture.[1] The county has a total population of 268,397, including 13 ethnic groups: Uyghur, Han, Hui, Kazakh, Kirgiz, Uzbek, Mongolia, Xibe, Russia, and Manchu. Among them, Uighurs accounted for 83.45% of the total; the Han People accounted for 15.75%; other ethnic minorities accounted for 0.8%. The total area of the county is 13,000 square kilometers. Awati County is a temperate continental arid climate zone. The climate is dry, with small precipitation, large evaporation, rich heat and large temperature difference between day and night. [2]

Daolang Tribe

Awati County is the area with the highest concentration of Daolang people. It is located in the west and central part of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. It has developed into a Daolang tribe with a large population of Daolang people. Daolang tribe covers an area of 5.53 square kilometers, with natural Populus euphratica forest exceeding 3.33 square kilometers, which accounts for about 60.2% of the total area of Daolang tribe. [3] Daolang tribe makes full use of the traditional Daolang culture and the original Populus euphratica forest to form a unique Daolang tribe scenic area, and was rated as a national AAA-level tourist attraction by the Xinjiang Autonomous Region Tourism Bureau in 2008.[1]

Populus Euphratica Forest

Awati County also has a national-level Populus euphratica forest natural reserve (It was established in 1984 as a provincial-level nature reserve in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and promoted to a national-level nature reserve in 2006.) [2] with a total area of 3954.2 km2, including a forest area of 181.03 km2. There are more than 2000 km2 of Populus euphratica forest preserved, and the timber storage volume is about 4.6 million cubic meters. It is currently the world’s most concentrated and preserved original Populus euphratica forest. The complete and most representative area. There are 31 species of animals, and 130 species of plants in 84 genera and 34 families in the reserve. [3]

Daolang People

Dolang Muqam

Daolang people belong to the descendants of Mongolians and Uyghurs. In the 13th century, the Mongols rose on the Mobei Plateau. They conquered Asia and Eastern Europe and established the Mongol Empire. From the end of the 14th century to the end of the 16th century, the Mongol Zongwang had frequent military disputes over the right to inherit. At that time, the Mongolian aristocracy (equivalent to feudal serf owners) plundered the poor as slaves in large numbers, forced these poor people to  work for their tribes and manors, and enrich their army. A large number of refugees and slaves fled to the uninhabited Populus euphratica forest in the lower reaches of the Yarkand River in order to resist oppression, exploitation, and escape war. "Daolang" gradually developed and expanded because of its anti-oppression and pursuit of freedom and happiness, which attracted many poor people to join. "Daolang" slowly evolved into a pronoun for the lower class who rebelled against the ruler and supported themselves. From the middle of the 18th century to the 19th century, the Daolang people gradually settled and began to reclaim wasteland for agricultural labor. [1]

Daolang Culture

Daolang culture is a fusion of Mobei Turkic culture, Mongolian culture, and Tarim indigenous culture. Daolang culture is mainly embodied in singing and dancing and peasant paintings. Daolang Muqam is a comprehensive art that integrates poetry, music, dance, games, and folklore. The main content of Daolang culture is labor and love. The singing and dancing of the Daolang people are often more enthusiastic and direct. Among them, the more famous Daolang Dance mainly shows the hunting process of Daolang people in primitive society with the cooperation of men and women, showing the close relationship between Daolang people and men. In Daolang Muqam's folk songs, love is often the main content, and Daolang boys will express their love for girls straightforwardly through singing folk songs. Since the 1970s, Daolang farmers have used their free time at night to engage in paintings related to natural scenery, unique national life landscapes, historical legends and other subjects. At present, after professional training, there are more than 2,000 more mature peasant painters in Megaiti County, and more than 600 paintings have been exhibited at home and abroad and won various awards.[1]

Tenure arrangements

Before 1949, the natural Populus euphratica forest in Awati County was managed and operated by the customary law formulated by the Daolang people, and no statutory law with legal effect was issued. At that time, the Populus euphratica forest was privately owned by the Daolang people. In 1956, China completed land reform. All forest land implemented a land public ownership system. The ownership of forest land belongs to the state or agricultural collective economic organization. The ownership of forest land cannot be changed; forest land cannot be bought or sold. The original Populus euphratica forest in Awati County was assigned to state-owned land by the Xinjiang Provincial Land Resources Administration. [4]

  • 1978: The household contract responsibility system was implemented. The ownership of forest land still belongs to the collective, but the self-employed households obtain the management rights of forest land for 30 to 70 years through contracting. [5]
  • 1980s: The forestry "three determinations" policy was launched, that is, to determine the right to use and ownership of individual and collective forest land, to assign a certain number of private hills to farmers to plant trees and grass for their long-term use, and to determine the forestry production responsibility system.[5]
  • 2000: The Awati County Government began to issue forestry certificates to qualified users of self-protected mountains, forest or forest use rights holders, and clearly indicated the forest land use period and the end date of the forest land use.[5]
  • 2003: Awati County implemented the circulation of forest land use rights, and various social entities can participate in the circulation through contracting, leasing, transfer, auction, negotiation, and allocation. The right to use forests, trees and woodland can be inherited, mortgaged, guaranteed, invested in shares and used as capital or conditions for joint ventures and cooperation in accordance with the law.[5]
  • 2007: Awati County became a pilot for the reform of the collective forest rights system. The Awati County production team was established. The Populus euphratica forest was managed separately, and each area designated 1 full-time forest guard and management personnel. The county has 279 brigades set up forest protection leading groups, each brigade assigns 1 forest guard, and the production team sets up a forest protection team. [2]
  • 2014: Awati County basically completed the reform of the collective forest rights system and issued and completed forestry certificates to clarify the private and collective property rights of Populus euphratica forest. [6]
  • 2020: Xinjiang Land Management Law stipulates that the right to use state-owned land and collectively-owned land can be transferred to individuals, that is, the right of Daolang people to use and manage Populus euphratica forest is officially recognized. [6]

Administrative arrangements

The community forest in populus euphratica natural reserve is governed by three stakeholders, Daolang Tribe, reserve authorities, provincial forestry department. [7] And for provincial and national forestry department, in 1994, the Ministry of Forestry promulgated the "Forest Park Management Measures"; in 2011, the State Forestry Administration promulgated the "National Forest Park Management Measures." These two departmental regulations are the basis for the management of the national forest reserve. Over the years, the forestry authorities have issued a number of regulatory documents, such as the “Administrative Measures for the Approval of the Establishment, Revocation, Merger, Change of Business Scope or Change of Subordination of National Forest Parks” (2005), “Supervision and Inspection of National Forest Parks” Measures (2009), etc., and issued multiple notices on forest park management, national forest park forest land management, and national forest park administrative permit implementation inspections.[8][9] However, there are some problems such as inability to deliver results efficiently, failure to recognize the needs of those who depend on the forest for their livelihoods, reluctance to react to new demands for representation in decision-making or involvement of the private sector, and an inability to recognize that the days of top-down approaches to forest management have been overtaken by new political developments. Therefore, in order to promote the healthy and rapid development of populus euphratica forest reserve, some outstanding problems affecting the development of forest parks must be overcome as soon as possible.

Affected Stakeholders

At first, affected stakeholders are comprised of a group of people who have an innate connection with the Daolang Tribe & populus euphratica natural reserve or who are connected to populus euphratica natural reserve directly.

Local residents — indigenous people from Daolang Tribe

Before the establishment of the populus euphratica natural reserve, most of them are illiterate and know nothing about environmental protection, biodiversity and endangered species about forest. They have survived by hunting animals and cut down and sell trees to make a living.[10] After the establishment of the reserve, restricted logging and hunting activities have made the lives of local people more difficult, and they have increasingly relied on the government who provided job opportunities, such as working for the populus euphratica natural reserve and offering services to tourists who visited here. Therefore, their main goal is to continue to use the surrounding natural resources to make a living and increase their livelihoods by cooperating with the reserve management. Since they have no money or ability to move out of the reserve, they are highly dependent on land and resources in the reserve.

Interested Outside Stakeholders

Interested Stakeholder Relevant Objective Power & Interests
National Government of China Beautiful scenery of nature reserve High power; Low interests
Provincial government Provide funds for developing tourism and maintaining sustainable development High power; Moderate interests
Tourists Enjoy the beautiful scenery Low power; Low interests
Reserve authorities Assessment and research Low power; Moderate interests

National Government

The government have sent forest researchers who want to maintain ecosystem balance of nature reserve. They obtain research funding from the government to conduct research on forests in nature reserves.[11] They are authorized by the government and have no direct contact with the forest-dependent people. They have high power and low interests.

Provincial Government

The problem of financing is one of the key restrictive factors of western tourism's development. For provincial government, they need to absorb much outside investment for the quick development of the populus euphratica natural reserve. They prepare job opportunities and provide financial assistance for indigenous people. They have moderate interest with a relatively high power.


There is a simple objective for tourists who will visit populus euphratica natural reserve. Due to the beautiful scenery of nature reserve, they made a choice to go for a travel and enjoy the beautiful scenery. If the Populus euphratica nature reserve is destroyed, they will look for another nature reserve.

Reserve Management

Reserve management are responsible for assessing and researching for the populus euphratica natural reserve. But they have low power and moderate interests.


There are close cooperation and relationship between the Daolang people and the government in the management of the populus euphratica forest reserve, and they have been relatively successful in managing the tourism development and ecological environment protection of the community forestry. The tourism income based on the forest resources accounts for more than 60% of the total income of the whole region. From 2000 to 2014, the direct income from the reserve reached RMB 1,429,034,500, [=US $217,380,000] 40,997,400 domestic and foreign tourists visited during that 14-year period to enjoy the unique landscape.[12] The infrastructure and tourism reception conditions of the popular reserve have been strengthened by the financial support. As a result of that, the success of the strategic cooperation and management has not only brought great economic development to the region but also promoted the conservation of the populus euphratica forest. In this desert region, drought and desertification are the major threats to the quality of life of the populus euphratica reserve and the indigenous people. However, the human and material resources required for the treatment measure, such as wind and sand control, are enormous, and the local people have to rely on the government's unified control and management.[6] A joint association of ethnic minorities and Han can be the representative of Daolang people to negotiate with the government about land management. The recommendations of the association can have an important effect on the government's decision making.


  1. One of the problems that the community forests are facing the threat of land desertification and the problem of management and distribution of local tourism development.[2] Before the establishment of the natural reserve and the Daolang Tribe, the indigenous people lived by herding livestock, they did not settle down and live in a fixed place. So the distribution of locals was relatively scattered. Now they rely mainly on income from tourism development and government programs which provide them jobs and income. Indigenous people would participate in some conservation works such as patrolling the reserve to monitor the effects and trends of land desertification, rescuing sick populus, and participating in water projects to protect rivers and oases.
  2. Lack of professionals in scenic spot development and management.[2] High-level professional tourism managers can play an important role in the process of tourism services promotion. This kind of soft power can be regarded as the most important support for future improvement in eco-tourism construction. At present, this natural reserve lacks specialized training for the management of institutions which will lead to the low efficiency of the staff as well as the quality of tourism service, which is not conducive to the long-term development goal. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure the staff's professional training and the quality of service.
  3. The consciousness of the reserve ecosystem protection is poor.[2] Part of the poplar forest is adjacent to the town, so urbanization will greatly affect the ornamental value of the poplar forest. Sandstorms and the effects of diseases and pests also threaten the physical health of the poplar forest. Besides, due to the neglect of forestry healthcare, the reproduction of germs and pests in the poplar forest will lead to high disease risks of trees. The further reduction of trees will not only affect the development of animal husbandry but also increase the frequency of natural disasters such as dust storms. Both of these factors will affect locals' livelihood and the ecological conditions of the desert.

The reserve management system is not complete. The right to reserve operating and managing problem are particularly attention-grabbing. At present, the main management departments of the poplar forest reserve are Awati government, Awati forestry bureau, Awati environmental protection bureau, Awati tourism bureau and Awati industry and commerce administration. Each department is responsible for a different part of reserve management and their attentions and responsibilities are not the same, therefore, there will be some uncoordinated situation in the development and construction of Awati poplar reserve. Focusing mainly on economic benefits during the development process and ignore the social and ecological benefits will lead to an adverse impact on the environmental evaluation. So the combination of tourism and cultural development and business model is a necessary approach in the development process.


  1. Recruit professionals and provide volunteer services.[13] Through improving the tourism and education departments by the support of the government to cultivate professional talents. More interpreters can be able to provide enthusiastic services for tourists and spread the underlying culture of popular reserve.
  2. Strengthen the awareness of environmental protection.[13] Managing the water use in agriculture and animal husbandry, and ensuring the supply of water resources in the poplar forest. At the same time, staffs will improve the nursing management of trees, effectively protect the poplar from the disease, and promote the dynamic balance of the natural ecology of the poplar forest.
  3. Establish and improve the reserve management system.[13] At present, exploring the real cultural connotation of poplar and innovating poplar forest cultural products is an inevitable choice for the long-term development of reserve tourism. At the same time, managers will continue to improve the management level and management capabilities to achieve a virtuous cycle.
  4. Structured, transparent and regular inter-agency collaboration. Clear decision-making processes that prioritize the Reserve and the rights of the customary owners (Dolang People), and not financial gain.


The management model of the Poplar Forest Reserve and the Daolang Tribe is primarily government-driven and allows local community members and Indigenous groups to have a voice, ensuring mutual respect and cooperation and exercising a form of self-government[4]. The local government has established the Awati County Poplar Forest Wildlife Reserve Management Station to enforce the laws and regulations. In addition, the government has also clearly defined the ownership of land to avoid disputes and conflicts.


The Xinjiang government is actively developing eco-tourism so that under the premise of protecting natural and cultural resources, the poplar forest nature reserve can fully display the poplar culture and Dao Lang culture. Combined with desert sightseeing, building a comprehensive eco-tourism resort with sightseeing, leisure, vacation, education, property purchase, and other complex functions. The government is also dedicated to creating a tourism brand belonging to the poplar forest and spread the Daolang culture to the world.[14] At the same time, indigenous people are able to share and educate tourists about their culture. The reserve development authority increased non-timber forestry products for local income generation and cultural promotion. Merchandise selling of tourist souvenirs, cultural performances of songs and dances in the reserve, and traditional festivals with local characteristics to attract foreign tourists have led to a significant development of the local economy.


In addition to sand and drought problems, the greatest threat to the poplar forest is forest fires, as the poplar is a flammable tree species. Therefore, a certain time of the year needs to be set aside as a forest fire season based on annual temperature changes, and fire protection regulations need to be strengthened by the local forestry administration.


  • In the Xinjiang Populus euphratica Natural Reserve, the program of wind and sand control needs to be further strengthened as a key factor in protecting the poplar forest. At the same time, allowing more local people to participate in the protection work can be an effective way to provide them with jobs and income. It also allows local people to have the opportunity to participate in some of the decision-making and reserve management.
  • Those stakeholders that including Daolang Tribe, reserve authorities, and the provincial forestry department needs to cooperate more tightly. One of the most important works that need to be done by the provincial forestry department is to complete forestry policies and promote ecotourism in this area. The Daolang Tribe can provide a large amount of labor to the reserve and guarantee the operation of the project.  For the tourism management authorities, the traditional culture of the Daolang people and the landscape of the reserve deserve more advertisement.
  • The development of ecotourism will promote the economic progress of the area and mitigate the conflict between the government and the Daolang people. But the management progress needs to be transparent and fair so that the benefits of each party could be maintained and ecotourism will have more possibility to be sustainable.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Abduwaili, H (2017). "Ethnic Study of The Daolang tribe Mesilaifu in Awati County". Journal of Xinjiang Normal University.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Leading Group on Local Chronicles of Party History of Awati County. (2014). The Almanac of Awati. Awati, Xinjiang, China: Zeng, X.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Chao, Y. Z., Lin, H., & Jun, Y. (2000). Habitat characteristics of poplar forest in the Tarim River and its management measures. Environmental protection of Xinjiang, 22(2), 101-104.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Bai, W. "Regulations on the Administration of Tarim Euphrates Poplar National Nature Reserve in Bayingoleng Mongol Autonomous Prefecture". Bayingoleng's Daily. 3: 56–57.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Wang, J. T.; Sun, T. (2015). "A Summary of Forest Park Construction and Forest Tourism Development Achievements in Xinjiang". Xinjiang Forestry. 04: 31–35.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Liu, L., Sun, H. & Sun, F.(2020). Research on the development and management of Populus euphratica scenic spot. Cooperative Economy and Technology, 21, 42-44. doi:10.13665/j.cnki.hzjjykj.2020.21.015.
  7. Xu, D., Wang, B., Jiang, Q., Zhang, S., & Hu, Y (2020). Planning and Design of Populus euphratica Forest Scenic Spot in Tarim, Xinjiang from the Perspective of Recreation Ecology. Agricultural Engineering, 02, 102-108.
  8. Wang, X. Y., Xu, H. L., Zhao, X. F., Ling, H. B. (2015). Evaluation of ecological service value of natural Euphrates poplar Forest reserve in Tarim Basin. Journal of Arid Land Resources and Environment, 29(03), 92-97. doi: 10. 13448 /j. cnki. jalre. 2015. 086
  9. Wenlian, C., Ping, H., & Caihong, Guan. (2012). Historical evolution of poplar forest in the upper reaches of the Tarim River and analysis of its causes. Journal of Anhui Agriculture, 40(29), 14292-14294.
  10. Zhou, S., (2020). Thoughts and Suggestions on the Reform and Development of the Protection and Management of Populus euphratica Provincial Nature Reserve. Seed technology, 15, 116-117.
  11. Song, C., Wu, L., Xie, Y., He, J., Chen, X., Wang, T., ... & Dai, Q. (2019). Analysis of spatio-temporal characteristics of Populus euphratica forests in the Yarkand River Basin, Xinjiang. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 39(14), 5050-5094.
  12. Peiyou, H. (2004). "The reasons of Populus euphratica Forest's Declination and The Woodland Renewing Constructure". Environmental Protection of Xinjiang. 26: 121–124.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Shi, S. (2019). "The impact of climate change in Ejinaqi on the plantation of Populus euphratica". Agriculture advice. 20: 154.
  14. Xiao, Z., Zhnag, Y. & Li, J. (2019). Evaluation of Service Function Value of Xinjiang Forest Ecosystem. Journal of Xinjiang University, 04 ,483-490. doi:10.13568 j.cnki.651094.2019.04.017.

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