Tugay, also spelt tugai, is a form of riparian forest or woodland associated with fluvial and floodplain areas subject to periodic inundation, and largely dependent on floods and groundwater rather than directly from rainfall. Because Tugay habitat is usually linear, following the courses of rivers in arid landscapes, Tugay communities often function as wildlife corridors. Tugay habitats occur in semi-arid and desert climates in the central Asian region and are highly sensitive to changes in water supply, such as abstraction for irrigation, and other anthropogenic effects on the environment. They have disappeared or become fragmented over much of their former range.
The centre of the range of Tugay vegetation is the Tarim Basin in north-western China, where the Tarim Huyanglin nature reserve in the middle reaches of the Tarim River holds the largest areas of intact Tugay forests, with a 1993 estimate of about 61% of the total. The Central Asian countries hold another 31%, with smaller areas remaining in the Middle East and Pakistan.
Close to rivers and where groundwater levels are shallow, the vegetation is usually dominated by willow and poplar (especially Populus euphratica) species. Where the forest has been disturbed, other species such as tamarisk, sea-buckthorn and oleaster will grow. Understorey plants include reeds, common spike rush, jointleaf rush, fleabane, cocklebur and thorn apple. Where the groundwater is deeper, oaks and elms will dominate.
- "Ecological Baseline Report" (PDF). BTC Pipeline ESIA, Azerbaijan. BP. 2002-12-00. Retrieved 2013-03-30.
- Thevs, Niels (2005). "Tugay vegetation in the middle reaches of the Tarim River – Vegetation types and their ecology" (PDF). Archiv für Naturschutz und Landschaftsforschung. March 2005: 63–84.