Stobrawa, K. 2014. Poplars (Populus spp.): Ecological Role, Applications and Scientific Perspectives in the 21st Century. Baltic Forestry 20(1): 204-213 (Review Paper).

In the few last decades, the genus Populus has gained a unique position in ecology, commercial applications and science. The special role of riparian habitats in the maintenance of ecological balance between aquatic and land habitats places poplars, cottonwoods and aspens at the center of efforts for their protection and restoration as one of the most important tree participants of riparian forests. Although the urban role of poplars has been reduced, their economic importance has been increasing rapidly as a result of improved methods of cultivation, the introduction of many new hybrids with desirable features, political guidelines for biomass production and their potential for phytoremediation. Successful sequencing of the Populus trichocarpa genome became the driving force for further wide-ranging research on poplars and made P. trichocarpa a model tree for plant biology (especially genetics). However, ecological actions require financial support, profitability of plantations established for bioenergy production or for bioremediation of contaminated sites is highly dependent on the proper selection of suitable cultivars for specific tasks and local environment, and the use of poplar to produce proteins is indefinite future because of the controversy that in society raise genetically modified organisms. This article reviews the current data on poplars from ecological, functional and scientific perspectives, showing that it is necessary to combine all these aspects to usability poplar possible to maximize profits (not just financial), and reduce risk.

Key words: poplar, cottonwood, Populus spp., riparian forest, model tree