As one of the few remaining countries with a robust, nomadic pastoral culture supported by extensive natural rangelands, Mongolia is well positioned to offer sustainable, rangeland-based goods and services to its citizens and to global consumers who place a premium on sustainable products. The primary challenge to sustainable livestock production in Mongolia is that rangeland health, the set of environmental conditions that sustain the productivity and biodiversity of rangelands is in decline in many areas. National livestock numbers, at 110.8 million sheep units in 2018 according to the National Statistical Office, are unprecedented in the historical record.
As a first step toward sustainable rangeland management, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation’s Green Gold project collaborated with government ministries and universities to develop new assessment, monitoring, and management procedures to understand and improve rangeland health across Mongolia. A nationally standardized methodology for rangeland monitoring provides robust evaluations of long-term changes in rangeland health. The National Agency for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring (NAMEM) now has the capacity to continue the new monitoring procedures and report to the nation on these trends.
New tools for interpreting rangeland health and developing spatially-explicit management recommendations called Ecological Site Descriptions (ESDs) were developed by scientists and professionals from universities, research institutes and the agencies such as Agency of Land Management, Geodesy and Cartography (ALMGaC) and NAMEM. The new procedures for monitoring and interpretation were implemented beginning in 2011 by NAMEM at its 1516 long-term monitoring sites. Based on 2016 monitoring data, forty two percent of monitoring sites were judged to be in a “reference” or non-degraded state; 13.5 % in slightly degraded, 21.1 % in moderately degraded; 12.8 % in heavily degraded and 10.3 % in fully degraded level. Compared to the conditions assessed in 2014, the previous reporting year, the degree of degradation has increased in the last two years.
The proportion of sites that were classified to a non to slightly degraded level has decreased by up to 10% while sites classified to heavily or fully degraded level has increased by 4.3-5.9%. Based on an evaluation of the ecological processes causing degradation, the previous National Report concluded that changes to grazing management could result in complete recovery or significant improvement within 10 years for a majority of monitoring sites, representing more than half of Mongolian rangelands. Based on 2016 data, there is still a great opportunity for recovery through improved grazing management, but the number of monitoring sites that will require more than 10 years for recovery, or that may prove to be irrecoverable, has been increased by 5 percent.
A new, comprehensive approach called resilience-based rangeland management was introduced to initiate management changes leading to recovery of desired rangeland states. Resilience-based rangeland management is focused on the sustainable production of meat, fiber, and other environmental goods and services in the face of environmental and societal variability. Implementing resilience-based rangeland EXECUTIVE SUMMARY NATIONAL REPORT ON THE RANGELAND HEALTH OF MONGOLIA 7 A management requires national coordination among the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Environment, and Tourism, and Ministry of Urban Development and Construction as well as collaboration among herders and local government.
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