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Do formal, community-based institutions improve rangeland vegetation and soils in Mongolia more than informal, traditional institutions?




Reid, Robin S., author
Jamsranjav, Chantsallkham, author
Fernandez-Gimenez, Maria E., author
Angerer, Jay, author
Tsevlee, Altanzul, author
Yadambaatar, Baasandorj, author
Jamiyansharav, Khishigbayar, author
Ulambayar, Tungalag, author
Nutag Action and Research Institute, publisher

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Since the 1990's, herding communities across Mongolia have established over 2000 community-based rangeland management (CBRM) organizations to improve livestock grazing management and reverse perceived declines in rangeland (grassland) productivity. Here, we compare the vegetation and soils of rangelands managed by these formal community-based herder groups (CBRM) with those managed by informal traditional neighborhoods (non-CBRM) in four ecological zones across Mongolia. A companion study shows CBRM used both traditional and innovative rangeland management practices more often than traditional neighborhoods. We hypothesized that this should then result in better rangeland vegetation and soils in CBRM-managed than non-CBRM managed rangeland. We sampled vegetation and soils in winter pastures around 143 livestock camps or water points in soums (counties) with and without CBRM management. We explicitly controlled for grazing intensity by sampling plots along grazing gradients at 100, 500 and 1000 m from these impact points. At each 50 x 50 m plot (n=428) we sampled standing biomass, plant cover, basal gap, species richness, forage quality, and soil and site characteristics. We also compared paired time series of MODIS NDVI data in counties with and without CBRM organizations from 2000-2014 to quantify changes in length of the growing season, and current and previous season greenness (a proxy for biomass accumulation). We then analyzed all data using general linear models and χ2 tests. CBRM had surprisingly few and subtle impacts on vegetation and soils in Mongolia's rangelands, whether measured in the field or by remote sensing, compared with areas managed by more traditional neighborhood groups. Some CBRM pastures supported more litter biomass, plant connectivity and less soil erosion, and a lower abundance of grazing tolerant or annual plant species than non-CBRM pastures in some ecological zones. CBRM management appears to modestly improve vegetation condition in the steppe than other ecological zones. At the soum level, we could see no differences in the length of the growing season, current season greenness or current and previous season greenness of the vegetation over the 15 years from 2000-2014. We did find, however, that herding families that participate in CBRM groups hold more livestock, sometimes twice as many, in 3 of the 4 ecological zones. This suggests that CBRM management may be having more impact on pastures than our data show, since these pastures can support more livestock without losing rangeland vegetation abundance and soil retention capacity.


Includes bibliographical references.
Presented at the Building resilience of Mongolian rangelands: a trans-disciplinary research conference held on June 9-10, 2015 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

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community-based rangeland management
forage quality


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