Conserving biodiversity on Mongolian rangelands: Implications for protected area development and pastoral uses
Mongolia is a sparsely populated country with over 80 percent of its land used by pastoralists for extensive livestock grazing. Mongolia’s wildlife and pastoralists have faced dramatic challenges with the recent rapid socioeconomic changes. Livestock numbers increased dramatically in the 1990s following the transition from communism to democracy and capitalism. Yet, limited industrialization and cultivation and relatively low rates of natural resources exploitation leave geographically large areas of the nation with few adverse impacts. In addition, the nation’s heritage is strongly conservation oriented. As a result, Mongolia’s protected areas system has been growing rapidly and its grasslands support the largest populations of several globally important species. Alternatively, several challenges exist, including growing pressure to exploit the nation’s vast mineral reserves, the potential for conflict between pastoralist and conservation objectives, and insufficient conservation capacity to manage and protect natural resources. Arguably, a unique opportunity exists in Mongolia to develop economically while maintaining healthy and productive grasslands that support large populations of native flora and fauna. We suggest that doing so will require strengthening protected areas management; increasing ecotourism; instituting socially acceptable grazing reform; beginning to manage wildlife throughout the entire nation; and finding ways to integrate solutions for both sustainable pastoralism and conservation while minimizing unproductive conflict.