Academic journal article Nomadic Peoples

Integrated Assessment of the Dynamics, Stability and Resilience of the Inner Mongolian Grazing Ecosystems

Academic journal article Nomadic Peoples

Integrated Assessment of the Dynamics, Stability and Resilience of the Inner Mongolian Grazing Ecosystems

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper presents results from an ecological assessment of land use and climate change in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Using a combination of fieldwork, rangeland monitoring, and simulation analyses, this study tackles the socio-economic issues faced by pastoralists in this region, focusing on linkages between climate, land use and human welfare. Employing a systems approach, we use the SAVANNA ecosystem simulation model to examine the long-term effects of anthropogenic pressures on the biophysical system. Our model demonstrates that in order to maintain grassland sustainability, climate variations must be considered by land managers making decisions on grazing.

Our model indicates that traditional ways of nomadic herding, where nomads were able to move their herds in response to changing distributions of available forage, would be more adaptive in spatially and temporally variable climate and foraging conditions. In contrast, increased sedentarisation and restrictions on grazing movements imposed by political boundaries or fenced croplands may endanger sustainability by reducing options for adaptive grazing tactics. We suggest that new grazing systems must be developed to mitigate these changes in land use and land tenure.

Keywords: degradation, ecosystem modeling, integrated assessment, land use change, SAVANNA, sedentary and nomadic herding systems

Introduction

The Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region (IMAR), in China, has seen a shift from the traditional nomadic herding system still observed in neighbouring Mongolia to a more sedentary form of land use in the last sixty years. There has been an increase in human population as well, stemming from both intrinsic population growth and immigration. The consequences of these changes have resulted in degradation, which not only limits available resources needed for an expanding population, but has increased the amount of dust storms (Zhou et al. 2002, Liu et al. 2003). There has also been a decline in the traditional understanding of the land, resulting from land tenure change and an influx of immigrant populations, as well as changes in land use, including increased cultivation to support the influx of people. Furthermore, this region is vulnerable to changes in climate, which could have a compounding effect on the ecosystem when coupled with existing land use changes. We conducted an integrated assessment to understand the anthropogenic and biophysical stresses on the Inner Mongolian steppe ecosystem, which considered aspects of land use, vegetation, climate and policy perspectives.

This article is a compilation of our results, where we assessed the long-term ecological consequences of land use and climate change in the IMAR by conducting fieldwork, rangeland monitoring and simulation analyses. Field studies were conducted to understand the socioeconomic issues faced by the people in this region, focusing on linkages between climate and human land use and the resulting effects on human welfare and land use.

Based upon this empirical information, we used a systems approach with the SAVANNA ecosystem simulation model to examine the long-term effect of these anthropogenic pressures on the biophysical system. The modelling exercises demonstrated that in order to maintain grassland sustainability, climate variations must be considered by land managers making decisions on grazing. If predicted climate change occurs, which could include a drier and warmer temperature regime, stocking rates must be adjusted in response to changes in the timing and amount of forage production.

The modelling simulations indicated that traditional ways of nomadic herding, where nomads were able to move their herds in response to changing distributions of available forage, would be more adaptive in spatially and temporally variable climate and foraging conditions. In contrast, increased sedentarisation and restrictions on grazing movements imposed by political boundaries or fenced croplands may endanger sustainability by reducing options for adaptive grazing tactics. …

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