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Policy Framework for Adaptation Strategies of the Mongolian Rangelands to Climate Change at Multiple Scales (ACCCA)

Submitted by Michael Rastall 11th October 2012 12:10


Summary

The main purpose of this project is to increase the resilience of pastoral communities living in transitional ecosystem zones of Mongolia and support them with the development of alternatives to cope with climate change and climate variability while reducing rangeland degradation and improving water security. Another important objective of the project is to improve communication between herdsmen, scientists, and policy makers.

Methodology

Assessment of climate risks:

Climate trend and variability will be analyzed for pilot study sites, using Climate Research Unit (CRU) data resolved spatially at 0.5 degree latitude and longitude from 1990 to 2000 of monthly climate (temperature and precipitation) and weather station data. The climate risks such as zud and drought (Batima et al. 2005) will be analyzed, using risk ranking/scoring method. Vulnerability index of the rangelands (Chuluun et al., 2004 & 2005) consists of zud index (Nazagdorj and Sarantuya 2004) and land use intensity index. Higher zud index and higher land use intensity (exceeding the carrying capacity) results in higher vulnerability of the rangelands to climatic extreme events. This index is an attempt to make rangeland vulnerability assessment both to climate and land use changes, however, interaction of these two factors are not considered and carrying capacity assessment needs an improvement. Vulnerability and adaptive capacity indexes for the rangelands will be further developed and calculated for pilot research sites. Calculation of the carrying capacity will be improved, basing on RS data and modeling exercises. Socio-economic vulnerability spider (web) analysis will be conducted for each pilot site. Coping range change (Jones, R.N. et al., 2002) analysis will be conducted for each pilot research sites. 

Use of integrated technologies for decision support:

Remote sensing: We will continue to use remote sensing derived information (Ellis et al., 2002, Ojima et al., 2004, Boone et al., 2007) for our research. Plant onset trends of grassland ecosystems of the Mongolian Steppe have been analyzed using a long-term RS data identifying the zones with delayed or advanced plant onset trends in the Mongolian rangelands (Ellis et al., 2002). The delayed green-up zone forms band along the boundary area of the dry steppe and the Gobi desert steppe and covers the desert steppes located in the southern slopes of high mountains such as Altai, Hangai and Khan-Khohii. Mean annual rainfall in most of the delayed green-up zone is 100-200mm. The delayed green-up in dry ecosystems seen here could be linked to lower photosynthetic rates, lower CO2 uptake and reduced primary production rates. These changes would certainly be viewed as negative for the herbivores and humans that depend on high latitude grassland environment for their sustenance and support. Central part of Mongolia has decreasing NPP trend over last two decades (Ojima et al., 2004). These RS results in addition to ecosystem modelling analysis with CENTURY and ground survey conducted with the AIACC project would be scientific basis for the project. Additional higher resolution RS information depending on availability such as landsat data will be used for our pilot sites.

Geographic Information System:

Current and historic land use patterns (cultural landscapes) for our pilot research communities will be introduced into the GIS data. The concept of the cultural landscape will be widely used. According to the definition by the UNESCO World Heritage Convention (2005), cultural landscapes are cultural properties and represent the integrated workings of nature and of humans. They are illustrative of the evolution of human society and settlement over time, under the influence of the physical constraints and/or opportunities presented by their natural environment and of successive social, economic and cultural forces, both external and internal. The cultural landscape in the Mongolian rangelands consist of four seasonal pastures, otor (pasture used to fatten animals), reserve pasture (used during the drought and zud) and sacred lands (protected by local herders for the religious purposes). A cultural landscape at multiple scales for the hot ail, ner golynhon and neg nutgiinhan wil be used. A fragmentation of the cultural landscapes in arid lands (Ojima, D. and T. Chuluun. 2007) increases vulnerability, reduces resilience and an adaptive capacity to climate variability of pastoral systems, evolved over thousands of years. Also biodiversity is reduced and economic input is increased with fragmentation of arid and semi-aridlands (Galvin etc. 2007). For instance, fragmentation of cultural landscapes occurred with the artificial division of the administrative-territorial division of Mongolia during the socialist period: almost half of sums (administrative-territorial unit of Mongolia) do not have 1 or 2 seasonal pastures.

Modelling:

An ecosystem model CENTURY (Ojima et al., 1998 and Chuluun et al., 1999) and other simple modelling techniques will be used for current and future vulnerability at pilot research sites. Modelling techniques will be used for cost-benefit analysis for different alternative development options at household, hot ail, community, sum and hoshuu levels. We think that these models can be useful communication tools for decision making of alternative adaptation options.

Engagement of stakeholders:

Main goal of this project is to enhance stakeholder involvement. We already have started this process during the two field trips for proposal development. Formal herders groups for collaboration were already identified in Altanbulag sum of Tov aimag, Hujirt and Sant sums of Ovorhangai aimags, and informal herders groups in Hujirt sum and Bugat sum of Govi-Altai aimag. We have already started our dialogue, introducing our research findings on climate change vulnerability and discussing local pressing issues related to possible adaptation strategies with local land officers and local government officials. Water security due to climate change was indicated a major priority at the Hujirt, Argalant and Bayanhangai sums. This vulnerability was enhanced by failure to keep wells: only 29 wells out of 80 are currently operational.

For instance, water availability has greatly declined in the region with parts of several rivers becoming dry part of the year, many small rivers and springs in Hujirt sum have ceased to flow altogether due to recent climate change and land use effects. We have observed highly vulnerable conditions among herder families (especially the herders’ family named “Nogoon” Suuri (Nogoon is his hickname meaning Green) visited during our field trip on November 25, 2006). This family indicated that 6 springs disappeared and only Ih Tsohio spring (Annex 1) was the sole watering point for 14 households with 3,000 livestock. This spring was about to be frozen in a few days leaving all the people and animals with no access to water. In addition, there was no snow at that time, thus they were facing a black zud (winter condition without snow). They usually have snow at this time of the year and move to their winter camp where they have snow that can be used as water source. Northern Hemisphere snow cover decreased during the last decades (IPCC WG1 Fourth Assessment Report 2007). This means that the herders in some areas of Mongolia may be facing black zud in spring time as well.
The workshop on the climate change adaptation policy, involving relevant officials from the Ministry of Construction and Urban Development, the Ministry for Nature and Environment, and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, several ongoing project representatives, young scientists and students from the National University of Mongolia, representatives from NGOs and the Global Change National Committee members, was held on December 5, 2006.

We are planning to have three critical participatory 2-day workshops at our three pilot study sites where we will be exercising risk communication, social learning and scenario building. All information exchange, learning, risk ranking/scoring and scenario building can take place on the first day. The climate change adaptation strategies development will be carried out on the second day. We will distinguish three categories of these adaptation options:
1. those implemented at local levels;
2. those that need further legislation actions and improvements;
3. those that need financial assistance.

The first category of adaptation options should be solved at local level. The second and third level of adaptation options will be discussed at the national workshop, which we are planning to organize towards the end of the project.

Adaptation Options

Five adaptation measures for the livestock sector in Mongolia have been suggested and include: (1) to conserve natural resources, (2) to strengthen animal biocapacity, (3) to enhance capacities and livelihood opportunities of rural communities, (4) to increase food security and supply, and (5) improve the understanding of climate extremes and forecasting (Batima et al. 2006). These adaptation measures resulted from the evaluation of an adaptation screening matrix. We are considering the following climate change adaptation options for rangelands:

  • Conservation of riparian ecosystems and wetlands for water conservation, reserve ecosystems used during the climatic extreme events and haymaking;
  • Enhancement of herders groups, including informal ones;
  • Management of the rangelands according to carrying capacity in order to improve climate risk management, maximizing economic benefits and sustainability;
  • Exploring the opportunities to restore cultural landscapes at multiple scales in order to restore traditional adaptation to climate variability mechanism wherever it is possible.