|Conservation challenges and threats
The major social and economic
transformation that began in the early 1990s have meant major
changes and financial hardships for Mongolia's people. In
1992 and 1993, for example, the gross national product declined
by 13% each year. These difficulties bring increased pressure
on natural resources.
DEGRADATION, DESERTIFICATION, AND HABITAT LOSS
Desertification, land degradation,
and habitat loss caused by cultivation, grazing, and logging
are serious threats to herders as well as to biological diversity.
The continued ecological
health of Mongolia's grasslands is vital for both livestock
and wildlife. Livestock grazing is the primary human use of
natural areas in Mongolia. 25 million livestock graze 117
million hectares of pasture, approximately 75% of the nation's
territory. Economic hardships resulting from the present socioeconomic
transition bring increased pressure on grazing lands. Especially
in desert steppe regions where soils are thin, excessive grazing
leads to erosion of topsoil, compaction of subsoil, and eventually
to the replacement of the most edible plant species by less
edible species. According to research estimates, 25% of Mongolia's
pastures are threatened by degradation. Due to overgrazing,
the diversity of plant species in areas near town centers
has fallen by as much as 80%. Maintaining careful herding
practices and teaching traditional pasture conservation measures
to young people will help to ensure that future generations
continue to benefit from Mongolia's semi-nomadic grazing tradition
and rich natural heritage.
on the rise
world, the unprecedented expansion of human population and
the large increases in the per-capita consumption of natural
resources in the past 60 years have been accompanied by a
loss of the Earth's species unprecedented in human history.
At 1.5 people per square kilometer,
Mongolia has one of the lowest population densities in the
world. Although Mongolia's population of 2.6 million people
is small compared to any of its Asian neighbors, the population
growth rate of 1.8% per year is one of the highest
in east Asia. Urban population growth has been accompanied
by a rapid growth in natural resource consumption. Population
growth in the countryside means expanded areas inhabited by
people and domestic animals.
Ultimately, population will
have a large impact on Mongolia's biodiversity and efforts
to conserve it.
Forest lands cover 10%
of Mongolia's territory, approximately 17 million hectares.
Though most forests are in the northern and central Mongolia,
the saxaul forests that cover 4.5 million hectares in the
south are especially important for maintaining fragile desert
steppe and desert soils. Clear-cut logging, where all of the
trees in an area are removed, and firewood gathering contribute
to erosion and desertification. Forests are important watersheds
and prevent erosion.
Ground water levels have
dropped in recent years in many desert and desert steppe areas
due to drought and intensified human activities. As a result,
many springs and wells, important sources of water for humans,
livestock, and wildlife, have dried up.
Mongolia's natural resource
administrators and managers urgently need new equipment, and
training to improve biodiversity conservation.
AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN ENDANGERED SPECIES
Largely due to their value
in Asian medicine markets, several of Mongolia's most endangered
species are highly sought after by poachers. Species at risk
include musk deer, poached for its valuable scent glands,
brown bears, killed for their gall bladders, saiga antelope,
illegally hunted for the supposed medicinal properties of
their horns, argali mountain sheep, poached for their magnificent
horns, elk, hunted legally and illegally for their antlers
and antler velvet, and snow leopards, killed for their pelts
AND TRANSPORTATION DEVELOPMENT
Careless, unplanned use
of natural resources and infrastructure development can harm
Mongolia's rare flora and fauna. In volume and variety of
mineral resources, Mongolia ranks among the most mineral rich
nations in the world. Oil prospects in Dornod and in South
Gobi provinces lie in important wildlife areas. Infrastructure
development, including new railroads and roads, will occur
as Mongolia develops.
If not carefully executed,
this resource extraction and infrastructure development can
cause water and air pollution, cut off wildlife migration
routes, and destroy habitat areas for rare species. Future
development must recognize the importance of Mongolia's biodiversity
and take all steps necessary to minimize harmful impacts.
FOR NATURE CONSERVATION
Because of the difficulties
associated with the economic transition occurring in Mongolia,
government agencies have little money for biodiversity conservation
and for strengthening environmental protection and management
of existing protected areas.
For example, the entire
budget for managing Mongolia's Protected Area system in 1995
was 31 million Mongolian tugriks, the equivalent of less than
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