Nature and Climate of Mongolia

There are four well-defined seasons, and on average, the sun shines for well over 200 days a year. The climate is harsh continental with low precipitation. The temperature varies greatly within the year and also diurnally. The last 60 years of meteorological observation show annual average temperatures of 8.5C in the Gobi and -7.8C in the mountains. The extreme minimum temperature is between minus 31.1C and minus 52.9C in January. The extreme maximum temperature is between plus 28C and plus 43.1C in July. Annual precipitation is low, averaging 200-220mmm, ranging from under 50mm in the extreme south (Gobi desert) to 400mm in limited areas in the north. Most precipitation occurs in June, July and August, and the driest months are November to March. The same meteorological records show that the annual air temperature has raised 1.56C on average, more in winter (3.61C) and less in spring (1.4-1.5C). Summer temperatures have fallen decreased 0.3C. There has been more temperature increase in May and September, but little change in April. The summer temperature drop has been mainly in June and July. Temperature changes have also been spatial. Winter warming has been more pronounced in the high mountains and valleys and less in the steppe and Gobi. There is a thawing of permafrost in 63 percent of Mongolia, which some claim is due to global warming. Half of the country has an average temperature of below freezing point. The length of time of snow covering has reduced, and soil erosion has increased in recent years. The number of days with dust storms has tripled over the last 40 years. In 1999-2002, over half of Mongolia was drought-stricken, more intense than any time in the last 60 years, coupled with dzud. These unfavorable weather factors have had an adverse effect on Mongolian social and economic development. Meteorologists stress, however, that the environmental and ecological degradation being experienced is not solely the result of weather and possible climate change, but also because of human activity.
Mongolian has animals of the in forest, steppe, desert, alpine, tundra and talus, including many animals commonly found in the Siberian taiga, European-type forests, and western Asian and Turan desert. There are many which are endemic only to deserts and steppes of central and East Asia. Mongolia was also home to now-extinct prehistoric and more recent creatures. A total of 138 mammal species, 449 bird species, 75 fish species, six amphibian species and 22 reptile species are registered in Mongolia. There are also over 13,000 invertebrate species, including 516 insects, worms, fresh water and terrestrial mollusks. Of the mammal species, 24 are still widely hunted, 32 are lightly hunted and four not hunted. A total of 30 mammal species and sub-species have been included in the rare and very rare classifications of the Mongolian Red Book, revised in 1997. Habitats of the Gobi bear (ursus pruinosis), wild camel (camalus bactrianus), takhi (Przewalskii horse), elk, scrofa nigripes and Asian beaver are now totally protected. Over 70 percent of the habitat of the snow-leopard, equus hemionus, river otter, haze musk deer, ovis amman and capra sibrica are also in the special protection network. Re-introduction and re-acclimatizing of valued hunt prey like muskrat, stoat, raccoon, procapra fulturosa, moschus moschiferus, takhi, Asian beaver and capra sibrica are being carried out.
The takhi are the last remaining wild horses in the world. Also known as the Przewalski horse (named after the Polish explorer who first identified the horse in 1878), the takhi is perhaps the most recognized symbol of preservation and protection of Mongolia’s diverse and unique wildlife. The last wild takhi was seen in the western Gobi in 1966. However, there were specimens reared in zoos all over the world. The Mongolian Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment and the Dutch Foundation Reserve of Przewalski Horses reintroduced the takhi to the wild in 1992. Takhi populations in Khustai Nuruu (Tov Aimag) and Bugat soum (Govi-Altai Aimag) have now reached around 200. In 2004, 20 takhi were re-introduced into the Khomiin Tal buffer zone of the Khar-Us Nuur National Park, financed by the French Takhi Association and WWF Mongolia. Research between 1998 and 2000 led to the belief that reintroduction of takhi to Khomiin Tal was possible because of its low population density, and that it could carry up to 500 horses.
Gobi Bear (ursus pruinosis)
A comparative survey on the common bear and the Gobi bear showed that Gobi bear fecundity was up to 90 per cent, and its rearing up to 24 per cent, below other bears. The male Gobi bear begins to breed from five years and the female starts from four years. This indicates the need for measures to protect the Gobi bear genetic resource. Observation was undertaken of the Gobi bear habitat in Khukh Ders, Khatuu Bulag, Altan Tevsh, Suuj Bulag, Mukhar Zadgai, Tsagaan Burgas, Khushoot and Sharkhuls oasis. Fresh footprints were identified at the Khajuu Bulag spring, Segs Tsagaan Bogd mountain, and photos and video were taken of a full-grown Gobi bear eating. Fresh footprint of one, possibly two Gobi bears were identified at the Tsagaan Tokhoi fodder point and near the Khajuu Bulag spring and measured.
Mongolia has registered 434 bird species belonging to 193 genera, 56 families and 17 orders. Over 330 of these species are migratory, while the rest live here year round. About 50 species migrate through Mongolia and another 20 species are observed occasionally. The Mongolian Red Book registers 30 bird species which are rare worldwide. As a result, parts of big lakes and rivers densely inhabited by birds have been protected, including Lakes Khuvusgul, Uvs, Khar-Us,Dayan, Khorgo and Terkhiin-Tsagaan. The Daguur, Dornod and Numrug Strictly Protected Areas were established to protect the Siberian Crane (grus leucogeranus), white-naped crane (grus vipio), houbara bustard (chlamydotis undulata), black stork (ciconia nigra), Dalamatian pelican (pelicanus crispus), white spoonbill (platelea leucorodia), Baikal teal (anas formosa), Asiatic dowitcher (limnodromus semiplamatus) and relict gull (larus relictus).
Mongolia is landlocked, so it has no sea fish. Mongolian rivers and lakes relate to three basins: the Arctic, the Pacific and the Central Asian. Fish of each are different. There are 75 fish species belonging to 36 genera and 11 families in the Mongolian water basin. It has been estimated that up to 700 tonnes of fish are taken every year from lakes and rivers. An Environment Ministry report said that, since 2000, the amount caught has been consistently declining, with 322 tonnes in 2001, falling to 250 tonnes in 2002. The 1995 Hunting Law, with other laws and regulations, is helping preserve the fish population. The Amur sturgeon (acipenser shrenki) and Siberian or Baikal sturgeon (acipenser baeri) are protected and the glass (Chinese) carp (ctenogharyngodon idella), silver carp (hypophthalmicthys molitrix) and tench (tinca tinca) are registered as endangered. Another six fish species have been included in the Red Book and conservation measures taken. To preserve fish stocks and to maintain favorable breeding conditions, several lakes (including Khuvsgul, Uvs, Terkhiin Tsagaan, Dayan, Khoton and Khar Us) and some parts of rivers are protected areas.
Amphibians and reptiles
In an eastern Mongolian ecology variety project, surveys were carried out in the basins of the Kherlen, Khalkh and Numrog rivers. They revealed that eastern Mongolia had four of the country’s twelve amphibian species and two of the eight reptile species. Two basic steps have been taken to protect Mongolia’s amphibians and reptiles.
– Two species of the eastern Mongolian gerpetofoun (hynobius and the eastern frog) have been included in the Red Book.
– Amphibians and reptiles are included in the special protected areas.
– Amphibian and reptile populations are affected by factors such as climate, birds of prey, parasitic disease and human activity.
Mongolian vegetation presents special features which have developed through time and because of local landscape forms, the environment and climate. Mongolia is a site of convergence with flora originating both in the Great Siberian Taiga and the central Asian steppe and desert.
Mongolia has acquired plant species from Manchuria in the east and from the Kazakhstan-Turan area in the west. The gradual transition from high mountain taiga, to mountain forest steppe and flat grassy plains, and on to semi-desert and true desert, offers features of the world’s three basic vegetation regions. This is reflected in the change in precipitation and plant distribution, from foothills to the tops of mountain ranges in vertical belts. Mongolia has over 2,823 plant species, while central Siberia has 2,400 and Inner Mongolia has 2,176.
There are 845 species of medicinal plants; over 1,000 of fodder plants; 173 of food plants; 489 of ornamental plants; and 195 of other significant plants. Mongolia has 2,095 species of herbaceous plant and 348 species of woody and shrubby plants. These comprise 17 species of big trees; 40 species of low trees and gig shrub; 146 species of shrub; 48 species of sub-shrubs; 91 species of partial sub-shrubs; 6 species of fodder and herbaceous; 1,765 species of longevity plants; 330 species of one- and two-year vascular plants; 21 families of flat moss; 38 families of leafy moss; 53 families of lichen; 1,236 species and sub-species of algae; and 900 species of mushrooms. There are relic species from prehistoric desert, forests, tertiary lakes, savannahs and the Ice Age in particular, many native to Mongolia.

Leave a Comment