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Mongolia - Country Profile

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Mongolia occupies an ecological transition zone in Central Asia where the Siberian taiga forest, Central Asian steppe, Altai Mountains and Gobi Desert meet. Mongolia’s taiga, steppe and desert ecosystems have been less affected by human activity than is the case in neighboring countries. For example, the eastern steppe ecosystem remains home to hundreds of thousands of migratory Mongolian gazelles. Mongolia is divided into 6 natural belts and zones, consisting of the high mountain alpine belt, mountain taiga belt, mountain forest steppe, rolling steppe, and semi-desert and desert zones.

There are over 5,682 plant species recorded in Mongolia, including 2,950 vascular plant species, 445 moss species, 999 lichen species and 1,288 algae species. More than 100 species of plants are currently used for medicinal purposes and more than 200 species for pharmaceutical purposes. In addition, 200 species are used for tea, 50 species for food and over 100 species are important for livestock feed. The area of Mongolia’s forest fund occupies 12.1% of the total land area, comprising 140 species of trees and shrubs, with larch being the dominant species. Over 13,000 species of insects are recorded. There are several new species of insects discovered every year. Among moth and butterfly species, Leptidea morsei F., Nymphalis vau-album, Euphydryas intermedia, Triphysa phryne, Coenonympha glycerion, Lycaena helle, Coenonympha oedippus, Coenonympha hero, Cupido minimus, and Nymphalis polychloros have been recorded, some of which are nationally extinct or critically endangered in European countries.

There are 472 bird species recorded, of which 391 are migratory. This high percentage of migratory bird species is due to the four major global migratory routes recognized in Mongolia: the East Asia-Australasia flyway, Central Asia flyway, West Pacific flyway and the Africa-Eurasia flyway. Mongolia is also host to 138 species of mammals, although this number is incomplete due to very few studies having been conducted. One study did determine that 128 were native species and 4 were non-native and naturally acclimatized. The native wild horse (Przewalskii horse) was last sighted in the mid-1960s and re-introduced in the early 1990s. The species richness of Mongolian mammals decreases from north to south. Due to Mongolia’s harsh continental climate, it has a relatively low herpetofauna diversity. There are 6 species of amphibians and 21 species of reptiles. Additionally, being landlocked, the country is dependent on its lakes and rivers for water, as are its 76 fish species.

Over 128 plant species are registered as endangered or threatened. More than 80 plant species are intensively used for food and other purposes. The conservation of 19 insect species is under legal protection. Twenty-four globally threatened birds are known to have habitats in Mongolia, while 10 known near-threatened species are from Mongolia. Species for which Mongolia plays a particular important role include the Swan Goose, Lesser Kestrel, Saker Falcon, White-naped Crane and White-throated Bushchat. Negative trends in wildlife gene pools have been incurred, caused by negative changes in the numbers and quality of mammalian populations. Hunting game animals and nomadic animal husbandry are cultural elements upheld by Mongolians since ancient times, but many of these species’ populations have been decreasing drastically (e.g. in the last 18 years, there has been a 92% decrease in red deer populations). Thirty-two species (23.3%) of Mongolian fauna are protected as rare species in the Mongolian Red Book and the Mongolian Law on Fauna.

Trends within Mongolia include habitat fragmentation and deterioration, the drying up of water sources, and desertification. As a result of the extensive use of grasslands, the integrity and sustainability of this ecosystem has been degraded. A 2007 water census recorded that 372 rivers and streams and 1,158 springs have dried up in the last 40 years. These dry rivers and lakes are evidence that aquatic and marshy ecosystems are deteriorating. The deterioration of water environments and water shortages in turn influences many biological species, especially bird species that rely on Mongolian lakes as a part of their migratory cycle. This is exacerbated by fires that have been affecting forests and steppes, destroying large portions of land and greatly affecting wildlife populations in a negative manner. As a consequence of many of these and other factors, but particularly global warming and climate change, desertification has impacted 77.2% of Mongolia’s total area, especially affecting mammals living underground.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The major threats facing biological diversity include climate change, water shortage, land use changes and, in consequence, the development of desertification processes. Moreover, the influence of climate change, especially increasing the impact of drought, poses a potential risk to steppe ecosystems including reduction in size. The vegetation cover of the Gobi is mainly influenced by human-induced factors, such as overgrazing, mining and the illegal collection of plants. Habitats of plants are fragmenting under the influence of these factors, as well as from the impacts of climate change. As for wildlife, decreases in population within Mongolian grasslands are considered natural processes. Mongolia is rich in natural resources, with mining having rapidly increased recently; however, environmental recovery work has not been carried out which is leading to ecosystems being negatively impacted by activities. The rivers inhabited by fish species in Mongolia are impacted by pollution from large and small gold mining operations and urban pollution, which both generate localised sedimentation that may bury eggs at the spawning grounds of certain fish species (e.g. sturgeon). The major threat to fish diversity remains overfishing and illegal fishing. The major threats to bird diversity in Mongolia are overgrazing by livestock, illegal logging of forests, fires, hunting and trapping. A further problem at some sites in recent years has been the use of rodenticides to control vole outbreaks, which has resulted in the poisoning of birds of prey and other important species (e.g. cranes).

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

A wide range of people and institutions participated in the preparation of the National Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan (1996) whose overall objective was to set in place measures to protect biodiversity and restore damaged areas, and ensure that biodiversity is integrated into economic and social programs. It proposed 17 specific objectives and 4 legal and institutional measures, as well as a wide range of actions covering protected areas, population control, legislation and policy on environmental impact assessment and land use planning, research and monitoring, education and training, public awareness-raising, agriculture, forestry, industry, transport, mining and oil exploitation, tourism, land reclamation, energy and ex situ conservation management.

Two reviews of the National Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan were undertaken in 2001 and 2009. Recent developments in Mongolia’s legal environmental framework demonstrate Mongolia’s commitment to further NBSAP development and fully incorporate provisions in national planning.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

In 2007, Mongolia’s special protected areas coverage reached 14% of the country’s territory. Currently, six of the protected areas are included in the list of World Heritage sites and UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere reserves, while 11 areas are included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. The Mongolian Parliament had also approved the National Program on Special Protected Areas which aims to increase protected area coverage to 30%. In the last few years, investment activity in the state of protected areas has increased (a total of 806 million tugrug was spent in 2006-2007 which was six times the amount spent in 1998). A crucial role that the special protected areas perform relates to in situ conservation and ensuring that these areas are safeguarded and conserved. Notably, Mongolia has set up a strong legal framework. Legal documents and action plans, including the Law on Environmental Protection, Law on Special Protected Areas, Law on the Buffer Zones of Protected Areas, Law on Wildlife, Law on the Protection of Plants, National Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan, National Program on Protected Areas, and the law and regulations on the import and export of alien species across the country’s borders have been approved by the Parliament and Government of Mongolia.

Research and ex situ conservation programs have been undertaken and implemented for the Asiatic wild ass, snow leopard, Argali sheep, red deer and musk deer. These include measures to protect the mammals and facilitate breeding, as well as research at the Mammalian Ecology Laboratory to determine the ecological and biological aspects of these populations and their habitats, including fluctuations in population size and range. Reintroduction programs for the Przewalskii horse and the marmot, recovery work for the habitats of the wild camel and Gobi bear, and ecosystem conservation of the Eg-Ur watershed for the taimen, have also been established. Unfortunately, the exportation of the Saker falcon to Arabian countries has not followed quota recommendations.

Many efforts to increase public awareness of the importance of biodiversity conservation and environmental law enforcement have been implemented as a result of the development of the National Program on Environmental Public Awareness. The Environmental Conservation Fund was specially established for the promotion of public awareness activities regarding the environment. In cooperation with media outlets, and through a competitive grant scheme, cooperation agreements have been established with the Mongolian National Television channel, Mongolian radio, and newspapers ‘Zuunii medee’ and ‘Unen’, for broadcasting tele-lessons, radio lessons, weekly radio programs and publishing bi-weekly newspaper articles. Information on the status of local endangered animals is also communicated, such as for the snow leopard, wild camel, saiga and musk deer. The subject “ecology” has been introduced into the secondary school curriculum and new classrooms designed for biology and biodiversity conservation have been established in each secondary school in the country. Training and re-training for teachers and instructors at secondary schools, colleges and universities to improve environmental knowledge and education are organized by the Ecological Centre through the programme “Steppe Forward”. Provision of environmental awareness materials to rural information centres in the past ten years has included books to libraries, brochures and handbooks for school teachers and educators, along with the conduct of workshops for information centre officers.

Other examples of progress towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets include the development of incentive measures, reductions in pollution levels and establishment of more sustainable living practices. Incentive measures have been developed at all levels of authority, including state, provincial and local levels, and are provided through various economic and social instruments (e.g. tax and credit policies, rewards, honorary awards). For instance, under the Law on Hunting, a person who discovers that an illegal act has been performed and informs relevant authorities will be rewarded with 15% of the violation fine. Pollution standards for the maximum allowable concentrations in Mongolia have been set. Monitoring is conducted for soil quality, potable water, natural water, air, and facilitated by a Pollution Control Strategy and legal framework. Sustainable livelihoods have been promoted through community-based natural resource management in forested parts of the country and the introduction of the use of secondary resources to fulfill household needs. In addition, the “Sustainable Grassland Management” project has restored traditional livestock breeding practices through the adoption of new technologies as a first step towards adjusting to the carrying capacity of pastures. Multiple overarching plans for land management have been developed, such as the nation-wide land use plan, land restoration plan, as well as regional and local action plans for areas affected by land degradation. The implementation of renewable energy projects, such as the “Use of Renewable Energy Resources in Rural Energy Supply” project, has resulted in the installation of renewable energy generation facilities for soums (districts) not currently connected to the centralized energy supply.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Mongolia has a very strong legal framework for implementing biodiversity conservation plans. The Law on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was adopted in 1998 and amended in 2001; other legal support mechanisms include the Constitution of Mongolia, Law on Environmental Protection, Law on Fauna, Law on Hunting, Law on Hunting Reserve Use Payments, Law on Hunting and Trapping Authorization Fees, Law on Mineral Resources, Law on Renewable Energy, Law on Buffer Zones (within the Law on Special Protected Areas), among others. Between 1995 to 2007, the Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism received a total of 6,043 environment impact assessments. According to the amendment to the Law on Mineral Resources, every organization undertaking mining and extractive activities should have an environmental protection plan and is obliged to carry out technical and biological restoration. In 2008, following this amendment, all the standards dealing with the assessment of the state of environment within mining sites, as well as restoration requirements, were revised.

Biodiversity has been mainstreamed in different industries, including tourism, development and agriculture. In spite of there being several key laws, regulations and guidelines related to tourism development already in place, the Government has further improved tourism policies near the Special Protected Areas within the framework of the Tourism Development Strategy for Mongolia (2007-2011). Mongolian policies based on the Millenium Development Goals have included environmental policy and strategies for strengthening the management of protected areas. The Government also developed a special policy on Agricultural Sector Development (2003-2015) that promotes increasing agricultural outputs, mainly cultivating local varieties, and avoiding insects and other negative factors through the utilization of progressive technologies.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism oversees most of the biodiversity programmes and initiatives. Additionally, other committees and groups, such as the National Committee for Sustainable Development and the Central State Body, have been established for addressing sustainable development and land use affairs, respectively. Every year, each soum is responsible for revising and amending its land use plan according to social demand, which is then ratified by the Local Citizens’ Representative of the Hural (Parliament of Mongolia). Every five years, a national land quality assessment is conducted, identifying the areas of land affected by land degradation. These assessments, delivered to the Central State Body, are then reflected in recommended actions and technologies to be used to restore the land. The Gobi Forage Project implemented in gobi regions use models for pasture yield and calculate and broadcast monthly population capacities. Water and air quality monitoring is being implemented in the largest river basins, the capital city and large towns.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme