The rangelands of the Mongolian Plateau are dynamic socio-environmental systems that are influenced by a complex network of drivers, including climate, social institutions, market forces, and national-scale policies affecting land access and management. The sustainability and resilience of rangelands in this region depend on the ability of residents and policy makers to quickly respond by adapting livelihoods and land uses to changes in environmental and socio-economic conditions, but the responses of the system to these changes are often non-linear and difficult to predict. We developed a system dynamics model to understand how the human, natural, and land-use processes in the Mongolian rangeland ecosystem interact to produce dynamic outcomes in both grassland productivity and livestock populations. We developed two separate models based on a common integrative framework for two case study areas: Suhkbaatar Aimag in Mongolia and Xilingol League in Inner Mongolia. We used future scenarios for each region generated with stakeholder input to forecast trends in grassland area, livestock numbers, and biomass under alternative climate, socioeconomic, and land-use futures. By incorporating stakeholder-developed scenarios, we were able to explore future scenarios tailored to the particular questions and concerns relevant to the individual study areas. We find that while there are many similarities in the factors driving system dynamics in the two countries, the trajectories of key grassland resources are quite different, both between the two study regions and across the individual scenarios. Environmental policies play a key role in Xilingol, while economic development is a key driver in Sukhbaatar. Urbanization dynamics will be a major influence on the availability of grassland resources in the future.
Read the full paper at Environmental Science and Policy.