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About Northern Mongolia – Part 1

Mongolia is a landlocked country, located in the transition zone between the Central Asian Gobi desert and the great Siberian taiga, which forms a large part of the Eurasian continent. Mongolian north and southwest side are surrounded by high mountains. The boreal forest is a Northern Hemisphere region located south of the arctic and subarctic tundra. Taiga is a region of old-growth forests with primarily evergreen foliage. Traditional Mongolian animal husbandry is closely associated with nomadic pastoralism with seasonal migrations dependent on natural climate conditions. Mongolia has reason to be concerned about climate change; northern Mongolia has already warmed by almost 1.8 °C over the last 40 years. There has been even greater warming in other high-latitude locations such as Siberia and Alaska, especially in the winter and early spring. Mongolia’s population depends on nomadic pastoralism and other climate-dependent sectors; thus, environment and climatic conditions play a key role in the sustainable development of the country (Nandintsetseg et al. 2007).


Mongolia is divided into 16 phytogeographical regions based on floral composition, vegetation, and geographical characteristics. Mongolian botanical exploration was first conducted by D. G. Messerschmidt, who collected the first herbarium specimens from northeastern Mongolia (valleys ofUlz and Onon rivers). The first list of vascular plants of Mongolia (489 species) was compiled by K. I. Maximovicz in 1859. To date, in 2016, a total of 3160 species of vascular plants were recognized and most of them is grown in Northern Mongolia.

Figure 1 Selected threatened species found from northern Mongolia: A, Dactylorhiza fuchsii;B, Fritillaria dagana;C, Menyanthes trifoliate;D, Adonis apennina;E, Paris verticillata;F, Paeonia anomala;G, Pulmonaria mollissima;H, Typha latifolia;I, Hypericum ascyron. Adapted from (Baasanmunkh et al. 2019)



Figure 2Photographs of genus Viola from northern Mongolia: A, V. gmeliniana;B, V. uniflora;C, V. patrinii;D, V. dactyloides;E, V. rupestris;F, V. sacchalinensis;G, V. dissecta;H, V. mirabilis;I, V. biflora. Adapted


In addition to the main ranges, there are numerous basins. More than 300 lakes are located in the Great Lakes region, which lies between the Mongolian Altai, the Khangai, and the Siberian mountains. On the eastern slopes of the Khangai Mountains and on the western foothills of the Khentii Mountain range lies another basin. In the southern part of the country, the valleys of the Tuul and Orkhon (Orhon) rivers are fertile areas which have played an important role in Mongolia's history as the cradle of settled ways. There are a dozen extinct volcanoes and numerous volcanic lakes in Khorgo, on the northern flanks of the Khangai Mountains. Rugged gorges have been carved out by swift and turbulent streams. A volcano with deep volcanic vents and hot springs is the source of the Orkhon River. Lake Khövsgöl (Hövsgöl) is the focal point of a rugged region near the northern border that has marshlands. Reindeer herding people (Tsaatan) live in far northern Mongolia as known as the Dukha Tribe and about 500 people are registered as Tsaatan in 2011 (Ragagnin 2011). For this reason, Northern Mongolia is the primary attraction of Mongolian tourism.


Due to Mongolia's diverse environment, its remote location, and its sparse population, it has rich and diverse wildlife that's attracted international attention and has commercial value. With borders to several different zoogeographic regions (Tibet, Afghanistan, Turkistan, Siberia, and North-Chinese-Manchurian), the country has a flora that combines species from everywhere. The northern forests are home to lynx, maral (a subspecies of elk), roe deer, and musk deer, as well as brown bears, wild boars, squirrels, and sables. Marmots, once heavily hunted for their fur in 90’s, are now somewhat protected by hunting restrictions in the steppes, along with Mongolian gazelles. Argal sheep and snow leopards live in Mongolia's Altai Mountains. Kulans (wild Asian asses, Equus hemionus kulan), wild camels (khavtgais in Mongolia), and Gobi bears (mazaalais) often congregate around watering holes in the semidesert and desert region. Wild Przewalski's horses, known to Mongolians as takhi, were reintroduced into the country from European and North American stock after becoming extinct in their original habitat. Among Mongolia's domesticated animals of economic importance-which, collectively, vastly outnumber its human population-are sheep, camels, cattle (including yaks), goats, and horses. The steppes are home to larks, partridges, cranes, pheasants, bustards, and falcons; the rivers and lakes are home to geese, ducks, gulls, pelicans, swans, and cormorants; and the mountains are home to snowy owls, golden eagles, and lammergeiers. Around 70 species of fish live in the rivers and freshwater lakes, including Asian species of salmon, trout, grayling, perch, and pike. Despite the government's implementation of strict hunting regulations and other conservationist measures, such as setting up national parks and nature reserves, hunting and fishing, for sport and for commercial purposes, continue to be important.


Publication bibliography

Baasanmunkh, Shukherdorj; Oyuntsetseg, Batlai; Oyundelger, Khurelpurev; Khaliunaa, Khurelbaatar; Urgamal, Magsar; Batkhuu, Nyam-Osor et al. (2019): Contribution to the knowledge on the flora of northern Mongolia. In Journal of Asia-Pacific Biodiversity 12 (4), pp. 643–660. DOI: 10.1016/j.japb.2019.08.009.

Nandintsetseg, Banzragch; Greene, J. Scott; Goulden, Clyde E. (2007): Trends in extreme daily precipitation and temperature near lake Hövsgöl, Mongolia. In Int. J. Climatol. 27 (3), pp. 341–347. DOI: 10.1002/joc.1404.

Ragagnin, Elisabetta (2011): Dukhan, a Turkic variety of Northern Mongolia. Description and analysis. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz (Turcologica, Band 76).

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