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Issue 2. The latest news from The Jornada, including a look at our Mongolia connection. 
How Our Rangeland Research Program based in New Mexico is helping Mongolian Livestock Herders Prepare for a Sustainable Future.

► Watch a Video on Rangeland Management in Mongolia

It seems as though drought and water scarcity are in the news on a daily basis. In fact, desertification is a growing problem throughout the world, as dryland regions become increasingly arid and more challenging to manage sustainably. For the people of Mongolia, a country that is more than 80% rangeland, land degradation is a particularly pressing problem due to increases in livestock numbers and changes to livestock management systems that occurred after the transition from communism to democracy in the early 1990s.

Mongolia is heavily reliant on pastoralism –
over a third of the country’s workforce is engaged in the livestock sector – so the sustainability of rangeland ecosystems is a critical social and economic issue.

Yet many studies have called the long-term sustainability of Mongolian ranglands into question. Recent estimates suggest that
70% of Mongolia’s rangelands are in some way “degraded” such that livestock production is limited and other ecosystem services such as clean air, fresh water, and biodiversity may be in decline. The causes of perceived degradation, however, remain controversial, as well as how Mongolia should respond.

It was because of this controversy that Green Gold Mongolia, an NGO supported by the Swiss Development Corp. invited the Jornada in 2006 to help them develop a system of measurement, interpretation, and responses to understand and combat rangeland degradation.

Mongolia Learns From Our Past

It was a natural fit. The Jornada has over 100 years of experience in rangeland research and management that has helped establish sustainable management practices in arid Southwestern US rangelands. The Jornada has also contributed to scientific understanding, monitoring techniques, and interpretive tools that are used throughout the world. Because Mongolia faces similar conditions of aridity as the Jornada’s New Mexico experimental area, Jornada scientists knew that they could contribute to the scientific infrastructure of the new democracy and learn a lot about their tools and ideas in the process.

With the efforts of Brandon Bestelmeyer, Ericha Courtright, Jeff Herrick, and Justin Van Zee, the Jornada has worked with Green Gold Mongolia, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and several Mongolian government agencies to craft a comprehensive infrastructure to advance rangeland sustainability in Mongolia. Each piece addresses a specific need. Repeatable and precise rangeland measurement efforts reduce controversy about what has changed in Mongolian rangelands. Database development and maintenance ensures that the data are error free, trustworthy, and available for the long-term. Ecological site descriptions and state-and-transition models, cooperatively developed with herders and local rangeland professionals, provide a diagnosis of rangeland problems and potential remedies tailored to specific land areas. Mapping of rangeland states and pasture infrastructure, using remote sensing and geographic information systems, provides the basis for developing management plans.

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Photo of The Jornada team with our Mongolian counterparts, after reviewing the "Monitoring Manual for Grassland, Shrubland and Savanna Ecosystems".


Find out more about the Jornada's work in Mongolia, click here.

The Jornada has climate models available for Southern New Mexico land and water issues. 

Which county would you be most interested in hearing more about?

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Looking for something to read this summer?

The West Without Water by B. Lynn Ingram & Frances Malamud-Roam

documents the tumultuous climate of the American West over twenty millennia, with tales of past droughts and deluges and predictions about the impacts of future climate change on water resources. The authors ask the question of what is “normal” climate for the West, and whether the relatively benign climate of the past century will continue into the future.
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