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Applying local knowledge to rangeland management in northern Mongolia: do ‘narrow plants’ reflect the carrying capacity of the land?

Abstract

Investigating traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) by the scientific approach is a useful way to develop sustainable rangeland management. Numerous trials have been done on plant species compositions and biomass, but little testing has been done on the TEK of plant productivity and nutrient values, which are important for proper rangeland management. In this study, we tested the TEK of pastoralists living in Bulgan, northern Mongolia, regarding plant productivity and nutrient values. We examined biomass, growth form, plant productivity, and crude protein amounts along grazing gradients. The results showed that biomass declined and the number of erect-form plants decreased as grazing intensity increased, although plant productivity and crude protein amounts did not differ along the grazing gradient. This indicates that the pastoralists' evaluation of pastures dominated by narrow plants (Mongolian: nariin ovs) accurately reflects the productivity of the land, suggesting that their evaluation is reasonable in terms of the carrying capacity. This assessment of the ecological status of Mongolian rangelands provides a foundation for ecologically sound and culturally appropriate rangeland management.