Chapter

Mountain Ecosystems

pp 253-273

Isolated Mountain Forests in Central Asian Deserts: A Case Study from the Govi Altay, Mongolia

  • Jan Cermak
  • , Lars Opgenoorth
  • , Georg Miehe

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Abstract

The role of isolated mountain forests in Central Asian drylands has been the subject of a number of recent studies. The present paper examines islands of birch and willow forest in the Mongolian Govi Altay Mountains. Using vegetation surveys, dendrochronological studies and charcoal findings, it is attempted to assess the present-day ecological state of the vegetation as well as the environmental history and ecological trends. One of the three forests studied seems to be expanding rapidly due to declining levels of utilization under climatically favourable conditions. The other forests however, situated about 350 km to the south-east of the former, are threatened by consistently high levels of anthropogenic pressure. Based on ecological evidence, the forest islands’ role as witnesses of a once coherent forest belt that may have been retreating since the mid-Holocene is discussed.