Large-scale permafrost degradation as a primary factor in Larix sibirica forest dieback in the Khentii massif, northern Mongolia

  • David JuřičkaEmail author
  • Jitka Novotná
  • Jakub Houška
  • Jana Pařílková
  • Jan Hladký
  • Václav Pecina
  • Hana Cihlářová
  • Marcela Burnog
  • Jakub Elbl
  • Zdena Rosická
  • Martin Brtnický
  • Jindřich Kynický
Original Paper


The objective of this study is to investigate the potential causes of widespread Larix sibirica Ledeb. mortality observed in the Khentii massif of northern Mongolia. The ratio of deadwood to living trees in affected stands in the Goricho region, the southernmost study site situated close to the Gobi Desert, was as high as 3.6:1. Moisture fluctuations monitored over 2 years using electrical impedance spectrometry revealed that the Goricho study site had higher soil moisture levels than the two less affected sites Barun Bayan and Dzun Bayan. High soil moisture was recorded in an area characterized by highly skeletal soils, ones with more than 35% by volume of rock fragments, and comparatively shallow soil horizons, from valley to mountains. The layer of permafrost influencing hydrogeological processes is much deeper in the Goricho region compared to the undisturbed study sites. Redundancy analysis confirmed a significant number of dead L. sibirica on sites with developed soils. Live forest stands, however damaged, grow in this region on well-drained scree slopes or on rocky bastions. The mass mortality observed for L. sibirica may be directly linked to accelerated permafrost thaw in the area bordered by the Tuul and the Terelj Rivers. Our assumption is that L. sibirica root system necrosis occurred as a result of long-term waterlogging of developed soils with high spatial heterogeneity, normally able to absorb high quantities of groundwater. The areas unaffected were scree fields and rocky bastions characterized by adequate drainage. All of our findings support the primary stages of large-scale permafrost thaw, i.e., correlating increases in soil moisture with increasing permafrost active layer thickness.


Larix sibirica Mortality Permafrost thawing Waterlogging Mongolia 



We wish to thank the reviewers and editors for their insightful comments that led to improvements of the manuscript. We are grateful for the support provided by the project Development of forests and the gene pool of local forest tree ecotypes in Mongolia 2015–2017 (a part of the international cooperative development effort of the Czech Republic). We also thank students Michal Vojtek, Michael Bobula, Kryštof Klimpar, Miroslav Trněný, Petr Hledík, Lukáš Vágner, and Diana Sychová for help in gathering data in the Mongolia territory. .


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Copyright information

© Northeast Forestry University 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Juřička
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jitka Novotná
    • 1
  • Jakub Houška
    • 1
  • Jana Pařílková
    • 3
  • Jan Hladký
    • 1
    • 2
  • Václav Pecina
    • 1
  • Hana Cihlářová
    • 1
  • Marcela Burnog
    • 1
  • Jakub Elbl
    • 1
    • 2
  • Zdena Rosická
    • 1
  • Martin Brtnický
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jindřich Kynický
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Geology and Pedology, Faculty of Forestry and Wood TechnologyMendel University in BrnoBrnoCzech Republic
  2. 2.Central European Institute of TechnologyBrno University of TechnologyBrnoCzech Republic
  3. 3.Institute of Water Structures, Faculty of Civil EngineeringBrno University of TechnologyBrnoCzech Republic

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