Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 73, Issue 2, pp 697–708 | Cite as

Impacts of agricultural land-use dynamics on erosion risks and options for land and water management in Northern Mongolia

  • J. A. PriessEmail author
  • C. Schweitzer
  • O. Batkhishig
  • T. Koschitzki
  • D. Wurbs
Thematic Issue


In Mongolia, nomadic herders have successfully been grazing livestock for more than a millennium. However, in recent years, concerns have increased that changes in management and higher livestock stocking rates may negatively affect vegetation and increase soil erosion, overland flow and sediment load of rivers. In addition, ambitious agricultural policies increase the intensity of agricultural land use thus enforcing a conversion of grassland to agricultural land which is far more susceptible to erosion. In this study, we tackle the question how recent land-use dynamics influence erosion risks and which implications these require on water resources management. The study was part of a larger research effort, studying implementation options for Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM); in this paper, specifically impacts of land use and land-use change on water resources are studied. The study has been carried out in the Kharaa river basin (KRB) in Northern Mongolia, in which grazing and agriculture play key roles. As several erosion and run-off-relevant factors such as slope, soil type or land use and land cover are widely varying in the KRB, sub-regions of the catchment have been analysed to identify susceptible combinations of environmental and land management factors. In our study we identified that erosion risks in the sub-catchments under current land use and management calculated with the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation sum up to approximately 2–4 Mg ha−1  year−1 for steppe and 4–9 Mg ha−1 year−1 for croplands, while erosion rates calculated using 137CS measurements resulted in 2–3 Mg ha−1 year−1 on steppe and 15 Mg ha−1 year−1 on cropland. Erosion risk scenarios indicate that land use change as well as management and climate factors can reduce (−30 %) or aggravate erosion risks up to sevenfold and contribute to additional challenges in water and soil management in the KRB. Strategies have to be developed to limit land conversion and implement soil protection in erosion prone sub-regions. IWRM has the potential to bridge sectorial measures, e.g. in agriculture, rural development or nature protection, but erosion and runoff-related impacts currently are addressed in different institutions, legal frameworks and regulations, which may slow down or hamper efficient measures.


Erosion modelling Land-use change Integrated Water Resources Management Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation 137CS Mongolia 



The authors would like to thank three anonymous reviewers for their comments considerably improving the quality of this paper, the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) for funding this study in the framework of the FONA (Research for Sustainable Development) initiative (Grant No. 033L003). We highly appreciate the comments of A. Houdret and I. Dombrowski (both German Development Institute, Bonn, Germany) on the legal framework in Mongolia.


  1. Bayar S (2008) The Prime Minister of Mongolia—Statement at the GENERALDEBATE of the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 24, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Begzsuren S, Ellis JE, Ojima DS, Coughenour MB, Chuluun T (2004) Livestock responses to droughts and severe winter weather in the Gobi Three Beauty National Park, Mongolia. J Arid Environ 59:785–796CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chappell A (1999) The limitations of using 137Cs for estimating soil redistribution in semi-arid environments. Geomorphology 29:135–152. doi: 10.1016/S0169-555X(99)00011-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chen Y, Lee G, Lee P, Oikawa T (2007) Model analysis of grazing effect on above-ground biomass and above-ground net primary production of a Mongolian grassland ecosystem. J Hydrol 333:155–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chuluun T, Ojima D (2001) Sustainability of pastoral systems in Mongolia. In: Open Symposium on “Change and Sustainability of Pastoral Land Use Systems in Temperate and Central Asia”, Ulaanbaatar, p 52–57Google Scholar
  6. Di Stefano C, Ferro V, Porto P (1999) Linking sediment yield and caesium-137 spatial distribution at Basin Scale. J Agric Eng Res 74:41–62. doi: 10.1006/jaer.1999.0436 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dorjgotov D (2003) Soils of Mongolia. Admon Publishing, UlaanbaatarGoogle Scholar
  8. Erasmi S, Priess J (2007) Satellite and survey data: a multiple source approach to study regional land-cover/land-use change in Indonesia. Geovisualisierung in der Humangeographie Kartographische Schriften 13:101–114Google Scholar
  9. Fernandez-Gimenez ME, Batkhishig B, Batbuyan B (2012) Cross-boundary and cross-level dynamics increase vulnerability to severe winter disasters (dzud) in Mongolia. Glob Environ Change 22:836–851CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Freeman TG (1991) Calculating catchment area with divergent flow based on a regular grid. Comput Geosci 17:413–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Giese M, Brueck H, Gao YZ et al (2013) N balance and cycling of inner Mongolia typical steppe: a comprehensive case study of grazing effects. Ecol Monogr 83:195–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Göttlicher D, Obregon A, Homeier J et al (2009) Land-cover classification in the Andes of southern Ecuador using Landsat ETM + data as a basis for SVAT modelling. Int J Remote Sens 30:1867–1886. doi: 10.1080/01431160802541531 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hartwig M, Theuring P, Rode M, Borchardt D (2012) Suspended sediments in the Kharaa River catchment (Mongolia) and its impact on hyporheic zone functions. Environ Earth Sci 65:1535–1546. doi: 10.1007/s12665-011-1198-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hickmann S (2006) Conservation agriculture in northern Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), RomeGoogle Scholar
  15. Hofmann J, Hürdler J, Ibisch R et al (2011) Analysis of recent nutrient emission pathways, resulting surface water quality and ecological impacts under extreme continental climate: the Kharaa River Basin (Mongolia). Int Rev Hydrobiol 96:484–519. doi: 10.1002/iroh.201111294 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Horlemann L, Dombrowsky I (2012) Institutionalising IWRM in developing and transition countries: the case of Mongolia. Environ Earth Sci 65:1547–1559. doi: 10.1007/s12665-011-1198-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hoyos N (2005) Spatial modeling of soil erosion potential in a tropical watershed of the Colombian Andes. Catena 63:85–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hülsmann L, Geyer T, Schweitzer C et al. (2014) The effect of subarctic conditions on water resources: initial results and limitations of the SWAT model applied to the Kharaa River Catchment in Northern Mongolia. Environ Earth Sci (this issue). doi: 10.1007/s12665-014-3173-1
  19. Kalbus E, Kalbacher T, Kolditz O, Krüger E, Seegert J, Röstel G, Teutsch G, Borchardt D, Krebs P (2012) Integrated Water Resources Management under different hydrological, climatic and socio-economic conditions. Environ Earth Sci 65:1363–1366. doi: 10.1007/s12665-011-1330-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Karaburun A (2010) Estimation of C factor for soil erosion modeling using NDVI in Buyukcekmece watershed. Ozean J Appl Sci 3:77–85Google Scholar
  21. Karnieli A, Bayarjargal Y, Bayasgalan M et al (2013) Do vegetation indices provide a reliable indication of vegetation degradation? A case study in the Mongolian pastures. Int J Remote Sens 34:6243–6262. doi: 10.1080/01431161.2013.793865 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Karthe D, Heldt S, Houdret A, Borchardt D (2014) IWRM in a country under rapid transition: lessons learnt from the Kharaa River Basin, Mongolia. Environmental Earth Sciences (this issue)Google Scholar
  23. Kato H, Onda Y, Tanaka Y (2010) Using 137Cs and 210Pbex measurements to estimate soil redistribution rates on semi-arid grassland in Mongolia. Geomorphology 114:508–519CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Korytny LM, Bazhenova OI, Martianova GN, Ilyicheva EA (2003) The influence of climatic change and human activity on erosion processes in sub-arid watersheds in southern East Siberia. Hydrol Process 17:3181–3193. doi: 10.1002/hyp.1382 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lehner B, Verdin K, Jarvis A (2008) New global hydrography derived from spaceborne elevation data. EOS Trans Am Geophys Union (AGU) 89:93–94. doi: 10.1029/2008EO100001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mao R, Ho C-H, Feng S et al (2013) The influence of vegetation variation on Northeast Asian dust activity. Asia-Pac J Atmos Sci 49:87–94. doi: 10.1007/s13143-013-0010-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Menzel L, aus der Beek T, Törnros T et al. (2008) Hydrological impact of climate and land-use change—results from the MoMo project. International Conference “Uncertainties in water resource management: causes, technologies and consequences” IHP Technical Documents in Hydrology No 1, UNESCO Office, Jakarta 1:15–20Google Scholar
  28. Nazimova DI, Nozhenkova LF, Pogrebnaya NA (1999) Use of the neuro-network technology for classification and prognosis of changes of landscape zonal conditions on climate indications. Geogr Nat Resour 2:117–122Google Scholar
  29. NSO (2000–2011) Statistical yearbooks 2000–2011. National Statistical Office of Mongolia (NSO)Google Scholar
  30. NSO (2010) Statistical yearbook 2010. National Statistical Office of Mongolia (NSO)Google Scholar
  31. Onda Y, Kato H, Tanaka Y et al (2007) Analysis of runoff generation and soil erosion processes by using environmental radionuclides in semiarid areas of Mongolia. J Hydrol 333:124–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Parliament of Mongolia (1995) Law of Mongolia on natural plants. Parliament of Mongolia, UlaanbaatarGoogle Scholar
  33. Parliament of Mongolia (2002) Law of Mongolia on land. Parliament of Mongolia, UlaanbaatarGoogle Scholar
  34. Parliament of Mongolia (2004) Law of Mongolia on water. Parliament of Mongolia, UlaanbaatarGoogle Scholar
  35. Parliament of Mongolia (2007) Law of Mongolia on forest. Parliament of Mongolia, UlaanbaatarGoogle Scholar
  36. Prasuhn V, Liniger H, Gisler S et al (2013) A high-resolution soil erosion risk map of Switzerland as strategic policy support system. Land Use Policy 32:281–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Priess JA, Schweitzer C, Wimmer F et al (2011) The consequences of land-use change and water demands in Central Mongolia—an assessment based on regional land-use policies. Land Use Policy 28:4–10. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2010.03.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ranzi R, Le TH, Rulli MC (2012) A RUSLE approach to model suspended sediment load in the Lo river (Vietnam): effects of reservoirs and land use changes. J Hydrol 422–423:17–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Renard KG, Freimund JR (1994) Using monthly precipitation data to estimate the R-factor in the revised USLE. J Hydrol 157:287–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Renard KG, Foster GR, Weesies GA et al. (1997) Predicting soil erosion by water: a guide to conservation planning with the revised universal soil loss equation (RUSLE). Agriculture Handbook (Washington)Google Scholar
  41. Römkens MJM, Prasadu SN, Poesen JWA (1986) Soil erodibility and properties. Transactions of the XIII. In: Congress of the International Society of Soil Science. pp 492–504Google Scholar
  42. Schweitzer C, Ruecker GR, Conrad C et al (2005) Knowledge-based land use classification combining expert knowledge, GIS, multi-temporal Landsat 7 ETM + and MODIS time series data in Khorezm, Uzbeskistan. Göttinger Geographische Abhandlungen 113:116–123Google Scholar
  43. Shi Z, Cai C, Ding S et al (2004) Soil conservation planning at the small watershed level using RUSLE with GIS: a case study in the three Gorge Area of China. Catena 55:33–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Theuring P, Rode M, Behrens S et al. (2013) Identification of fluvial sediment sources in the Kharaa River catchment, Northern Mongolia. Hydrological Processes, p 845–856. doi: 10.1002/hyp.9684
  45. Van der Knijff JM, Jones RJA, Montanarella L (2000) Soil erosion risk assessment in Europe. European Comission Directorate General, Joint Research Centre (JCR), Space Applications Institute, European Soil BureauGoogle Scholar
  46. Walling DE, He Q (1999) Improved models for estimating soil erosion rates from cesium-137 measurements. J Environ Qual 28:611–622CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Walling DE, Quine TA (1993) Use of Caesium-137 as a tracer of erosion and sedimentation—handbook for the application of the Caesium-137 techniqueGoogle Scholar
  48. Weedon GP, Gomes S, Viterbo P et al (2011) Creation of the WATCH forcing data and its use to assess global and regional reference crop evaporation over land during the twentieth century. J Hydrometeorol 12:823–848CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wimmer F, Schlaffer S, aus der Beek T, Menzel L (2008) Distributed modelling of climate change impacts on snow sublimation in Northern Mongolia. Adv Geosci 21:117–124. doi: 10.5194/adgeo-21-117-2009
  50. Wischmeier WH, Smith DD (1978) Predicting rainfall erosion losses—a guide to conservation planning. US Department of Agriculture, AgricultureGoogle Scholar
  51. WRB—World reference base for soil resources (2006) World soil resources reports No. 103. FAO, Rome (ISBN 92-5-105511-4), p 145Google Scholar
  52. Xu L, Xu X, Meng X (2013) Risk assessment of soil erosion in different rainfall scenarios by RUSLE model coupled with information diffusion model: a case study of Bohai Rim, China. CATENA 100:74–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Zhang H, Yang Q, Li R et al (2013) Extension of a GIS procedure for calculating the RUSLE equation LS factor. Comput Geosci 52:177–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Zoljargal M (2013) Sowing season set to begin in May. The UBPost. Accessed May 15 2013. UB Post

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. A. Priess
    • 1
    Email author
  • C. Schweitzer
    • 1
  • O. Batkhishig
    • 3
  • T. Koschitzki
    • 2
  • D. Wurbs
    • 2
  1. 1.Department Computational Landscape EcologyHelmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.GEOFLUXHalleGermany
  3. 3.Laboratory of Soil ScienceNational Academy of ScienceUlaanbaatarMongolia

Personalised recommendations