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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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

Notes

Acknowledgments

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.

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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

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