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Relationship Between Pastoralists’ Evaluation of Rangeland State and Vegetation Threshold Changes in Mongolian Rangelands

Abstract

Applying the threshold concept to rangeland management is an important challenge in semi-arid and arid regions. Threshold recognition and prediction is necessary to enable local pastoralists to prevent the occurrence of an undesirable state that would result from unsustainable grazing pressure, but this requires a better understanding of the pastoralists’ perception of vegetation threshold changes. We estimated plant species cover in survey plots along grazing gradients in steppe and desert-steppe areas of Mongolia. We also conducted interviews with local pastoralists and asked them to evaluate whether the plots were suitable for grazing. Floristic composition changed nonlinearly along the grazing gradient in both the desert-steppe and steppe areas. Pastoralists observed the floristic composition changes along the grazing gradients, but their evaluations of grazing suitability did not always decrease along the grazing gradients, both of which included areas in a post-threshold state. These results indicated that local pastoralists and scientists may have different perceptions of vegetation states, even though both of groups used plant species and coverage as indicators in their evaluations. Therefore, in future studies of rangeland management, researchers and pastoralists should exchange their knowledge and perceptions to successfully apply the threshold concept to rangeland management.

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Acknowledgments

We thank T. Okayasu for his helpful comments on and discussions of this manuscript. We thank the staff at Hustai National Park and the local pastoralists for all their help during the study. This work was carried out under the Global Environmental Research Fund of Japan’s Ministry of the Environment (No. G-071).

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Correspondence to Kaoru Kakinuma.

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Kakinuma, K., Sasaki, T., Jamsran, U. et al. Relationship Between Pastoralists’ Evaluation of Rangeland State and Vegetation Threshold Changes in Mongolian Rangelands. Environmental Management 54, 888–896 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-014-0341-8

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Keywords

  • Grazing intensity
  • Local knowledge
  • Mobility
  • Rangeland management
  • Threshold concept
  • Vegetation changes