Ecosystems

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 1139–1151 | Cite as

Privatization, Drought, and Fire Exclusion in the Tuul River Watershed, Mongolia

  • Thomas Saladyga
  • Amy Hessl
  • Baatarbileg Nachin
  • Neil Pederson
Article

Abstract

Global wildfire frequency and extent are expected to increase under projected climate change in the twenty-first century, yet little is known about how human activities might affect this trend. In central Mongolia, there has been a 2.5°C rise in spring and summer temperatures during the last 40 years and a decrease in moisture availability during the latter half of the twentieth century. Concurrently, Mongolia has experienced multiple shifts in socioeconomic systems during the twentieth century, most notably the establishment of a Soviet-backed communist economy in the 1920s and a rapid transition to privatization in the 1990s. Observed records of fire in the late twentieth century suggested that fire activity had increased, but no long-term data existed to place these trends in a historical context. Our objective was to identify spatial and temporal patterns in fire occurrence in the forest-steppe ecotone of the Tuul River watershed in the context of changing climatic and social conditions since 1875. We used fire-scarred trees to reconstruct past fire occurrence during the period 1875–2009. Our results indicate a significant association between human activity and fire occurrence independent of climatic variables. The greatest evidence for an anthropogenic fire regime exists following the transition to a free market economy during the early 1990s when land-use intensification near the capital city of Ulaanbaatar resulted in fire exclusion. We emphasize the importance of including socio-political variables in global models of wildfire potential, particularly where fuels limit fire activity.

Keywords

Mongolia wildfire drought dendrochronology land use privatization 

Supplementary material

10021_2013_9673_MOESM1_ESM.docx (14 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 14 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Saladyga
    • 1
  • Amy Hessl
    • 2
  • Baatarbileg Nachin
    • 3
  • Neil Pederson
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of GeographyConcord UniversityAthensUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geology and GeographyWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA
  3. 3.Department of Forest SciencesNational University of MongoliaUlaanbaatarMongolia
  4. 4.Lamont-Doherty Earth ObservatoryColumbia UniversityPalisadesUSA

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