Daurian Steppe Wetlands of the Amur-Heilong River Basin (Russia, China, and Mongolia)
Dauria lies in the northern part of Central Asia and is ecologically strongly dependent on climate changes. Most of the Daurian steppe area is situated in Northeast China and East Mongolia; the Russian part is confined to Zabaikalsky Province and Buryat Republic. The area possesses a very high level of biodiversity for a steppe zone and is included in the Global 200 Ecoregions of the World as Dauria Steppe, which according to WWF covers the Nenjiang River grassland, the Daurian forest steppe, the Mongolian-Manchurian steppe, and the Selenge-Orkhon forest steppe ecoregions. These grassland areas are united by geographic location, annual and multiyear rhythms in ecological factors, and structure and composition of communities. The Daurian steppe’s natural climate cycle with a span of 25–40 years is the major force shaping regional ecosystems and peoples’ lifestyles. Each waterbody has its own drying and filling dynamics, depending on its depth, volume, hydrogeology, and location. In terms of freshwater ecosystems, Eastern Dauria is divided into three principal freshwater ecoregions, the Shilka River, the Argun River, and the endorheic basins of which the Torey Lakes/Uldz River basin is the most prominent. The principal wetlands of Eastern Dauria include the Argun River floodplain; the Hui and Moergol River floodplains; Dalai Lake and Ulan Lake; Buir Lake; and the Torey Lakes and Ulz River. The greatest management challenge is in ensuring proper water allocation to wetlands basin-wide. Despite the fact that bilateral agreements on transboundary waters exist between all three countries of the basin, they do not provide for wetland conservation, sustaining environmental flows, or adaptation to climate change. The lack of transboundary coordination in planning water use and regional development is leading toward drastic irreversible deterioration of Dauria’s environment and loss of opportunities to adapt to a changing climate. Key measures required to reverse these negative trends are described.
KeywordsDauria Wetland dynamics Steppe Amur River basin Migratory waterbirds
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