Integrated Assessment of the Effects of Climate and Land Use Change on Ecosystem Dynamics, Stability, and Resilience on the Mongolian Steppe
The grasslands of Northern China are the third largest in the world and support the world's largest population of sheep and goats, and fourth largest population of cattle. While livestock production in Northern China is increasing, the productivity of its grasslands is decreasing. At the same time, China's increasing human population is relying more heavily on meat and other products derived from Inner Mongolian livestock.
Changes in land use in the region are also placing increasing stress on these grassland ecosystems. Given increasing land use pressures on these ecosystems, changes in climatic patterns could have a more accentuated impact on the regional socioeconomics that are heavily tied to livestock productivity.
This study examines the relationships between climatic variation and vegetation phenological patterns at the ecosystem level. The effects of interannual variation in precipitation and temperature on the onset date of plant green-up were examined, across four ecosystems in Inner Mongolia including deciduous forest, meadow steppe, typical steppe, and desert steppe. Monitoring of plant phenological response was accomplished using high temporal resolution satellite remotely sensed data. The study period was from 1983-1990 in the Central Region of Inner Mongolia, China.
Our findings show that within each ecosystem, interannual climatic variation differentially influenced the timing of vegetation green-up. At the regional scale, general timing of green-up started first in the eastern portion of the study area and progressed to the west following a climatic gradient.