Lower forest-grassland ecotones and 20th Century livestock herbivory effects in northern Mongolia

Temuulen Tsagaan Sankey, Cliff Montagne, Lisa Graumlich, Rick Lawrence, Jerry Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


We studied five lower forest-grassland ecotones in the Darhad Valley in northern Mongolia and investigated the effects of 20th Century grazing regimes and changes in grazing management on ecotone dynamics at a local scale. A total of 2968 Siberian larch (Larix sibirica) trees were cored and tree-age distribution was constructed to determine 20th Century tree establishment. Tree age and location within the ecotones were correlated and seedling density and their distribution were explored to describe forest-grassland ecotone shift. To examine livestock herbivory effects on ecotone shift, the number of new trees was analyzed with five different grazing regimes and changes in grazing practices during the last 80 years in the Darhad Valley. We documented some evidence of ecotone shift into the adjacent grassland. Rates and patterns of ecotone shift varied with different grazing regimes. Siberian larch tree establishment was greater at overall grazing intensities of low and high levels, which were dominated by sheep and cattle grazing. In contrast, larch establishment was lower at overall grazing intensities of low and medium levels, which were dominated by goat grazing. Twentieth Century changes in grazing practices also influenced Siberian larch regeneration. An abrupt decline in Darhad Valley larch establishment during the 20th Century coincided with locally increased grazing pressure. Furthermore, regional climate variability showed important interaction with local grazing regimes in affecting larch regeneration. A 20th Century pulse in larch establishment coincided with a time period of regionally known warmer temperatures and locally reduced grazing pressure. Our results suggest that overall grazing intensity, livestock species composition, and changes in grazing patterns are important in understanding grazing effects on Siberian larch tree encroachment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-44
Number of pages9
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Forest-grassland ecotone
  • Grazing effects
  • Livestock herbivory
  • Mongolia
  • Siberian larch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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