An increase in average temperature in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion since the mid 1970’s is proved to be risen by 1.5°C in Russia. A hydrological survey of 2005 in Mongolia revealed clear signs of disappearing snowfields and shrinking glaciers, and the accompanying melting of permafrost caused landslides.
Extreme weather phenomena such as drought and severe winters occur and lead to the loss of wildlife such as a sharp reduction in the endemic saiga antelope population in Mongolia in 2003 (less than 800 saiga remain on a territory of 1.6 million hectares).
Mining and infrastructure development
A range of projects are currently being initiated in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion to develop mining industry and development of transport infrastructure such coal mining in Tuva – a remote and pristine corner of the Earth and railway construction to support it, gas pipe line construction for gas import from Russia to China along Plateau Ukok – an object of UNESCO World Nature heritage, mineral resources mining in one of argali key habitats in Altai.
As identified by WWF Gap analysis (2008-2010) in Mongolia hydro power plants might have fatal impact on river and lake ecosystems when filling of dams cuts of water supply to downstream placed lakes, wetlands and streams.
In 2007 at the Khor Sair site (Uvs aimag) gold mining was begun using particularly harmful methods which have influenced on argali population particularly by splitting up areas for breeding.
WWF recent research proved that annual poaching of animals and plants in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion annually exceeds legal norms.
The main reasons for poaching are hunting for food, trade (market demand for skins and bodies of the animals) and lack of enforcement control.
Elk, musk deer, argali, wolves, and bears are traded regularly into China. Marmot pelts are being traditional goods for illegal trade to Russia for many years because of high demand on the Russian market. Saiga is being hunted for its horns that are valued in Chinese medicine. Large falcon trading (ger falcon, saker falcon and peregrine falcon) exclusively connected with demand for hunting birds in Arab countries remains at previous levels of approximately 100 birds a year.
Snow leopards are under threat due to its fantastic skin and any other part of the body good for Asian medicine. Besides there is a conflict between a snow leopard and local herders who kill the predator for attacking the cattle in the corrals and pastures.
Stronger enforcement and alternative income options for improvement of livelihood are the most effective measures against the threat of poaching.
Traps confiscated from the poachers, Altai Mountains, Russia
Industrial exploitation has lead to deforestation in primary coniferous forest and their replacement with secondary soft woods in the northern and central parts of the Ecoregion.
Not a single area of forest has been certified in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion because the lion’s share of all timber is produced for the internal Russian or Chinese markets which do not require certified credentials of timber origin. The growing demand for timber and paper-cellulose production in China represents a serious threat to the region’s forests.
Fires pose a much greater threat to the Ecoregion’s forests. Due to a lack of timely measures many areas of forest destroyed by forest fires in steppe and forest-steppe zones are affected by aridity which is extremely difficult to counter.
In the semi-desert regions of the Mongolian part of the Altai-Sayan forests consist of shrubbery and trees specific to the area. Due to a lack of alternative fuel sources the local population uses forest vegetation as fire-wood. Extensive, unregulated exploitation leads to the gradual deforestation of the area whereas drought and aridity are becoming paramount threats to the Ecoregion’s Mongolian sector. According to an analysis carried out by the Mongolian Geo-ecological Institute the majority of aimags located in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion suffer from aridity.
The effect of livestock grazing on pasturage negatively impacts wild animals leading to decrease in population size, break up of habitat and increase in poaching. Recently there has been a tremendous increase in the number of livestock in Mongolia and, especially, in more aggressive grazers such as Cashmere goats. The related demand for pasture lands represents one of the main threats to the habitat of wild ungulates such as the Altai mountain sheep and Saiga antelope and gradually to the population size.
Water pollution and dam construction
Freshwater ecosystems in Mongolia are subject to increasing and multiplying threats from overgrazing, dams and irrigation systems, mining and gravel extraction, fuelled by weak water management policies and institutional frameworks.
There quite many dams were built on the rivers, however, most of them are not functioning and rests are working irregularly in ineffective way as well as changing natural condition of the river basin.