With its rolling hills, vast open plains and arid deserts, Mongolia’s Eastern Steppe is one of Asia’s last grassland wildernesses. Great migratory herds of Mongolian gazelle roam here along with 5,000 critically endangered Saiga antelopes and several species of birds. Covering 860,000km2 large amounts of the land on the Steppe is government-owned pasture and used by the 20,000 nomadic herder families living in small communities dotted across the eastern part of the landscape. These pastoralists depend directly on the fragile steppe landscape and its many ecosystem services – from grass to water to wildlife.
However, overgrazing and climate change is drying out the water resources in the region. The Mongolian Steppe faces one of the highest rates of global warming of any landscape. In this hotter drier climate, as the population of livestock increases there is a sharp decrease in grazing land.
WWF-Mongolia is working with herders, children’s Eco Clubs and local communities to shift to more sustainable grazing practices and to protect vital water sources. So far more than 20 natural springs have been protected, ensuring that livestock, wildlife and people can all access the water on which they depend. This water also nourishes nature, allowing grasses to regrow and offer vital ecosystem services.