Central Asia: Central Mongolia

These alpine meadows in central Mongolia’s Khangai Mountains are mostly level, broken only by occasional sharp peaks, including the highest in central Mongolia, Otgontenger (4031 m). The ecoregion features abundant streams and springs. Most of Mongolia’s rivers, including the Orkhon and Selenge rivers originate here. Due to the high altitude of this region, faunal diversity is relatively low. Species of note are the Altai pika, ibex, mountain hare and a number of smaller rodents. The ecoregion receives some protection due to its location within Khangai Nuruu National Park. However, the area is vulnerable to such threats as overgrazing by livestock, the rapid spread of logging industries, and recent developments in the mining industry.

  • Scientific Code
  • Ecoregion Category
  • Size
    14,300 square miles
  • Status
  • Habitats

Location and General Description
The average altitude of the mountain range is 2000-2500 m with peaks at 3200-3500 m. The highest peak, Otgontenger, stands at 4031 m above sea level. High mountain meadows above the tree line occur in the top part of the Khangai range at 2350-2800 m. These meadows have unique vegetation consisting of short bushes and thickets and tundra with lichen and moss. Average January and July temperatures are cooler than –20° C and +10° C, respectively. The average annual precipitation is over 400 mm. Coldish, coldish-dry and coldish-humid plants dominate due to presence of year-round ice, cool strong winds, a lack of a warm season, and high variation in daily temperature. The high plains of the Khangai mountain range are covered by ancient ice formation, so morraines, landslips and the remainings of it are clearly observable from surrounding areas. Scientists recently discovered that there are 5 periods of ice formation in the Khangai. Nowadays, however, the only location with permanent snow is Otgontenger Mountain (Ulziikhutag 1983).

Biodiversity Features
The vegetation of this ecoregion is comprised of plant species that are characteristic of both the Siberian taiga forest and the Mongolian steppe. Primary plant species include pine (Pinus silvestris), aspen (Populus tremuls), and edelweiss (Leontopodium ochroleucum) in lower parts of the range, while at higher altitudes above the tree line low schrubs and herbs, sedges, grasses, mosses, and algae and lichens can be found. Of special interest are spp. of Himalayan origin such as milkwort (Lancea tibetica) and Kobresia moujr. At the higher altitudes there are marshy meadows with Kobresi spp., Carex kobresia and various herbs.

Due to the high altitude, faunal diversity in this ecoregion is relatively low. The only species that occurs at a moderate density is the Altai pika (Ochotona alpina) though Ibex (Capra sibirica), mountain hare (Lepus timidus), and some small rodents can be found at lower densities (Tsevegmid & Tsendjav 1988). Notable bird species composition includes snowcock (Tetragallus altaicus) and dotterel (Eudromias morinellus).

Current Status
The Khangai Mountain alpine meadow and tundra ecoregion is adequately protected by Khangai Nuruu National Park (8,885,000 ha) which comprises the main ranges of this unique ecoregion.

Types and Severity of Threats
Overgrazing is a potential threat to the biodiversity and environment of this region. The number of livestock, which are a traditional income generator for the local community, is increasing in surrounding areas. This leads to the movement of wildlife populations (e.g., Ibex and Elk) to higher altitudes. In addition, the rapid spread of logging industries in recent years has led to altered river flows and changes in the patterns of animal distribution. The development of a gold mining industry in the past few years has also caused considerable problems for the integrity of this ecoregion.

Justification of Ecoregion Delineation
The Khangai Mountains in Central Mongolia are topographically isolated from other mountains in Middle Asia. The line delineation corresponds to the Khangai high mountain region in Hilbig (1995) and the Mongolia Ministry for Nature and Environment (1996).

Bold, A. 1969. Bird research report of Khangai mountain region, Ulaanbaatar (in Mongolian).

Dulamtseren, D. and D. Tsendjav. 1989. Mammals of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar (in Mongolian).

Gunin.P. D., E. A. Vostocova, and E. N. Matushkin. 1998. Preservation of ecosystems of inner Asia. Russian-Mongolian joint complex expedition, Moscow (in Mongolian).

Hilbig, W. 1995. The vegetation of Mongolia. SPB Academic Publishing, Amsterdam.

Mongolia Ministry for Nature and Environment, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/Global Environment Facility (GEF), and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). 1996. Mongolia’s Wild Heritage, edited by C. Finch. Avery Press, Boulder, Colorado.

Murzaev. E. M. 1962. Geography of Mongolian People’s Republic, Moscow (in Russian).

Sokolov, V. E. and A. Bold. editors. 1996. Rare species of Mongolia (vertebrates) (In Mongolian).

Tsevegmed, S. 1969. Geography of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar (in Mongolian).

Ulziikhutag, N. 1989. Flora of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar (in Mongolian).

UNDP. 1998. Biological diversity of Mongolia (National Report), Ulaanbaatar. MNE, UNDP, GEF.

Prepared by: Bolor Radnaabazar
Reviewed by: Batbold D. Otgoid