Vast terrains dominated by grasses, shrubs or sparse trees, rangelands are more than unproductive places where reticent herders graze their livestock and wildlife browse dry — or green, if lucky — meadows. They host about a quarter of Earth’s human population, provide forage to some 75% of domesticated livestock, and contribute to economies, especially in less industrialized countries. Yet, their potential for mitigating climate change is generally undervalued. After decades of underestimating the role of local peoples, if not neglecting their knowledge altogether, scientists are increasingly including traditional ecological knowledge in their assessments. With her team, a Mongolian ecologist is at the forefront in this change. A herder with his camel in the Gobi Desert. Image courtesy of ZSL. Rangelands, a landscape dominated by uncertainties Prairies, steppes, desert shrublands, savannas and tundras — the various types of rangelands — cover about 40% of the Earth’s continental area, not including Antarctica. They also store some 10-30% of global carbon in Earth’s soils. But some rangelands are under threat. Scientists warn that the Mongolian steppe is creeping toward an ecological and cultural tipping point. Climate change together with increased livestock and grazing are inducing plant species shifts and loss. Though irreversible degradation thresholds have not yet been crossed, there is an urgent need for reducing pressures and supporting local economies to adapt to changes. Tunga Ulambayar, country director of the Mongolian office of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), has pioneered environmental conservation in Mongolia since the early 1990s, when the nation…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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