Please wait a minute...
Journal of Arid Land  2015, Vol. 7 Issue (4): 450-461    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-015-0001-8
Research Articles     
Spatial and temporal variability in vegetation cover of Mongolia and its implications
Sumiya VANDANDORJ1, Batdelger GANTSETSEG1, Bazartseren BOLDGIV2*
1 Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment, Ulaanbaatar 210646, Mongolia;
2 Ecology Group, Department of Biology, School of Arts and Sciences, National University of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar 14201, Mongolia
Download:   PDF(575KB)
Export: BibTeX | EndNote (RIS)      

Abstract  In this paper, we attempted to determine the most stable or unstable regions of vegetation cover in Mongolia and their spatio-temporal dynamics using Terra/MODIS Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) dataset, which had a 250-m spatial resolution and comprised 6 periods of 16-day composited temporal resolution data (from 10 June to 13 September) for summer seasons from 2000 to 2012. We also used precipitation data as well as biomass data from 12 meteorological stations located in 4 largest natural zones of Mongolia. Our study showed that taiga and forest steppe zones had relatively stable vegetation cover because of forest characteristics and relatively high precipitation. The highest coefficient of variation (CV) of vegetation cover occurred frequently in the steppe and desert steppe zones, mainly depending on variation of precipitation. Our results showed that spatial and temporal variability in vegetation cover (NDVI or plant biomass) of Mongolia was highly dependent on the amount, distribution and CV of precipitation. This suggests that the lowest inter-annual CV of NDVI can occur during wet periods of growing season or in high precipitation regions, while the highest inter-annual CV of NDVI can occur during dry periods and in low precipitation regions. Although the desert zone received less precipitation than other natural zones of the country, it had relatively low variation compared to the steppe and desert steppe, which could be attributed to the very sparse vegetation in the desert.

Key wordssoil N mineralization      soil temperature      soil moisture      Stipa krylovii grassland     
Received: 26 June 2014      Published: 10 August 2015

his study was funded by the Green Gold Phase IV Project of the Swiss Development Cooperation Agency. A partial support for this study has also been provided by the Asia Research Center, Mongolia.

Corresponding Authors: Bazartseren BOLDGIV     E-mail:,
Cite this article:

Sumiya VANDANDORJ, Batdelger GANTSETSEG, Bazartseren BOLDGIV. Spatial and temporal variability in vegetation cover of Mongolia and its implications. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(4): 450-461.

URL:     OR

Bai Y F, Wu J G, Xing Q M, et al. 2008. Primary production and rain use efficiency across a precipitation gradient on the Mongolia plateau. Ecology, 89(8): 2140–2153.

Barbosa H A, Huete A R, Baethgen W E. 2006. A 20-year study of NDVI variability over the Northeast Region of Brazil. Journal of Arid Environments, 67(2): 288–307.

Batbold A, Natsagdorj L. 2013. Assessment of Mongolian desertifi¬cation status using vegetation indices. In: Sarantuya G, Gombolu¬udev P. Proceeding of Regional Climate Change and Desertification. Mandalgobi: ADMON, 14–20.

Campos-Arceiz A, Takatsuki S, Lhagvasuren B. 2004. Food overlap between Mongolian gazelles and livestock in Omnogobi, southern Mongolia. Ecological Research, 19(4): 455–460.

Dagvadorj D, Natsagdorj L, Dorjpurev J, et al. 2009. MARCC 2009: Mongolia assessment report on climate change 2009. Ulaanbaatar: Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism, 39–40.

Dash D. 2000. Landscape-Ecological Problems of Mongolia. Ulaanbaatar: Urlakh Erdem, 21–54.

Erdenebaatar B. 1996. Socio-economic aspects of the pastoral movement patterns of Mongolian herders. In: Humphrey C, Sneath D. Culture and Environment in Inner Asia. Cambridge: The White Horse Press, 58–110.

Fang J, Piao S, Tang Z, et al. 2001. Inter-annual variability in net primary production and precipitation. Science, 293(5536): 1723.

Fernandez-Gimenez M E. 2002. Spatial and social boundaries and the paradox of pastoral land tenure: a case study from postsocialist Mongolia. Human Ecology, 30(1): 49–78.

Fernandez-Gimenez M E. 2006. Land use and land tenure in Mongolia: A brief history and current issues. Rangelands of Central Asia: Proceedings of the Conference on Transformations, Issues, and Future Challenges. USDA Forest Service Proceedings, 30–36.

Hilker T, Natsagdorj E, Waring R H, et al. 2013. Satellite observed widespread decline in Mongolian grasslands largely due to overgrazing. Global Change Biology, 20(2): 418–428.

Hirano A, Toriyama K, Komiyama H. 2006. Spatiotemporal character¬ization of Mongolian grassland based on vegetation trend analysis. Asian Association on Remote Sensing-Proceedings, A2–A8.

Ito T Y, Miura N, Lhagvasuren B, et al. 2005. Preliminary evidence of a barrier effect of a railroad on the migration of Mongolian gazelles. Conservation Biology, 19(3): 945–948.

Johnson D A, Sheehy D P, Miller D, et al. 2006. Mongolian rangelands in transition. Secheresse, 17(1): 133–141.

Kang L, Han X, Zhang Z, et al. 2007. Grassland ecosystems in China: review of current knowledge and research advancement. Philoso¬phical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 362(1842): 997–1008.

Karnieli A, Bayasgalan M, Bayarjargal Y, et al. 2006. Comments on the use of the vegetation health index over Mongolia. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 27(10): 2017–2024.

Knapp A K, Smith M D. 2001. Variation among biomes in temporal dynamics of aboveground primary production. Science, 291(5503): 481–484.

Latchininsky A V. 1995. Grasshopper problems in Yacutia (Eastern siberia, Russia) grasslands. Journal of Orthoptera Research, 29–34.

Latchininsky A V. 1997. Grasshopper control in Siberia: strategies and perspectives. New Strategies in Locust Control, 493–502.

Leimgruber P, McShea W J, Brookes C J, et al. 2001. Spatial patterns in relative primary productivity and gazelle migration in the Eastern Steppes of Mongolia. Biological Conservation, 102(2): 205–212.

Liancourt P, Spence L A, Boldgiv B, et al. 2012. Vulnerability of the northern Mongolian steppe to climate change: insights from flower production and phenology. Ecology, 93(4): 815–824.

Lin M L, Chu C M, Shi J Y, et al. 2006. Assessment and monitoring of desertification using satellite imagery of MODIS in East Asia. In: Kuligowski R J, Parihar J S, Saito G. Proceedings of SPIE 6411, Agric¬ulture and Hydrology Applications of Remote Sensing, 641123: 1–9

Liu Y Y, Evans J P, McCabe M F, et al. 2013. Changing climate and overgrazing are decimating Mongolian steppes. PLoS One, 8(2): e57599.

Marin A. 2010. Riders under storms: contributions of nomadic herders’ observations to analysing climate change in Mongolia. Global Environmental Change, 20(1): 162–176.

Mueller T, Olson K A, Fuller T K, et al. 2008. In search of forage: predicting dynamic habitats of Mongolian gazelles using satellite- based estimates of vegetation productivity. Journal of Applied Ecology, 45(2): 649–658.

Nicholson S E, Davenport M L, Malo A R. 1990. A comparison of the vegetation response to rainfall in the Sahel and East Africa, using normalized difference vegetation index from NOAA AVHRR. Climatic Change, 17(2–3): 209–241.

NSO. 2013. Mongolian Statistical Year Book. Ulaanbaatar: National Statistics Office of Mongolia.

Oesterheld M, Loreti J, Semmartin M, et al. 2001. Inter-annual variation in primary production of a semi-arid grassland related to previous- year production. Journal of Vegetation Science, 12(1): 137–142.

Oindo B O, Skidmore A K. 2002. Interannual variability of NDVI and species richness in Kenya. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 23(2): 285–298.

Olson K A, Fuller T K, Schaller G B, et al. 2005. Estimating the population density of Mongolian gazelles Procapra gutturosa by driving long-distance transects. Oryx, 39(2): 164–169.

Olson K A, Fuller T K, Mueller T, et al. 2010. Annual movements of Mongolian gazelles: nomads in the Eastern Steppe. Journal of Arid Environments, 74(11): 1435–1442.

Sanders H L, Hessler R R. 1969. Ecology of the deep-sea benthos. Science, 163: 1419.

Spence L A, Liancourt P, Boldgiv B, et al. 2014. Climate change and grazing interact to alter flowering patterns in the Mongolian steppe. Oecologia, 175(1): 251–260.

Sternberg T. 2010. Unravelling Mongolia’s extreme winter disaster of 2010. Nomadic Peoples, 14(1): 72–86.

Sternberg T, Thomas D, Middleton N. 2011. Drought dynamics on the Mongolian steppe, 1970–2006. International Journal of Climatology, 31(12): 1823–1830.

Tachiiri K, Shinoda M, Klinkenberg B, et al. 2008. Assessing Mongolian snow disaster risk using livestock and satellite data. Journal of Arid Environments, 72(12): 2251–2263.

Tilman D. 1996. Biodiversity: population versus ecosystem stability. Ecology, 77(2): 350–363.

Von Wehrden H, Wesche K. 2007. Relationships between climate, productivity and vegetation in southern Mongolian drylands. Basic and Applied Dryland Research, 1(2): 100–120.

Wang J, Rich P M, Price K P. 2003. Temporal responses of NDVI to precipitation and temperature in the central Great Plains, USA. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 24(11): 2345–2364.

Webb W L, Lauenroth W K, Szarek S R, et al. 1983. Primary production and abiotic controls in forests, grasslands, and desert ecosystems in the United States. Ecology, 64(1): 134–151.

Xin Z, Xu J, Zheng W. 2008. Spatiotemporal variations of vegetation cover on the Chinese Loess Plateau (1981–2006): impacts of climate changes and human activities. Science in China Series D: Earth Sciences, 51(1): 67–78.

Yoshihara Y, Ito T Y, Lhagvasuren B, et al. 2008. A comparison of food resources used by Mongolian gazelles and sympatric livestock in three areas in Mongolia. Journal of Arid Environments, 72(1): 48–55.

Zhang Z, Pech R, Davis S, et al. 2003. Extrinsic and intrinsic factors determine the eruptive dynamics of Brandt’s voles Microtus brandti in Inner Mongolia, China. Oikos, 100(2): 299–310.

Zhao X, Hu H F, Shen H H, et al. 2014. Satellite-indicated long-term vegetation changes and their drivers on the Mongolian Plateau. Landscape Ecology, doi: 10.1007/s10980-014-0095-y.

Zhong W, Wang M, Wan X. 1999. Ecological management of Brandt’s vole (Microtus brandti) in Inner Mongolia, China. Ecologic¬ally-based Rodent Management. ACIAR Monograph, 59: 119–214.
[1] ZHANG Chaobo, LIU Yating, LIU Pengchong, JIANG Jing, YANG Qihong. Untangling the influence of soil moisture on root pullout property of alfafa plant[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(4): 666-675.
[2] ZHENG Jing, FAN Junliang, ZOU Yufeng, Henry Wai CHAU, ZHANG Fucang. Ridge-furrow plastic mulching with a suitable planting density enhances rainwater productivity, grain yield and economic benefit of rainfed maize[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(2): 181-198.
[3] Hai ZHU, Shunjun HU, Jingsong YANG, KARAMAGE Fidele, Hao LI, Sihua FU. Spatio-temporal variation of soil moisture in a fixed dune at the southern edge of the Gurbantunggut Desert in Xinjiang, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(5): 685-700.
[4] Jun ZHANG, Peng DONG, Haoyu ZHANG, Chaoran MENG, Xinjiang ZHANG, Jianwei HOU, Changzhou WEI. Low soil temperature reducing the yield of drip irrigated rice in arid area by influencing anther development and pollination[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(3): 419-430.
[5] Qingyin ZHANG, Xiaoxu JIA, Chunlei ZHAO, Ming'an SHAO. Revegetation with artificial plants improves topsoil hydrological properties but intensifies deep-soil drying in northern Loess Plateau, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(3): 335-346.
[6] Xiaobo GU, Yuannong LI, Yadan DU. Film-mulched continuous ridge-furrow planting improves soil temperature, nutrient content and enzymatic activity in a winter oilseed rape field, Northwest China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(3): 362-374.
[7] Minhua YIN, Yuannong LI, Yuanbo XU, Changming ZHOU. Effects of mulches on water use in a winter wheat/summer maize rotation systemin Loess Plateau, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(2): 277-291.
[8] Hui TIAN, IQBAL Mudassar. Utilizing a new soil effective temperature scheme and archived satellite microwave brightness temperature data to estimate surface soil moisture in the Nagqu region, Tibetan Plateau of China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(1): 84-100.
[9] Yuchen WANG, Zhengfu BIAN, Shaogang LEI, Yu ZHANG. Investigating spatial and temporal variations of soil moisture content in an arid mining area using an improved thermal inertia model[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2017, 9(5): 712-726.
[10] Fan YANG, Mamtimin ALI, Xinqian ZHENG, Qing HE, Xinghua YANG, Wen HUO, Fengchao LIANG, Shaoming WANG. Diurnal dynamics of soil respiration and the influencing factors for three land-cover types in the hinterland of the Taklimakan Desert, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2017, 9(4): 568-579.
[11] Lei HUANG. Spatial distribution of AgriophyllumsquarrosumMoq.(Chenopodiaceae) in the straw checkerboards at a revegetated land of the Tengger Desert, northern China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2017, 9(2): 176-187.
[12] GANTSETSEG Batdelger, ISHIZUKA Masahide, KUROSAKI Yasunori, MIKAMI Masao. Topographical and hydrological effects on meso-scale vegetation in desert steppe, Mongolia[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2017, 9(1): 132-142.
[13] SONG Xiaodong, ZHANG Ganlin, LIU Feng, LI Decheng, ZHAO Yuguo, YANG Jinling. Modeling spatio-temporal distribution of soil moisture by deep learning-based cellular automata model[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2016, 8(5): 734-748.
[14] HUANG Jin, GAO Zhijuan, CHEN Ji, ZHANG He, XU Bingcheng. Diurnal and seasonal variations of soil respiration rate under different row-spacing in a Panicum virgatum L. field on semi-arid Loess Plateau of China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2016, 8(3): 341-349.
[15] HU Guojie, ZHAO Lin, WU Xiaodong, LI Ren, WU Tonghua, XIE Changwei,QIAO Yongping, SHI Jianzong, CHENG Guodong. An analytical model for estimating soil temperature profiles on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau of China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2016, 8(2): 232-240.