Wetlands International will work on a Strategic Plan for peatland restoration and sustainable management in Mongolia, funded by the Asian Development Bank. Mongolia’s peatlands preserve permafrost and other water reserves in high mountains which prevents desertification and supports livelihoods and biodiversity downstream. They are also the most productive pastures and important carbon stores. Their current rapid loss leads to disasters for people and their cattle during long periods of droughts.
The peatlands of Mongolia cover almost 2% of the country and are located in large river valleys and highlands. These naturally wet ecosystems accumulate a lot of precipitation, serving as water storage basins. As such they maintain wet habitats and pastures, feed rivers, prevent soil erosion, maintain levels of groundwater necessary for forest and crop growth, and keep wells full of water.
The overgrazing of peatlands and mining for gold, wolfram and molybdenum since the late 1990s, are however threatening the peatlands. Combined with increased periods of drought causing forest fires and permafrost thawing, thousands of hectares of peatlands in the Orkhon, Ider and Onon valleys and Darkhat intermountain basin and a number of other areas have been lost.
Role of peatlands not addressed in land use planning to date
Today, the information regarding the distribution, natural functions, threats, and status of peatlands in Mongolia is insufficient and poor. This contributes to the lack of attention to peatlands in national development plans and land use planning.
Wetlands International and its partners will therefore implement a rapid assessment study, build capacity of key stakeholders at the national and local levels, and identify national priority actions for sustainable peatlands management in Mongolia.
Large source of greenhouse gas emissions
The carbon emissions from Mongolia’s peatlands are estimated at up to 45 million tons per year which makes Mongolia the seventh largest global emitter of CO2 from degrading peatlands. These are not yet included in Mongolia’s total net GHG greenhouse gas communications, which in 2006 amounted to only 15.6 million tons of CO2 equivalent, largely from the energy sector. The up-to-date overview of the distribution and status of peatlands in Mongolia is urgently needed to improve estimation of GHG emissions and formulate priority actions.
The project supports the work of the Mongolian Ministry of Environment, Green Development and Tourism. Wetlands International will lead implementation of the project in collaboration with the Institute of General and Experimental Biology of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Geography of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, MonMap Ltd and SarVision.
The project builds on Wetlands International’s existing partner network in Mongolia and the results of a peatland survey work implemented by Wetlands International experts and local partners starting as early as 2002.