Daurian Steppe: Global 200 Eco-region

This area split between Mongolia, China and Russia constitutes one of the best-preserved examples of Eurasian grassland and this region continues to support huge populations of larger migratory vertebrates. It is also an important breeding and stopover site for millions of birds on several Asian flyways.

Many Amur-Heilong tributaries cross the region forming wetland-grassland landscapes that withstand the periodic droughts common in this climate. This cyclical climate fluctuation causes greater biodiversity and triggers migrations of many animal species. Steppe and forest-steppe eco-regions of Dauria have close ecological interconnections that are especially evident in relation to cyclical climate changes.

Some hill slopes and river banks support dense forest vegetation, but other areas have savanna-like forest-steppe that is characterized by crooked elms (Ulmus sp.) that are sparsely distributed over the dominant grassland. However non-forested steppe covers greater even expanses. Annual rainfall ranges widely, from 400 mm in the east to 200 mm in the southwest where ecosystems are especially vulnerable to climate change and wild fires. The increased frequency of droughts and human-induced water shortage, desertification, overgrazing, and wild fires are the most widespread and severe threats to regional ecosystems. Threats are further exacerbated by water demand arising from areas lying further to the south in Gobi deserts. Eco-region integrity has of late been threatened by several inter-basin water transfer project proposed in the Argun and Onon River basins in China and Mongolia. Adapting a growing economy to peculiar limitations imposed by fluctuating climate is the key to long-term conservation of this last great grassland.

Many unusual mammals inhabit this area. When not in hibernation, Daurian hedgehogs feed on rodents, lizards, insects, and plants. Herds of Mongolian gazelles numbering in the thousands gather to graze on the grassy hills. This is one of the last areas in the Palearctic that still supports stable herds of larger vertebrates. Short and stocky Pallas’ cats stalk birds and small mammals. Only here one can simultaneously watch six species of cranes feeding in one patch of wetland.

In 1994, the government departments of Russia, Mongolia, and China agreed to establish the China-Mongolia-Russia Dauria International Protected Area (DIPA). Three national reserves were included in this new transboundary protected area: Daursky Biosphere Reserve (Russia, 267,220 ha), Mongol Daguur Strictly Protected Area (Mongolia, 718,000 ha), and Dalai Lake Biosphere Reserve (China, 740,000 ha). With a total area of over 1.7 million ha, DIPA plays an important role in biodiversity conservation for the ecoregion. Managers of DIPA seek to protect floodplain wetlands in the middle reaches of the Argun River along the Russia-China border because these habitats merit urgent conservation measures as globally important breeding habitats for rare birds, and stop-over sites on East Asian flyways.

At least three distinctive eco-regions are found in this area:

Daurian forest steppe

Mongolian-Manchurian grassland

Nen River grassland

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