Among the three countries of the basin, only China has special legislation on grassland conservation. This is dictated by the much higher degree of degradation of grasslands in China. Land degradation is especially acute in China’s Song-Nen Plain and western Dauria. China’s Ministry of Agriculture has long promoted fencing to prevent grassland deterioration. Although fencing enables temporary recovery of grasses, it can disrupt migration of wildlife and the nomadic lifestyles of local herders.
Grassland protection began recently along the China-Mongolia border in the form of a cooperatively managed “green corridor.” The project started in 2004 and covers an area of 4,000 km2 on both sides of the border. Objectives include restoring grassland by planting grasses and preventing desertification by planting trees in shelter belts. China assists Mongolia by providing technical training, equipment, and planting materials.
Retaining and stimulating nomadic patterns of animal husbandry in Mongolia is a key task for ecological network planning in the Eastern Steppe. Deterioration of pastures near main roads and settlements has already led to the shrinkage of habitats for endangered wildlife and changes in migration patterns of some wild populations.
There is an urgent need to develop a cooperative strategy for grassland restoration and conservation, especially regarding habitat conservation for migratory wildlife such as the Mongolian gazelle. Reestablishment of this species in Russia would have been impossible without natural grassland corridors and absence of barbwire on the Russia Mongolia border within Dauria International Protected Area. At the same time, important populations in the northeastern corner of Mongolia are presently under threat because protection of species is not coordinated between the three countries and barbed-wire fences on the borders with Russia and China block migration routes. If unfavorable winter weather conditions provoke massive migration of animals northwards and eastwards they will die of hunger and stress being unable to cross the border. Even if animals do cross the border, they will be exterminated by poachers on unprotected territory. This is a classic task of ecological network planning to forecast and solve such problems.