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A multipurpose ecological mapping and evaluation of Mongolian nature based on Remote Sensing and ground data

Dr. M. Saandar, Dr. D. Guntn
Remote Sensing and Geo-Information Center
Ulaanbaator, Mongolia

The growing negative tendencies changing the Mongolian nature has led to the undertaking of research works on ecological mapping and overall evaluation of the environmental situation as well as on the country’s natural resources.

These studies were initially launched in 1988 and are planned to be completed in 1993. This project is aimed at the mapping of human -made degradation occurred in the Mongolian natural environment in scale 1:1, 000,000 and 1:200,000 based on remote sensing data .

On the basis of the evaluation and results to be under this project, we dream it is necessary to elaborate foreign and national institutions a scientifically well – sounded concept on national ecologically critical situations in different regions of Mongolia and to put the resources management on an environmentally safe footing.

The remote sensing based Mongolia natural resources information system assembles available data on features of the natural environment of Mongolia and was designed to assist decisions in policies on resource use at a Central Asia Continental scale.

2. Introduction
The map “Modern condition of ecosystems of Mongolia” on based remote sensing data represents the fundamental cartographic work that gives an information about ecological situation in the whole country and different regions. The analyses of the map may provide obtaining representative data regarding the degree of the anthropogenic pressure on the environment.

The map shows ecological relations in the system “man-industry-environment” of the different regions and may serve as a reliable cartographic source for developing regional ecological programs and plans for the separate branches of industry, for investigating of the large-scale building sites. The map “Modern condition of ecosystems of Mongolia ” is a foundation for development of the programs on the environmental protection and its execution . Also this map is a document, that is necessary for development of the regional (aimak) plans if the rational land exploitation.

The map shows different kinds of the anthropogenic influence, the reaction of nature, the transformation degree of ecological situation in 1990-1991 years. Mongolia is a country with different contrast and mosaic land scapes. It is super catena in which forest ecosystems of Siberian type are mixed with steppen and extraaring ecosystems of central Asian type. As a result of marked degree of gypsometric height (average altitude in Mongolia equals 1589m), peculiar orographic estrangement from moist air streams, long season influence of formed here anticyclone and other factors, all developing ecosystems intensified their vulnerability, little adaptation, ecologic unstability during development. There is world watershed between rivers of Arctic ocean and indranaged regions of central Asia, which cover 2/3 of the coubtry area, in Mongolian lands. Mongolia is one of a few countries, in which due to natural function. The main ecological damage in the conditions of the traditional pastorage is the gegetation violation, but there are the local areas of soils, urbane territories and mining industry zones with intensibve anthropogenic influence.

Increase of anthropogenic pressure and duration is extended in areas of transformed ecosystems.

Regions with bad ecological conditions influencing on human health arise. Space photo information was used for developing operative cartographic model being made up as inventory of ecosystems in different ranges increases the degree of correct interpretation of ecological data of the photographs. Selected control of obtained results was carried out inexpeditions during route inspection of areas.

The object of exploration was ecosystem, I.e. region with certain nature conditions of existing of complex parts.

The subjects of exploration were properties of ecosystems and its parts, previously vegetation and soil defining the basis of ecosystems.

The map or ecosystems of 1:1,000,000 scale means zonal and altitudal state of nature complexes.

More than 300 types of ecosystems were determined on the map.

There ecosystems were classified according to distribution of soil, vegetation and forms of relief.

Ecosystems were evaluated according to pressure of various anthropogenic factors: forestry, agriculture, pasturage, settlement -industry, transport and other. After analysis of informativiy of some characteristics and indexes of ecosystem condition about 10 main degradation process criteria was chosen and was used for inspection. For example, the soil violation was characterized by decreasing of plant viability, phytocenonis.

Integral indexes of ecosystem transformation were laid in the foundation of the “Anthropogenic violation degree”.

Two problems were resolved during the developing of synthetic cartographic model “Modern conditions of Mongolia ecosystems” :to show the influenced of geographic characteristics on space differentiation of ecosystems and to show the depending of anthropogenic transformation degree on type of land use.

Increasing of map informativity demands combination of various cartographic methods. color reflects zonal and altitudinal type of the ecosystems .

To show zonal and altitudinal situation of depicted objects several color patterns were used.

The background (25 types) shows geomorphologic conditions of the ecosystems. Every selected contours has received integral anthropogenic violation gegree estimation in a 5-point scale: most violated ecosystems are colored lighter, less violated ecosystems have more intensive colors many factors of anthropogenic violation sere shown: pasturage, plugging, transport, and others.

The key to the map, having more than 300 types of ecosystems, consists, of tables, combined in three main parts: “Natural and natural- anthropogenic ecosystems”, “Anthropogenic ecosystems” and “Anthropogenic violation degree of ecosystems”. In Addison to that the tendencies of natural and anthropogenic stimulated processes, geographical state are also shown by extra-scale conventional signs. All the map are elaborated on 1f4 sheets of 1:1,000,000 scale and matrix key, which is a result of 20 years work of joint soviet-,Mongolian complex biological expedition of academy of sciences of the USSR and Academy of sciences of Mongolia .

The position of Mongolia in the bounds of sub-continental structures of central Asia, south Siberia, Far East, at the interface between several sub-regions allows to forecast the consequences of different anthropogenic influences in these regions and consider fulfilled investigations as an example for the corresponding regions. The map “Modern condition of ecosystems of Mongolia “on based remote sensing data in the new type of work.

The method of its developing may be used for monitoring of local, regional and global environment.

3. Results and Discussuion
The map of modern ecosystems and evaluation of their anthropogenic violation compiled in scale 1:1,000,000 by joint Russian Mongolian complex Biological expedition is intended for reflecting the condition of the soil and vegetation cover and the wild life with consideration of the degree of anthropogenic influence due to purposive land exploitation, or to unintended violation of ecological situation. As a whole the map provides information on natural regulations of space distribution and quality and quantity correlation of the main nature complexes.

The analyses of the map may provide obtaining representative data on the condition of ecosystems and making a forecast for their change in connection with the anthropogenic pressure. The information presented in the map may serve a scientific foundation for making economic decisions, for wild life and soil protection planning for rational land explotation. The quantity indexes of the violation degree of ecosystems of different administrative districts And areas ( aimaks and sums) of the country, which may also be obtained with the help of the map, will be important material both for ecological and economic evaluation of the damage to nature and for correction of the socio-economics programs. Thus, the compiled map is multi-purpose in this nature with scientific and applied functions most easily foreseen.

The main principle of creating the map was a system approach to the depicted objects. The peculiarity of the is that is based on ecosystem data, i.e. the inventarization, map of modern ecosystems served a bases for further estimation of the degree of their anthropogenic violation . So, the map has two levels: the modern ecosystems are reflected on the first and estimation of the degree of anthropogenic influence at the territory occupied by certain ecosystem (or a part of it ) Is presented on the other.

An important feature of the present map is the naturalness of the limits of the depicted objects, Which were achieved with wide utilization of space photo information.

As it was the first map of that kind for Mongolia the following demands were met during the work: -Reflecting only present ecosystems existing before (the intensive anthropogenic influence) -reflecting main peculiarities of distribution of soil and vegetation in accordance with the principal forms of relief the character of the surface deposits, their water provision and drainage, as well as the altitude and zonal situation taken in accordance with meridian sectored; – reflecting water ecosystems in accordance with the prophity of the water body, its regime and degree of mineralizing of the water; -reflecting artificial anthropogenic ecosystems (economic and cultural ones) as well as territories affected by negative exogenic processes both of natural and artificial origin.

The level of depicted ecosystems was determined from the scale of the map compiled. The ecosystems were mainly selected as corresponding to a certain type of landscape or as a group of typical landscapes. Thus, the main cartographical units were ecosystems as an aggregate of simpler ecosystems identic with biogeocenosis of sukatchev. The dffepicted ecosystems reflect regularities of space correlation of soil vegetation cover and its links with physical and geographical condition, chiefly with the relief and indirectly, with the water Provision.

The smallest contours selected on the map equals to 4mm, which corresponds to 4 space kilometers in nature.

The main criterian was the selection of correlated systems of mesorelief and ecologically close plant communities (table 1).

The utilization of space photographs and photo-planes of the scale 1:1,000,000 helped to re reliably frame such elementary (for map of such scale ) ecosystems in their modern conditions . The analyses of the selected ecosystems has shown that the majority of them; is of natural or anthropogenic-natural origin, which did not suffer any irriwersible damage along with natural and anthropogenic-natural ecosystems there are natural-anthropogenic and anthropogenic (technogenic) systems, which differ by the degree of violation the initial natural ecosystems. when selecting natural and anthrdopogenic-natural, i.e. anthropogenic modifications of natural ecosystems the main distinguishing character was the figured of photo reflection of relief mesoforms on space photographs. Further classification was made taking into consideration the dominant plant communities, reflecting the altitudinal situation in the mountains, and situation in the mountains, and zonal situation in the plains.

Table 1 Criterian of modern ecosystem selection

Modern ecosystems criteria of selection
Natural (anthropogenic-natural) Automorphic (eluvial, -transitive accumulative Character of relief mesoforms, altitudinal or zonal situation, dcontent of plant communities, ecobiotic .-transitive forms of vegetation in consideration with the content of surface deposits and soils.
Hydromorphic (transitive, transitive-acumulative, accumulative) Relief mesoforms, altitudinal and zonal situation, ecogenetic Plant successions with dominant phreatophytes and hydro-and hydrophytes
Water (transitive: rivers, Accumulative-transitive, Lakes with flowing water, Accumulative:lakes) Flowability of water body and its trophity general mineralization Of water character of water regime (temporary, drying up )
Anthropogenic (natural -anthropogenic, technogenic Type of natural resource use (land, vegetation, water ), intensity and duration of influence, character of inter and intra-land scapes Violation (reversible or irreversible), suppose duration of relaxation.

The selected types of ecosystems are divided into two unequal groups :natural and anthropogehic-natural on one hand, and natural -anthropogenic and anthropogenic (including technogenic ), on

The other hand. In the cartographical part of the Mongolian territory the natural and anthrdopogenic natural ecosystems occupy the dominant position. Among these unequal groups are to be distinguished according to the type of water regime, the dominant role of certain Ecological groups of plants and animals, the types geochemical flows of suhnstance: 1) automorphic and semi hydeomorphic ecosystems (eluvial, transitive -eluvial, accumulative-transitive); accumulative-transitive, accumulative-transitive ); 2)hydeomorphic (transitive, accumulative -transitive, accumulative ); 3) hydroecosystems of rivers and lakes (transitive and accumulative) . The greatest diversity is characteristic the first group of ecosystems.

Automorphic ecosystems occupy both mountains and plains. In the mountains all ecosystems are divided in accordance with their location in certain altitudinal levels: whereas in the plains their type depends on altitudinal, zonal location, which is also applicable for low lands and hilly areas.

About 400 ecosystems are determined on the map, with highest diversity stated for steppes and semi deserts (northern deserts). If all the variants of ecosystems reflecting peculiarities of the vegetation cover are to be considered their number will be over 900 (Tabel 2).

In the steppes and arid ecosystems the biological component ( soil and vegetation cover) was classified in accordance with the content of surface deposits. This may loamy sandy, loamy, stony, sandy and solonchakous biotopes were determined.

Table 2 Numbered of automorphic and semi hydromorphic ecosystems in Different altitudes and zones

Groups of ecosystems in accordance With their zonal and altitudal state number of units
in the mountains in the plants Total
natural mountain naval 1   1
Tundra 9   9
cryophyte-meadow-steppe (mountain meadow) 19   19
Forest : high mountain taiga 4   4
Mountain taiga and sub taiga 15   15
Forest-steppe 9   9
Meadow-steppe 8 9 17
Steppe :moderately dry 24 20 44
Dry 19 21 40
Semi desert steppe 24 29 53
Desert :semi desert (north desert ) 21 23 44
Steppeficated (medial desert) 12 10 28
Real desert (south desert) 6 22 28
Extra arid 5 12 17

For each type of automouphic ecosystem a list of the main ecologically similar plant communities often substituting each other due to meridional position is presented. Hydeomorphic ecosystems were classified in accordance and zonal principle more generally owing to the smoothing of the hydrosphere.

Hydroecosystems are classified according to the main ecological factors of their existence, i.e. the character of water. That is why these ecosystems are divided into groups in accordance with flowability of the water body and its trophity.

The results of such classification of natural and anthropogenic- natural ecosystems are reflected in the key.

The classification of natural – anthropogenic and anthropogenic ecosystems was based on determination of the dominant factor that influences the natural ecosystem, i.e. . the type of land use. In the main types of natural resources utilization are fixed as flows: agriculture, forestry, Forestry, settlement- industry, including minding transport. These different in the intensity and the character influences lead to formation of agriecosystems, ruderal, cultural -ruderal and cultural ecosystems.

To estimate the degree of anthropogenic violation of ecosystem special criteria were elaborated that can evaluate the modern condition of an ecosystem (i.e. unchanged of very feebly changed) its condition in places, where no traces of mechanical violation of micro-and mesorelief were found in the process of field examination and especially no traces of violation of vegetation cover

No traces of man’s activity (roads, wells, felling, etc.) were accepted. And these places were chosen at a distance from undisputedly anthropogenic objects populated localities, mining or industrial complexes, etc.

The estimation of anthropogenic violation of ecosystems and their components (elements ) were performed by 5 point scale (Table 3).

Table 3 Approximate scale of evaluation of anthropogenic violation degree of ecosystems

integral evaluation Evaluation of anthropogenic violation of ecosystems
of wild life of vegetation of soil
1-natural or very weak natural weak natural weak natural weak
2-weak weak, moderate very weak natural very weak
3-Moderate moderate moderate weak
4-strong strong strong moderate
5- very strong sometimes very strong often irreversible very strong strong and very irreversible

The integral estimate of anthropogenic violation of ecosystems was calculated in accordance with estimates of deterioration of its components : soil vegetation, relief (formation of microforms and changes in mesoforms ) for which easily determined in the field quantity indexes general recommendations concerning the evaluation of soil degradation due to anthropogenic influence were taken into consideration (GLASOD. 1988).

It was accepted that that even under week violation of soil, for instance, in newly ploughed virgin land, strong anthropogenic extermination of vegetation leads to very strong anthropogenic violation of the ecosystem .The tillages in their turn can be strongly modified in accord Nance with the condition of their soil cover

The estimation of soil modification in the tillage was performed by components with the help of acceptable criteria.

As a rule, the violation degree of wild life was higher than that of vegetation, and that of soil condition reactively lower with certain exclusion ).in connection with this during of space photo data the basic criterian of anthropogenic violation degree of ecosystem was the condition of vegetation . Thus the vegetation was regarded as an indicator of anthropogenic violation degree of ecosystem as a whole .

When estimating anthropogenic violation degree of forest ecosystems the direction of change was taken into consideration, because under general negative tendency cases are possible when anthropogenic influence can be lead to positive changes in certain components .For instance, forest fires having considerably changed native ecosystem, can often provide favorable conditions for distribution of certain animals, and the soil is also enriched in the first year after the fire.

To determine the general negative tendency of the ecosystems development due to anthropogenic influence one must examine the stages of exogenic processes stimulated by economic activity criteria for estimation of such processes may serve the index of relief micro form changes.

Using in practice the mentioned quantity criteria of violation estimation for separate components of the ecosystem we took into the consideration the fact that their role in different altitudinal and geographical zones in inadequate thus, the humus content in soil index which use to estimate steppe ecosystem violation, while the gypsus and easily soluble salts-in deserts.

While compiling the map a creative complication of all the priority data received by traditional investigations during many years by different specialist-biologist, soil scientists, geographies as well as the information obtainable from different kinds of maps and distance materials were performed .

The reflection of modern ecosystem and their evaluations the anthropogenic via lotion points of view was performed in two variants :

1) To separate cartographic creation : an inventory map of modern ecosystem and an estimation map of their anthropogenic violation ; 2) Unified map of containing both modern ecosystem and their violation information.

The key to the map of modern ecosystem consists of tables insists of tables and a textual part . In the 4 tables the main automorphic, hydromorphic and hydroecosystems are included in connection with their altitudinal and zonal state as well as the selected anthropogenic ecosystem . This map’s lay out is perform with the aim to show the main regularities of ecosystem is attribution in accordance with the climate geopogic-geomorphologic and hydrologic conditions .

The inventory map reliably enough reflects the distribution of modern Mongolians Mongolian ecosystem . Every contours of the map is characterized with the double index explaining the geologic-geomorphologic conditions (Roman number) and the soil and vegetation cover (Arabic number with a letter addition explaining the contents of plant societies-the key of letter indexes is given in the textual part ) of the ecosystem . The map of estimation anthropogenic violation degree is built on the places of modern ecosystems map and repeats its skelection and indexation . But every selected contours (or a part of it) has received integral anthropogenic violation degree estimation in a 5-point scale . Additionally, the main factors causing ecosystem violations were reflected, and places of exogenic negative processes localization were shown. The key to this map included tables, which show the main types of anthropogenic influence on ecosystem . The cartographic lay-out of the map is subordinated to the table of showing estimates: the less violated ecosystems are colored green or yellow, the most-red .

A considerable amount of information is included in extra-scale conventional signs . These signs are used to show negative exogenic processes and their direction, some types of natural resources utilization causing natural balance violation (quarries, mines, etc.)

To show all the information available on the distribution of ecosystems and the estimations of their anthropogenic violation a unified map was elaborated .

The key to unified map of ecosystems of Mongolia and estimation of their anthropogenic violation is prepared in 3 tables .

In the first modern automorphic and hydromorphic ecosystems are presented : in the second types of anthropogenic influence and estimation of violation degrees . Additionally, a table of water ecosystems and their condition is presented . In the textual part of the key details of vegetation cover are given, which are considered an integral index of ecosystem condition, on one hand, and reflected a bit more generally the peculiarities of ecological donditions of a biotope, including its soil, climate, condition, etc., on the other .

A complex content of the map demanded special attention to its lay-out .

To show the zonal and altitudinal situation of depicted objects several color patterns were used. The tone of copour reflects the degree of anthropogenic violation: the lighter the tone the more intensive the anthoropogenic violation . Brown shading indicates relief forms characteristics of ecosystems. In addition to that extra scale forms characteristics of ecosystem . In addition to that extra scale forms characteristics of ecosystems .In addition to that extra scale conventional signs are used indicating several exogenic processes and factors causing environment violation (fires, graze, etc.).

In addition to that in forest ecosystem the tendencies of soil and vegetation development of violated ecosystems are also shown by extra-scale conventional signs.

Every selected contours has a complex index reflecting both the biological component and relief peciluarities as well a poing estimation OF anthropogenic violation . Exploitation of letter signs is in the textual part of the key.

All the maps are elaborated on 14 pages each in projection and enumeration corresponding to topographical maps of 1:1,000,000 scale.

For convenience aimak and sums limits are also shown.

The reflection of modern condition of ecosystem on the map was an outstanding significance for further control on environmental changes, of effectiveness of economic and nature protection programs . This map can serve a basis for further cartographic and space monitoring of environment both in the borders of the whole country and separate regions (aimaks and sums), as well as separate ecosystems purposively utilized in economy.

For example, forest ecosystems utilized in both forestry and agriculture as pastures : steppe ecosystems utilized in remote stock-breeding as all-year pasture.

In addition to that these maps may serve for selecting natural reserve territories and areas of stationary observations of ecosystems reaction of different anthropogenic influence in extreme circumstances : for elaboration of regional and typological nature protection measure.

Such monitoring can be achieved by consecutive : performance for elaboration of regional typological nature production measures.

Such monitoring can be achieved by consecutive performance of cartographic observations in a certain period of time based on fresh air and space photography . In air and space monitoring automatic determination of changes in ecosystems condition is possible the analysis of determined changes will serve a basis for estimation of the effectiveness of the undertaken measures .

The estimation of anthropogenic violation (changes) degree of ecosystems presented in points and based on quality evolution of modern anthropogenic violations has more restricted in time significance .

It is aimak suppose to be quickly utilized by planning organs as it points out first of all the critical areas of ecosystems that demand urgent measures to improve the environment and eliminate the main factor of violation, or to decrease its negative effect.

Improvement of estimation criteria may help creation of more objective aontents of such a map (with a transition from point to quantity indexes) .

In other words, if the map reflection of modern ecosystems is one of the basic components of all sets of natural conditions and resources maps intended to be used repeatedly, the estimation of anthropogenic violation degree has but operative significance .They are intended exclusively for rapid reacting at external situations on the basis of relative estimates in points .

In Mongolia due to peculiarities of its ecologic and geographic conditions of the country the negative consequences of anthropogenic influence of nature may develop even at unconsiderable level of the latter-therefore the maps of ecosystems may serve an important initial material for inventarization of degradation (desertification ) processes in ecosystems located in extreme natural conditions .

The elaborated methodic of compiling maps on the basis of wide utilization of air and space information, precise elaboration of all components of the maps compiling, separate maps and unified map-all these allow to state that unique experience may have great importance for surveying not only adjacent territories of inner Mongolia, China, Siberia, but also practically all countries were exists a combination of natural, anthropogenic-natural and anthropogenic ecosystems, subject to influence of economic activity .

By now the main principles of the methodics of ecosystem’s ecological estimation and peculiarities of the approaches to the analyses of regional aspects of compiling band utilization of a map of modern ecosystems are summarized and rendered in a monograph “Methodics of estimation of condition and cartographical survey of ecosystems in extreme circumstances “, prepared by a group of authors from the Russian-Mongolian complex biological Expedition.