Interactive Changes of Ecosystems and Societies on the Mongolian Plateau:

The semi-arid region of the NEESPI domain on the Mongolian plateau lies within the jurisdictions of two governments, with similar geographical settings but contrasting socioeconomic systems - Inner Mongolia (IM) of China and Mongolia (MG). With respect to future temperatures and precipitation, the IPCC (2007) reported that this already water-limited region will experience: (1) a warming trend above the global warming mean (3.3°C by 2100), (2) longer, more intense, and more frequent summer heat waves, (3) altered summer and winter precipitation patterns, and (4) more extreme precipitation events, likely due to the combination of high latitude and altitude. Using land cover and cover change as the intermediary variables, we organized a team involved with many ongoing studies on the Mongolian plateau and with very diverse backgrounds and expertise to explore the feedback and interactive changes in the natural system (NS) and the human system (HS) in relation to the past, current, and predicted future climatic conditions to contribute toward the development of sound management plans in the two neighboring countries. Our objective is to examine and model the interactive changes of the NS and HS at different temporal and spatial scales for use in recommending plans to increase the success of ecosystem and human adaptation to the changing climate and land use on the plateau. Specifically, we aim to understand how global climate and land-use change regulate both biophysical and socioeconomic functions by exploring the major underlying processes and conducting a vulnerability analysis pertaining to IM, MG, and the plateau. We propose four specific research tasks: (1) compile a comprehensive database on the NS and HS, including major variables (i.e., elements of the NS and HS matrices) and the input variables; (2) customize the biophysical and socioeconomic models with land use and land cover as the intermediaries for projecting future landscapes by biome, county, and country; (3) explore the interactive changes in the two systems in the past and present through various empirical analyses of the elements between the HS and NS matrices; and (4) develop adaptation recommendations under alternative climate and land-use scenarios based on a Bayesian analysis. A statistical downscaling modeling (SDSM) approach will be used to predict future local climate conditions at county and higher levels from GCM predictions. A key component of this proposed study is to actively engage policymakers from both IM and MG when developing alternative land-use scenarios and potential management alternatives. The research team will communicate with policymakers in both countries from the very beginning of the study and will organize a workshop where predictions of the changes and possible options for adaptations will be discussed through vulnerability analysis. To maximize the value of this study and promote broad use of our data for the general scientific community, a database Webpage will be developed on the server of the LEES Lab for public access. Finally, this comprehensive study would be impossible without the many relevant previous and ongoing projects on the plateau, as well as their willingness to collaborate and share data with several major research teams in IM, MG, and USA.

Lead Investigator: 
Reciprocal Interactions
Combinations of multiple models
Mongolian Plateau
Temporal Scope: 
Spatial Scope: 
Mongolian Plateau
Natural System: 
Human System: 
Chinese and Mongolia