DFG projekt:

Studies on Holocene vegetation-, fire-, climate- and human history - comparing multi-site evidence from the forest-steppe biomes in Mongolian Altai, Tosontsengel and Orkhon Valley


The main aim of this project is to investigate and to compare long-term vegetation-, climate- and fire dynamics as well as human impact of the forest-steppe-biome between three different locations in Western, North-Central and Central Mongolia, as an important contribution to the protection and management of the forest-steppe-biome. An established multi-site and multi-proxy approach is applied to investigate the complex interplay of climate and human disturbance as the driving factors for environmental and biodiversity changes. It will be examined whether those driving factors vary in their characteristics at the two new locations Tosontsengel and Orkhon Valley.
To achieve this goal, we will focus on the following project objectives:
We will continue the analysis of pollen rain from pollen traps and ensure a better resistance against trampling by animals. So far, in the Mongolian Altai a small set of samples has been studied, but a higher number is aspired for Tososntsengel and Orkhon Valley to capture local variability effects.
We will continue to apply our well-established multi-site and multi-proxy approach on selected environmental archives from Tosontsengel and Orkhon Valley to compare the long-term environmental dynamics with the results from the Mongolian Altai.
In our results from the Altai Mountains we see marked changes in the composition of the steppe vegetation (e.g. increase in Chenopodiaceae, different Asteraceae, Dianthus) during the period of stronger grazing activities (last approx. 1,000 years). By analyzing dung samples, we want to investigate if and how strong selective grazing takes place by different animals.
The questions in this research are:
• Are there local topographic differences in the modern pollen rain-vegetation relationships among the sites from the Altai, Tosontsengel and Orkhon Valley?
• How were vegetation dynamics and plant diversity controlled through altitudinal gradients in Central and North-Central Mongolia?
• How sensitive were the different altitudinal vegetation types regarding past climate change in Central and North-Central Mongolia? Did different climate patterns impact the areas compared to North-Western Mongolia?
• What was the role of natural climate change and anthropogenic impact?
• Since when did humans contribute to changing the landscape in both areas?
• Are there marked differences regarding the human impact at Orkhon Valley close to the capitals of ancient cultures compare to the more remote areas in North-Western and North-Central Mongolia? Did fires play a more substantial role?
• Is it possible to detect grazing differences among livestock species on the basis of their diet?
• Do different livestock species have different forage preferences?
• How does the low and high intensity of grazing change the vegetation composition?
• Can biodiversity loss be linked to selective and intensity of grazing?

Project duration: 01.04.2020 – 31.03.2023

Projektleitung: Prof. Dr. Hermann Behling.

Förderung : DFG 2020-2023

Project related publications:

  • Unkelbach, J.; Dulamsuren, C.; Punsalpaamuu, G.; Saindovdon, D.; Behling, H. (2018): Late Holocene vegetation, climate, human and fire history of the forest-steppe-ecosystem inferred from core G2-A in the ‘Altai Tavan Bogd’ conservation area in Mongolia. Veget Hist Archaebot, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 665–677 DOI: 10.1007/s00334-017-0664-5

  • Unkelbach, J.; Kashima, K.; Enters, D.; Dulamsuren, C.; Punsalpaamuu, G.; Behling, H. (2019): Late Holocene (Meghalayan) palaeoenvironmental evolution inferred from multi-proxy-studies of lacustrine sediments from the Dayan Nuur region of Mongolia. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 530, pp. 1-14. DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2019.05.021

  • Unkelbach, J.; Kashima, K.; Punsalpaamuu, G.; Shumilovskikh, L.; Behling, H. (2020): Decadal high-resolution multi-proxy analysis to reconstruct natural and human-induced environmental changes over the last 1350 cal. yr BP in the Altai Tavan Bogd National Park, western Mongolia. The Holocene 257 (1), 095968362090866. DOI: 10.1177/0959683620908662

  • Unkelbach, J., Dulamsuren, Ch., Behling, H., 2020. Late Holocene climate and land-use history in the Mongolian Altai Mountains: combined evidence from palynological, macro-charcoal and tree-ring analyses. (eingereicht bei Plos ONE, 05/2020)

  • Saindovdon, D.; Unkelbach, J.; Dulamsuren, C.; Punsalpaamuu, G.; Beket, U.; Behling, H. (2020): Modern Pollen Rain Studies at the Forest Steppe Ecotone in the Lake Dayan Region, Mongolian Altai. Mong. J. Biol. Sci. 18 (1), pp. 3–11. DOI: 10.22353/mjbs.2020.18.01