Adaptation strategies of nomadic herders in Northeast Mongolia: climate, globalisation and traditional knowledge

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Herders in Mongolia have adapted to changing environmental conditions over thousands of years through innovations in pasture and herd management practices, knowledge, collective institutions and mobility strategies, yet they now face unprecedented climate risks threatening their livelihoods, economies and ways of life. This paper presents the results of a study into how herder communities adapt to climate change and the potential role an ecosystem services approach could play in informing the development of effective adaptation strategies. The findings are based on semi-structured interviews with herders, key informants, focus group discussions and a survey of nomadic households in Northeast Mongolia. The benefits of pasture ecosystem services have changed considerably due to climatic and socio-economic changes in the Mongolian steppe resulting in degradation of the pastureland and water resources. The ways that traditional ecological knowledge and practices can support adaptation to climate change are explored. In particular, the seasonal movement of nomads represents a valuable form of knowledge and practice of adaptation in response to the changes in temperate dryland ecosystems. To continue to maintain mobility as part of adaptation strategies other adaptation actions are required, such as the implementation of an appropriate livestock insurance systems that addresses climate and weather risks, and restoration of dryland ecosystem services, notably through reforestation and improvement of water supplies. Further changes in the pastureland ecosystems may lead to further adaptations in nomadic livelihoods, leveraging nomadic herders’ knowledge of local ecosystem services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-430
Number of pages20
JournalLocal Environment
Issue number4
Early online date22 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Climate change adaptation
  • nomadic herders’ knowledge
  • nomadic livelihoods
  • pastureland ecosystem services


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