Feature

Saving the steppes

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Science  01 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6426, pp. 446-447
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6426.446

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Summary

Mongolia's grasslands, essential to the country's economy and identity, are under threat. An estimated 70% of all the grazing lands are considered degraded to some degree. Climate change plays a role in the decline, but the most important cause is overgrazing. Since the fall of communism in the 1990s, Mongolia has gone from 20 million grazing livestock to 61.5 million, driven in part by the exploding global demand for cashmere wool. A project run by the Wildlife Conservation Society hopes it can help turn the tide. It uses data gathered by NASA and Stanford University to help herders find places with healthy vegetation to sustain their herds and is trying to find ways to reduce herd sizes.

  • * Kathleen McLaughlin is a journalist based in Missoula, Montana, and Singapore.