Human and climatic drivers of ecosystem change in Mongolia (Central Asia): Interdisciplinary collaboration in the study of forest-steppe productivity and pastoral nomadism

Principal Investigator: 
Department of Anthropology, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Our research will answer the following question: in a socio-ecologically coupled system, what are the linkages between ecosystems, climate, human culture, and policy that promote sustainability? To answer this question we will examine data on ecosystem response to human and abiotic drivers over multiple time scales. Data from the past half century will comprise 1) trends in forest productivity as revealed by the tree-ring record; 2) trends in steppe productivity documented by existing studies; 3) ethnohistorical and anthropological evidence of human use of these ecosystems in relation to recent socioeconomic change; and 4) records of climatic variability from local meteorological stations. This contemporary data will be contextualized with two thousand years of climatic and socio-cultural observations. These will be compiled from tree-ring chronologies which recreate detailed climatic conditions and from archaeological research which provides alternate environmental indicators as well as a record of the relationship between early nomadic pastoralists and the forest ecosystem.