The Changing World of Mongolia’s Boreal Forests


Every year as the sun warms and the days lengthen, 28-year-old Baganatsooj moves his herds to their summer pastures outside the town of Tunkhel in Mongolia’s far northern Selenge province – a nomadic lifestyle his ancestors have practiced for thousands of years.

The snow has melted, and Baganatsooj’s 300 sheep and goats, 40 cows, and 30 horses graze in the wide green valley. He heard through word of mouth that the rains have been good here, so, along with his wife Munkherdene and two children, travelled 50 kilometres with their livestock to their new home.

But it’s not just the weather that determines where the herder and his family set up their ger, or traditional yurt.

They also follow the forest. “Forests generate more water, and the grass is good there, so the animals graze at the edge of the forest,” Baganatsooj says. The trees also provide scraps of fuelwood and timber for temporary fences.

Life is changing for traditional herders – who make up a third of Mongolia’s total population – and for everyone else, too. In 1990 the country transitioned from socialism to a market economy, the new freedoms leading to a quadrupling in the number of livestock. Urbanisation is also increasing – the population of the capital Ulaanbaatar has grown by 70 percent since the 1990s.

More importantly for the herders, the weather is becoming less predictable. Baganatsooj has noticed changes even within his working life: “Ten years ago the grass was very good. Now it’s getting drier. Last year was the driest year in a long time and there was lots of fire.”

To commemorate the success of Mongolia’s National REDD+ Programme thus far, the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) has prepared a special multimedia story, from which the above text was drawn. Read the full-length article here.






  • boreal
  • forest
  • livestock
  • migration
  • Mongolia
  • permafrost degradation
  • REDD+