PhD defence by Sumjidmaa Sainnemekh

3 November 2022
PhD defence by Sumjidmaa Sainnemekh

On November 10th Sumjidmaa Sainnemekh will defend her PhD dissertation in the field of environmental sciences at the Faculty of Environmental and Forest Sciences of the Agricultural University of Iceland. Her thesis is titled Patterns and drivers of rangeland degradation in Mongolia

The defence will take place at 9:00 GMT in Keldnaholt, Reykjavík, in Sauðafell on the third floor. The defence will be streamed on Teams. Attendees are requested to mute their microphones and turn off their camera while the presentation takes place. They will be given the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the defense.

The opponents are Dr. Leslie Roche form the University of California Davis, in the US, and Prof. David Kemp, from Charles Sturt University in Australia.

Sumjidmaa’s supervisors are Prof. Isabel C. Barrio, Agricultural University of Iceland, Prof. Ása L. Aradóttir, Agricultural University of Iceland, Dr. Brandon Bestelmeyer, United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, and Dr. Bulgamaa Densambuu, Mongolian National Federation of Pasture User Groups.


Rangelands are currently facing increasing threats from climate change, overgrazing and land conversion and rangeland degradation is a growing concern worldwide. The ability of degraded rangelands to provide the natural resources needed to sustain pastoralists and ensure the persistence of traditional nomadic lifestyles is less than that of healthy rangelands. In Mongolia, serious concerns have emerged in recent decades about the accelerating rate of rangeland degradation. Understanding rangeland degradation and assessing long term trends of vegetation change is thus critical to design sustainable management practices. Mongolian rangelands represent about 2.5% of the world’s total grassland area and are considered among the last intact rangelands in the world. Most of the Mongolian territory is covered by rangelands and the livelihoods of nearly half of the Mongolian population are related to livestock grazing on rangelands.

The main objectives of this PhD thesis were (1) to compile previous studies on rangeland degradation in Mongolia and systematically review and synthesize information on how studies identified degradation, the theoretical frameworks used, drivers of degradation and the geographical distribution of studies, (2) to detect trends in vegetation change in Mongolian rangelands using broad scale long-term monitoring data, and (3) to investigate the drivers of change in vegetation over ~10 years in the steppe zone of Mongolia using detailed field data.

Sumjidmaa Sainnemekh completed a BSc degree at the School of Biology and Biotechnology of the National University of Mongolia in 2009, and a MSc degree at the same institution in 2012. After graduation, she worked as a researcher for the Mongolian Society for Rangeland Management, the Information and Research Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment of Mongolia and the Green Gold Project, and for the National Federation of Pasture User Groups of Mongolia. Sumjidmaa started her PhD studies at the Agricultural University of Iceland in August 2019, supported by a doctoral fellowship from the GRÓ LRT Programme.