Title: Degradation of semi-arid pastures in Kyrgyzstan and potential pathways for improvement

Final project
Year of publication:
Supervisors: Thora Ellen Thorhallsdóttir
semi-arid pastures, Kyrgyzstan, rangeland condition


Rangeland condition is often associated with its productivity, which is based on its economic value. This is how it has gone for many years in Kyrgyzstan, as well. However, such an assessment of rangeland condition has not been justified in terms of biodiversity conservation and structural stability of the ecosystem. In this regard, in recent years there has been a large number of approaches developed on the study of plant communities, which help to efficiently identify the pathways of change in an ecosystem to improve the management of natural resources. In this project, I used a functional group analysis approach to investigate the effect of grazing on species diversity of plant communities according to their morphological and phenological characteristics. The list of analysed plants contained a total 59 species. These species were recorded in 2013 in pastures near the village in Talduu Bulak AA (Kyrgyzstan).

The results of the analysis showed that the vegetation of the study area was dominated by sagebrush and ephemeral species. Most of the 46 species (78%) are palatable, while 13 are considered unpalatable. The dominant life forms are perennials (44 species), three species are biennials and 12 annuals (including seven annual grasses and five legumes). The analysis of height and flowering period, life cycle and seed production, and seed viability in the soil indicated that short-height and short lived annual grasses were tolerant to grazing compared to tall plants. The different pathways of semi-arid pasture responses to grazing were conceptualized and have been compared with conditions of the study area. According to the conceptual model, a low level of grazing pressure in semi-arid pastures in Kyrgyzstan can be associated with palatable perennial grasses and legumes, compared to high grazing with ephemeroids and ephemerals. Furthermore, extremely high pressure can lead to a succession of unpalatable herbs and woody thorny species.

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