Khangai Mountains conifer forests
The Khangai mountain range in central Mongolia is over 750 kilometers (km) long with an average altitude of 2,500-3,000 meters (m). The cool, humid coniferous forests of this ecoregion support a high species diversity of flora and fauna. Notable mammalian fauna include species such as elk (Alces alces), musk deer (Moschus moschiferus), wild boar (Sus scrofa), red deer (Cervus elaphus), wolf (Canis lupus), and brown bear (Ursus arctos). Remoteness and isolation allow the ecoregion’s pristine nature to persist. However, timber extraction and related activities have begun to encroach on the area, threatening to affect the integrity of freshwater systems as well as the abundance and distribution of wildlife.
Location and General Description
The Khangai mountain range stretches from west to south-east in the central portion of Mongolia. It is over 750 km long with peaks at 3,200-3,500 m. The main range has several big branch ranges. In the north, high ranges such as Tarvagatai and Bulnai run east to west. Average altitude of the ecoregion is 2500 to 3000 m. including the highest peak, Zurhiin Hunh Mountain. (3,227 m). The ecoregion is surrounded by Selenge-Orkhon forest steppe in the north and meets the Khangai mountain alpine meadows in the south.
The area supports dense coniferous forests with representative species of forest fauna and flora.
The climate is cool as a result of altitude but dense forest coverage maintains a relatively high humidity. Numerous streams and rivers such as the Selenge river and its tributaries maintain a high water supply in the region.
High mountain forests with dense plants of Populus spp. and peripheral endemic plants are dominant here. Larch forests grow on the backside of the Khangai Mountain Range while there are larch-cedar forests in the Tarvagatai mountain range. Cedar-larch forests of the Bulnai and Buteel ranges contain characteristic features of taiga-like forests. There is a small amount of cedar taiga in areas where the Orkhon river begins.
The greater Khangai forest is generally sparse with abundant grass plants. The area is influenced by steppe vegetation and contains clear remains of the south taiga influence of Siberia. In the Khangai mountain ranges, except for larch forests with grass plants, there are birch, birch-poplar, birch-larch, and mixed forests. Other forest compositions include moss-larch and tundra-larch forests such as northern bilberry and labrador tea in upper belts of the mountain. Larch forests are abundant in the medium and upper areas of the mountains and sometimes create the upper border of the forests. In many areas of the Khangai, Siberian larch composes entire forests. Larches on the steppes can grow in large numbers and create dense forests that become sparse over time. In many areas larch forests border mountain tundra areas. An example is the tundra of central Khangai where short, sparse peak larch forests occur. Khangai larch forests principally grow on the backside of the mountains but sometimes come onto the front side along the local water division. The dominant forest larches in the Khangai are green conifer with nuts. Larch forests of the Khangai ranges are mountainous forests and have a lot of industrial importance. They also play a big role in soil protection and water retention.
Generally, the forests of the Khangai range can be divided into four categories based on location: 1) larch forests of central Khangai (taiga lake larch forest, cedar larch, sole larch, and sparse areas of sub-alpine forest), 2) larch forest of western Khangai (taiga larch forest, subalpine taiga larch, and cedar larch forest), 3) larch forest of northeastern Khangai (taiga-like forest and steppe forest), and 4) larch forest of southeastern Khangai (taiga-like forest).
A great number of species niches exist due to the high tree and plant diversity in the Khangai forests. 1,214 plant species have been recorded from this region. Of these, 151 species are grass plants and the area is richer in tree and bush diversity and overall plant species composition than the Khuvsgul and Khentii regions. Plant composition in the coniferous forests of the Khangai Mountain ecoregion are to date not well studied.
In Khangai cedar forests, elk (Alces alces) and musk deer (Moschus moschiferus) are regularly found. Other important species, not including insectivores and rodents, are wild boar (Sus scrofa), red deer (Cervus elaphus), squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), chipmunk (Tamias sibirica), mountain hare (Lepus timidus), brown bear (Ursus arctos) and sable (Martes zibellina). In larch and cedar-larch forests, deer (Cervus elaphus), siberian roe deer (Capreolus pygargus), wild boar (Sus scrofa), siberian chipmunk (Tamias sibirica), grey-sided vole (Clethrionomys rufocanus), smaller flying squirrel (Pteromys volans), narrow-skulled vole (Microtus gregalis), and wood lemming (Myopus schisticolor) permanently inhabit.
Biodiversity of the ecoregion receives adequate protection with the recent inclusion of Tarvagatai Nuruu National Park (5,254,000 hectares) in 2000. Due to its remote and isolated nature, the area’s pristine natural environment has been comparatively well preserved.
Types and Severity of Threats
Some changes can be seen in the environmental balance due to destructive human activities. The rapid spread of logging by a large number of timber enterprises in recent years has led to reduced river outflows and the alteration of animal distributions.
Justification of Ecoregion Delineation
Along the northern periphery of the Khangai mountains, a narrow montane taiga belt forms the Khangai Mountains coniferous forests. The lines defining the ecoregion are from Hilbig and the Mongolia Ministry for Nature and Environment.
Additional Information on this Ecoregion
- For a shorter summary of this entry, see the WWF WildWorld profile of this ecoregion.
- To see the species that live in this ecoregion, including images and threat levels, see the WWF Wildfinder description of this ecoregion.
- World Wildlife Fund Homepage
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