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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: HYDROLOGIC PROCESSES, SCALE, CLIMATE VARIABILITY, AND WATER RESOURCES FOR SEMIARID WATERSHED MANAGEMENT Title: An ecological assessment of pasturelands in the Balkhash area of Kazakhstan with remote sensing and models

Authors
item Lebed, L. -
item Qi, J. -
item Heilman, Philip

Submitted to: Environmental Research Letters
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 23, 2012
Publication Date: June 22, 2012
Citation: Lebed, L., Qi, J., Heilman, P. 2012. An ecological assessment of pasturelands in the Balkhash area of Kazakhstan with remote sensing and models. Environmental Research Letters. 7: 1-8.

Interpretive Summary: After the fall of the Soviet Union the scientific establishments in the Central Asian Republics also collapsed. This paper reports on an effort to re-establish a regional rangeland monitoring program in Kazakhstan using an example from the southern Balkhash area. The vegetation community in the example is from a foothill plain with a sagebrush-ephemeral vegetation community and a sand plain with sand loving vegetation in the Turan Desert. The monitoring approach is based on remotely sensed imagery and meteorological data, an archive of soil and vegetation information, and periodic ground sampling. The Pasture simulation model was used to calculate indices to assess pasture land condition. The end product of the monitoring method presented is a set of maps of seasonal forage production and the seasonal capacity of large areas to support grazing. Other Central Asian Republics with similar historical databases developed under the U.S.S.R. could also use the same modern monitoring approach.

Technical Abstract: The 187 million hectares of pasturelands in Kazakhstan play a key role in the nation’s economy, as livestock production accounted for 54% of total agricultural production in 2010. However, more than half of these lands have been degraded as a result of unregulated grazing practices. Therefore, effective long term ecological monitoring of pasturelands in Kazakhstan is imperative to ensure sustainable pastureland management. As a case study in this research, we demonstrated how the ecological conditions could be assessed with remote sensing technologies and pastureland models. The example focuses on the southern Balkhash area with study sites on a foothill plain with Artemisia-ephemeral plants and a sandy plain with psammophilic vegetation in the Turan Desert. The assessment was based on remotely sensed imagery and meteorological data, a geobotanical archive and periodic ground sampling. The Pasture agrometeorological model was used to calculate biological, ecological and economic indicators to assess pastureland condition. The results showed that field surveys, meteorological observations, remote sensing and ecological models, such as Pasture, could be combined to effectively assess the ecological conditions of pasturelands and provide information about forage production that is critically important for balancing grazing and ecological conservation.

Last Modified: 12/21/2014
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