Prospects for the sustainability of social-ecological systems (SES) on the Mongolian plateau: Five critical issues

Jiquan Chen, Ranjeet John, Ge Sun, Peilei Fan, Geoffrey M. Henebry, María E. Fernández-Giménez, Yaoqi Zhang, Hogeun Park, Li Tian, Pavel Groisman, Zutao Ouyang, Ginger Allington, Jianguo Wu, Changliang Shao, Amartuvshin Amarjargal, Gang Dong, Garik Gutman, Falk Huettmann, Raffaele Lafortezza, Connor CrankJiaguo Qi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


The Mongolian Plateau hosts two different governments: the Mongolian People's Republic and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, a provincial-level government of the People's Republic of China. The divergence between these governments has widened in the past century, mostly due to a series of institutional changes that generated different socioeconomic and demographic trajectories. Due to its high latitude and altitude, the Plateau has been highly sensitive to the rapid changes in global and regional climates that have altered the spatial and temporal distributions of energy and water. Based on a recent workshop to synthesize findings on the sustainability of the Plateau amidst socioeconomic and environmental change, we identify five critical issues facing the social-ecological systems (SES): (1) divergent and uncertain changes in social and ecological characteristics; (2) declining prevalence of nomadism; (3) consequences of rapid urbanization in transitional economies; (4) the unsustainability of large-scale afforestation efforts in the semi-arid and arid areas of Inner Mongolia; and (5) the role of institutional changes in shaping the SES on the Plateau. We emphasize that lessons learned in Inner Mongolia are valuable, but may not always apply to Mongolia. National land management policies and regulations have long-term effects on the sustainability of SES; climate change adaptation policies and practices must be tuned to local conditions and should be central to decision-making on natural resource management and socioeconomic development pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number123004
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • global change
  • institutional change
  • land use
  • mongolian plateau
  • social-ecological systems
  • sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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