Essential to the economy and national identity of Mongolia, the grasslands are under increasing threat from overgrazing and climate change. Multiple studies over the past decade have shown that the once lush Mongolian steppe, which is an expanse twice the size of the American state of Texas, that is one of the world’s largest remaining grasslands, is slowly turning into a desert. An estimated 70% of all the grazing lands in the country have been degraded to some degree.
From 1940 to 2014, the annual mean temperature on the Mongolian steppe has increased by 2.07°C, which is more than twice the global average. Ten of the warmest years on record have occurred since 1997. In this period, rainfall has decreased, and seasonal weather patterns have shifted. This has exacerbated soil erosion, which has begun to alter the vegetation. This is a trend that projections show will intensify in the first half of the 21st century. Twelve percent of rivers and 21% of lakes have dried up entirely.