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Reforestation in Mongolia

The following explanations serve the purpose of providing free knowledge for forest development in Mongolia.

1. select “geographical” and “local” location
2. check and create basic conditions on site
3. care and maintenance of the reforestation area



Mongolia is a landlocked country in central Asia, situated between Russia and China (not surrounded by oceans or seas) with an average altitude of about 1,500 m above sea level, which means that there are special global factors of influence with regard to forests and reforestation.

Figure 1. Temperate climate zone of the earth divided into the cool temperate zone (green) and the cold temperate zone (purple)

Looking at the Mongolian territory (see Fig. 1), it can be clearly seen that here the “cold-tempered zone” (violet) from the north meets the “cooling moderate zone” (green) further south. For the vegetation, these milder or cooler temperatures mean that the forests are mainly coniferous, mixed and deciduous (as these tree species are better adapted to the climate here than, for example, tropical plants).

Diagram 1: Average day and night temperatures in Mongolia as a basis for the annual vegetation period (approximately from the beginning of June to the end of August) Source:

Based on the climatic conditions, the annual vegetation period in Mongolia is from the beginning of June to the end of August, and for reforestation this means that irrigation must be guaranteed exclusively during this period! In the time outside the vegetation period, the growing trees can finally access the water reservoirs in the soil or root system.

In Mongolia these climatic conditions create steppes and deserts, which are not idealy suitable for forest or reforestation projects because there is no protection against wind, too much sunlight and most important not enough water!

Furthermore, it should also be noted that, globally speaking, precipitation (rainfall) in the areas near the oceans and seas balances out throughout the year, and the further inland the rainfall tends to decrease. For Mongolia as a landlocked country without coasts this means a low supply of rainwater! In connection with the consideration of the Mongolian territory as such, the following is also a rough breakdown of Mongolia’s land use types:Diagram 2: Land use types in Mongolia (rough data basis) Sources:;;

Historical events such as Communist rule with a strong planned economy until 1991 (former Mongolian People’s Republic) and the subsequent change of system towards a democracy with strong market economy elements (forestry and agriculture) and the introduction of a new system of government, population developments such as the continuing migration to the cities (increased demand for housing and material goods), the growth of the population (albeit to a lesser extent in Mongolia) and the associated illegal large-scale clear-cutting of forest areas (e.g. for furniture and house building) caused large areas of forest to disappear. Even the legal framework currently being developed, such as the Mongolian Forest Law, which was last amended on 17 May 2012 (accessdate 10.10.2020), has not been able to counteract this practice – in essence – so far. Unfortunately, it also leaves room for interpretation with regard to the clearing of forest areas, as it allows so-called “clearing” in § 35.1.2, for example. “Clearing” here is understood to mean the clearing by “selective felling of dried-out trees injured by fire, pest insects and diseases, which have lost their ability to survive, in order to cleanse the forests and make them healthier”. This would not require any human intervention as the deadwood contributes to the natural regeneration of the forest by providing wind protection for the new wildlings (young trees). The decomposition and nutrient release of the burnt needles/leaves – lying on the ground – at the same time provides newly emerging wildlings with enough nutrients for their healthy growth. The law thus almost invites people to deliberately set fire to forests in order to be able to harvest trees illegally under the pretext of “cleaning” them up. In burned forests, however, there should be no logging / timber harvesting at all!

In the opinion of World Garden Mongolia, a natural forest structure / forest rejuvenation without human influence would be the best way to preserve vital, climate-adapted and resistant, mixed forests of coniferous and deciduous trees.

However, since man with his various requirements (e.g. the use of pasture land for livestock farming, wood procurement for furniture and house construction) fundamentally interferes with the natural heritage, it is necessary to counteract this in a non-profit-making manner where it appears sensible. Certainly, the civil society association activities of the “World Garden Mongolia” can be explained, among other things, by the insufficient level of governmental control and regulatory efforts towards sustainable forest management in Mongolia.

In order to make Mongolia greener through more forests, the World Garden Mongolia believes that a multi-stage approach should be adopted in every forest reforestation project. In the following we describe this approach so that other actors can also incorporate our knowledge into their own forest afforestation projects.

Multi-level approach for World Garden Mongolia reforestation projects

1. select “geographical” and “local” location

Our first priority is the geographical selection of locations from a bird’s eye view. In second place is the “on-site” site selection from the mouse perspective. In Mongolia, mountainous regions (the mountain taiga zone) are more suitable for afforestation, as the

Protection from wind, to much sunlight and other natural influences

is better guaranteed than in other landscape zones (such as the forest-steppe zone, steppe zone, semi-desert or desert steppe zone, desert zone). For this purpose, for example, the terrain can be viewed, or a rough location can be determined on the basis of map material (see the following maps):

Fig. 2: Vegetation zones of Mongolia (after Lavrenko et. al. 1979)
Source: Zoological Botanical Society of Austria / OÖ Landes-Kultur GmbH
(Werner Hilbig (2007): The Vegetation Zones of Mongolia and their Important Plant Societies – Negotiations of the Zoological-Botanical Society in Vienna. Formerly: Negotiations of the Zoological-Botanical Society in Vienna. since 2014 “Acta ZooBot Austria” – 144: 119 – 164.)

Fig. 3. vegetation zones of Mongolia in color
Source: p.53)

On the vegetation zone map in the above mentioned figure 2, the regions marked in red or shaded darker would be suitable for reforestation or afforestation, which are rather found in the mountainous north of Mongolia (alpine vegetation, taiga as well as mountain steppes and forest-steppe complexes). On the vegetation zone map in the above mentioned figure 3 these are the dark green (striped) red circled regions (taiga, forests – without white marked mountains).Fig. 4 Contour line map of Mongolia (after Lavrenko et. al. 1979)
Source: Zoological Botanical Society of Austria / OÖ Landes-Kultur GmbH
(Werner Hilbig (2007): The Vegetation Zones of Mongolia and their Important Plant Societies – Negotiations of the Zoological-Botanical Society in Vienna. Formerly: Negotiations of the Zoological-Botanical Society in Vienna. since 2014 “Acta ZooBot Austria” – 144: 119 – 164.)Fig.5 Elevation map of Mongolia (source: 6 Topographic map of Mongolia (Source:

On the contour line map in the above-mentioned figure 4, the regions marked in red or shaded darker would be more suitable for reforestation or afforestation, since they are based on mountains / hills. Likewise, this type of landscape (mountains) can be seen on the topographical maps in Figures 5 and 6 through the regions drawn in brown (mountain areas drawn in white are not suitable for afforestation purposes).

In addition, there is a so-called “timberline” from about 400 m a.s.l. to about 2300 m a.s.l. in which forests can develop due to climatic conditions.

However, an exact site selection can only be sufficiently assessed by previously inspecting the terrain on your own!Fig. 7 Mean annual precipitation of Mongolia (after Lavrenko et. al. 1979)
Source: Zoological Botanical Society of Austria / OÖ Landes-Kultur GmbH
(Werner Hilbig (2007): The Vegetation Zones of Mongolia and their Important Plant Societies – Negotiations of the Zoological-Botanical Society in Vienna. Formerly: Negotiations of the Zoological-Botanical Society in Vienna. since 2014 “Acta ZooBot Austria” – 144: 119 – 164.)

If we look at the map of rainfall (mean annual precipitation) of Mongolia in Figure 7, it is also clear that the higher landscape locations are also the zones where more rainwater is available for irrigation. This feature also has an influence on the choice of location.

If one summarizes now the 3 location criteria (vegetation zones fig. 2 and 3; landscape structure and/or topography fig. 4, 5 and 6; amount of precipitation fig. 7) then a clear picture results where exactly in Mongolia forests should be found and/or where these – geographically convenient – could be reafforested.

This conclusion is also verified by a satellite-based observation of the biomass in Mongolia (see Figure 8 below).

Fig. 8 Biomass in Mongolia, map from satellite data from 01.07.2010 (using the satellite sensor “MODIS” – Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) Source: -> Data catalog services -> (Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environmental Research of Mongolia – NATIONAL REMOTE SENSING CENTER)

As can be seen in Figure 8 above, Mongolia’s river-crossed territory is rather limited to the north of the country. This is important for forestation activities, as it is important to consider the water cycle and the available water resources for irrigation activities during the growing of young trees. The non-profit organization World Garden Mongolia uses the – importance of water for mankind – as a benchmark for its use. A short video explains the water cycle in the following:

Videofile 1: the natural water cycle
Source: (Subtitels in English and Mongolian Language are available)

As you can see in the above video about the water cycle (videofile 1) there are different types of water (fresh water and salt water). For irrigation purposes of plants, only the 3% fresh water of the total global water quantity can be used. Furthermore, there are considerable differences in the use of fresh water for human drinking water. In the course of different competing uses (drinking water supply for the population, water for agriculture and livestock farming, cooling water for industrial processes and mining, etc.), the choice of the water source is therefore crucial whether it is rainwater, surface water from rivers and lakes or groundwater. Since the groundwater has seeped through several layers of earth before it accumulates or flows into the ground and has thus already undergone a kind of natural filtering process, it is already of great importance for the use of drinking water.

For irrigation purposes, rainwater should therefore be used if possible, or if it is not available in sufficient quantities, surface water from rivers and lakes – should therefore be used.

In the following some examples of landscape structures are listed where reforestation seems to be reasonable or rather unrealistic:

Fig. 9 Steppe

here the forestation is not recommended



Fig. 10 Desert (western gobi region)

here the forestation is not recommended



Fig. 11 Mountainous terrain with lake or river connection (surface water)

here the forestation is recommended



Fig. 12 National Park (Gobi Gurwan Saichan)

here the forestation is not allowed

(see Article 8 Mongolian Forest Law; in addition, there is a so-called “forest line” from about 400 m above sea level to about 2300 m above sea level where forests can develop due to climatic conditions) Source: external link


2. check and create basic conditions at the location

To successfully develop forests in Mongolia, it takes a lot of time because the vegetation period (growth phase of the plants) is only about 100 days a year due to the barren climate. This ensures that – due to the low growth per year – the annual rings of the trees (indicator for the age of the tree) are close together and thus a high density of wood is found (see following figure 9).Fig. 9: Annual rings of a larch Source:

Apart from the time perspective that a reforestation project in Mongolia requires, there are also other basic conditions that need to be ensured. In the following, therefore, some risks and measures against them are listed:

  • Protection from state authority (agreement with local authorities on the permissibility of land use for afforestation – approval or transfer of the local authority for the use for the intended purpose is necessary)
  • Protection from cattle-feeding on the young seedlings -> consultation with herdsmen about their grazing rights and hay harvest is useful! If necessary, fencing in the seedlings or the entire reforestation area may also appear necessary and sensible for this purpose
  • Protection against man-made fires -> to prevent anthropogenic forest fires
  • Protection against drying out of the seedlings in the first 5 – 8 years (until they have grown to about the same height as an average adult human being – after that the trees are usually able to survive without artificial irrigation – but continuous “artificial” irrigation until then is necessary)
  • Protection from pests / insects which could infest the young seedlings
  • Protection of the seedlings from wind and to much sun by natural barriers made of fallen timber / branches that remain on the ground, existing tree stumps, elevations of the ground, etc.
  • Protection of the technical components against damage / failure (e.g. irrigation system should be protected against environmental influences such as strong weather, heavy rain, enormous cold, etc. and checked regularly)
  • Procurement of suitable equipment and its operating components / resources (river / lake water pump, operation with renewable energies such as photovoltaic systems)
  • Protection against theft of seedlings, irrigation system, equipment on site
  • correct selection of the suitable tree species for the location (see also the following collection of plates “Trees and Shrubs of Mongolia” by the cooperating forestry engineer Mafred Vesper – in German language – )
  • Procurement of seedlings and correct planting techniques (see also the following guide “Guidelines for Planting and Establishing a Tree Nursery” – in German – by the cooperating forestry engineer Mafred Vesper; if necessary, obtain additional advice from governmental or scientific institutions; Example for the procurement of seedlings -> price list of the tree nursery “Nogoon kharsh green castle LLc” as seedling supplier to World Garden Mongolia)
  • Securing the provision of financial resources through, for example, donations, sponsoring, own economic activities, etc.

If the basic conditions specified above are clear then it applies to realize these by procurement procedures, arrangements and organizational operational sequence. In addition it is meaningful to inform about the different participants:

In addition, any intervention in nature must be considered as a whole, assessing the ecological, economic and social consequences and long-term effects and, if possible, choosing a nature- and environmentally friendly solution. The use of natural forces such as solar, wind and water power must be given priority over the use of fossil fuels in any action. The overall goal is to return more living space to nature, for example through vital forests, nature reserves, etc. As evaluation yardstick here e.g. the measured variety of species per hectare can be used.

3. care and maintenance of the reforestation area

If the above-mentioned risks are mitigated or almost eliminated by appropriate measures, the continuous care and maintenance of the reforestation area must be guaranteed. This means that the basic conditions described above can be met at any time. This requires not only the manpower of supporters, volunteers and association-members, but also financial means in the form of donations, sponsoring and, if necessary, own entrepreneurial activities such as merchandising. As a rule, the above mentioned measures must be guaranteed until the planted seedlings have grown to young trees with a height of approx. 2 – 3 meters. From this point on, it can be assumed – if all the above-mentioned steps are followed – that the trees are now capable of surviving on their own. Nevertheless, certain risks such as man-made fires, illegal logging, theft of the young trees will continue to exist for an even longer period of time. In order to minimize these risks with as little effort as possible, it is advisable to cooperate with, for example, official security and law enforcement agencies. For this reason, the World Garden Mongolia project is in contact with the responsible environmental and nature conservation ranger and his team from the Bayanzurkh Ulaan Bator district, Mr. Ts.Tsogbaatar – Ranger Nr. 11 Group leader of 20th Khoroo, Bayanzurkh district, Deendii (see also the following Facebook link).

If you have any questions, suggestions, criticism or other ideas, the volunteer team of the World Garden Mongolia will be happy to assist you. We look forward to hearing from you.


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