Work package 2, First season report

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Modelling the impact of market reform

on central asian rangeland

Ground-based vegetation Assessment

(Work package 2, First season report)


Gus Gintzburger - Coordinator Work Package 2

(INRA-CIRAD – Montpellier France)

In collaboration with

Ilya I. Alimaev and Guliya Kildibekova

(Kazakhstan Research Institute of Pasture and Fodder, Almata – Kazakhstan)


Hodja Hanchaev, Cherkezov Atajan and Abdul Jabbar Ustad Juma

(Institute of Animal Husbandry, Ashkabat – Turkmenistan)
October 2001

Contact: Gus Gintzburger


TA 30 F – Campus de Baillarguet

34398 Montpellier Cedex 5


Tel + 33 (0) 467 59 39 03

Fax + 33 (0) 467 59 37 99 or


The pastoralists of the world use native pastures and rangeland from different ecological zones at each season to maximize free forage harvesting and minimize feed storage. In Central Asia, these transhumant or nomadic systems were remodelled during the Soviet period. Kolkhozes were organized; nomadic population settled and fixed on limited grazing territories with a tight network of new wells and water points. Forage and feed was provided at high cost for the winter and drought period from remote higher rainfall or irrigated zones.

Since the fall of the Soviet system and decollectivisation of state livestock in 1991, the systematic exploitation of the rangeland collapsed, mostly due to lack of extra support and feed supply to rangeland areas. The pauperisation of the local population induced the number of animals to fall drastically and stopped livestock mobility after 1994/95. Large rangeland areas were not any more grazed. The restructuring period 1995-2000 lead to a concentration of livestock close to settlements and wells and increased fuel wood collection, inducing desertization around populated areas and regeneration of remote rangeland. After 4-5 years of reorganization at the village and region level, pastoralists and graziers are increasing their animal numbers and attempt to recolonise abandoned rangelands. They are now reconsidering seasonal livestock movement that remains the most efficient way of exploiting sparse rangeland resources. This is also to minimize external feed dependence.
The objective of our study is to monitor and detect quantifiable impacts on rangeland composition and productivity on the most important rangeland types following recent changes in livestock numbers and new flocks movement.

We will use ground-based vegetation assessment techniques to estimate vegetation cover trends and forage availability in areas exposed to potential degradation. This will involve:

  • Developing reliable field methods for measuring vegetation cover trend, condition,

  • Training Central Asian field staff in these methods, which they can continue to use after the conclusion of the project,

  • Creating, a geo-referenced data base that will facilitate the integration of ground and remote-sensed vegetation assessments;

  • Comparing, contemporary and historical data to determine land use and vegetation cover trends.

1) MatEriel and METHODS: Vegetation assessment field methods

Vegetation intercept data will be collected for each vegetation community type. A team of field workers will record intercept data on perennial plants, bare soil and rocks at ground level along a 50-100 meter measuring tape using the Line Intercept Method (LIM), a modified Canfield (1941) and CEFE (Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, CRNS) techniques (Daget and Poissonet 1991, Brown 1954, Gintzburger 1986). The initial purpose of this work is to document and quantify the homogeneity of the vegetation and the available biomass (annuals and perennials). Conducted over a number of seasons and years at a site accurately identified with GPS, these techniques will document changes in species composition and the prevalence of bare ground, mobile sand, as an indication of degradation or regeneration trends. We may further and refine our work with satellite imagery using the same methodology used in Australia (Caccetta et al. 2000, Karfs et al. 2000, Tongway & Hindley 1995)

The biomass of perennial plants (grasses, small and large shrubs), annuals and ephemeroids will be estimated for each vegetation type to determine if above-ground biomass and plant density are diminishing or augmenting over the study period. Up to 10 replicated measurements will be taken using quadrates. Within each sampled quadrate, species will be counted to determine their relative frequency and density, then cut at ground level, dried and weighed to determine aboveground biomass. If necessary, large quadrates will be used to sample woody perennials and relatively small quadrates will be used for annuals and ephemerals. The precise size of these quadrates will be determined by the minimum area method to ensure a representative sample area for each vegetation type (Mueller- Dombois and Ellenberg 1974).
The precise timing of sampling will be determined by plant phenology and the season of grazing, by local flocks. Standard reporting, formats will be developed to assist field staff to accurately record their observations.
The vegetations assessment field methods of annual and perennial plants are qualitative (Environment and vegetation description) and quantitative (biomass and permanent line intercept).
The environment and vegetation description includes

  • Site location (GPS Coordinates)

  • Geomorphology,

  • Soil description (soil surface, type, colour, etc.),

  • Vegetation physiognomy (type, dominant species (annual and perennials), complete plant list of scientific and local names, etc…)

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