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Mongolian Daurian Landscape

Date of Submission: 11/10/2012
Criteria: (ix)(x)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Dornod aimag (province)
Ref.: 5779
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

A zone: N49 45 - 50 15  E114 30 - 115 30

B zone: N49 38 - 49 44 E114 55 - 115 37

Mongolian Daurian Landscape occupies the northern part of the Daurian steppe ecoregion. The Daurian steppe is one of few remaining Eurasian extensive grassland steppe where wildlife and domestic livestock co-exist.

Mongolian Daurian Landscape includes the Mongol Daguur Strictly Protected Area (SPA) which is consisted of A and B zones. According to the natural region classification, Mongol Daguur SPA is included in the dry steppe sub-region of Kherlen River and Khoh Lake with plateaus, moderately flat depressions and low mountains in the Central Asian steppe. The A zone (599.2-1.045 m asl) of the SPA is an area of sparsely vegetated hills with Khukh Uul (Deltiin Mountain Range) (1045 m asl) being the highest peak and Baruun (west) Tari (Torey) Lake the lowest point (599.2 m asl). The B zone of this SPA has the same natural zone division as the A zone.

The larger northern part (A) (Chuluunkhoroot soum’s territory of Dornod aimag), contiguous Daursky State Biosphere Reserve of Russian Federation, takes the rolling steppe and wet lands to the south shore of Baruun Tari Lake. The southern part (B) of the protected area (Chuluunkhoroot, Gurvanzagal, and Dashbalbar soums) encompasses a narrow strip of the clear Ulz River and its pristine wetlands, which was classified as a protected area because of the high density of nesting white-napped cranes. The protected area was established in 1992 by Mongolian Parliament’s  Resolution No.11 with the purpose of preserving a representative portion of Daurian steppe with its characteristic flora, fauna and landscape, and creating an endangered species reserve for some of the world’s rarest birds. In 1995, it was approved as a SPA by Parliament Resolution No.26. The area encompasses 103,016 hectares of land. In 1994, the area became part of an international reserve for some of the world’s rarest birds including several endangered species of crane. The international reserve also includes nearby protected areas in Russia and China.

Mongol Daguur SPA represents an ecosystem that combines the Daurian steppe with wetland areas. The SPA “B” zone is characterized by wetland areas including small lakes and ponds (saline and fresh) while the A zone is composed of low mountains and hills clothed with mixed deciduous trees (e.g., birch and aspen) willow bushes along the Ulz River. These zones are dominated with mountain and steppe vegetation. A total of 349 species (52 families) have been recorded in the SPA and wetland and steppe plant species are widely distributed among them. Rare and very rare species such as Gentiana macrophylla Pall, Hedysarum dahurica Turcz, Sophora flavescens, and Valeriana officinalis L. are found in the SPA.

Large mammals such as Mongolian gazelle (Procapra gutturosa), roe deer (Capriolus pygargus), grey wolf (Canis lupus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), corsak fox (Vulpes corsac), badger (Meles meles) and racoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides) are considered abundant while small mammals (e.g., siberian marmot, daurian pika, and tolai hare) are commonly found in the area. During spring and fall migration thousands of Mongolian gazelles migrate through the area enroute to Russia.  Daurian hedgehock (Erinaceus daurica), which is listed in Mongolian Red Book also inhabits in Mongol Daguur SPA. The Daurian hedgehock is endangered in neighbouring countries, so it is listed in Russian Red Book as well. However, the species is abundant only within the range of Mongol Daguur SPA. Mongolian gazelle are considered endangered in neighbouring countries and therefore listed in Russian and Chinese Red Books.

The Mongol Daguur SPA is a major stopover point for migratory birds (especially cranes, waterfowl, and shorebirds) on the East Asian Flyway (South Pacific Ocean and Australia to east and northeast Siberia.  There are also 17 species listed in the rare and very rare species list and 16 of these species are listed in the Mongolian Red Book (1997).

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Mongolian Daurian Landscape is one of well-preserved examples of steppe natural complexes on earth, which comprises intrazonal wetlands and forest-steppe landscapes that are of great significance for conservation of the universal biodiversity. A virtually complete historical set of plants and animals that are typical of the Daurian steppes and forest-steppes is represented at this site. Almost all types of vegetation associations characteristic for the region, as well as the complex of mammalian and bird  are present here.

This territory is an outstanding example of evolutionary processes: the natural communities were formed under conditions of periodic climate change, which was the reason for the development of a  number of adaptations to continuous deep changes in existence conditions at the level of species and communities. Under contemporary conditions, the climatic cycles during which an arid phase replaces the wet phase occur over relatively short periods of time (approximately 30 years), thus causing substantial and relatively swift rearrangement of steppe ecosystems and a drastic rearrangement of wetland ecosystems. The periodic transformation of wet biotypes into dry and back provides the optimal conditions for the existence of a number of species with different (sometimes opposite) ecological requirements within the same territory. The site is an example of adaptation of the species and ecosystems to the continuously changing climatic conditions and undoubtedly has scientific significance.

The species structure diversity and abundance of birds and mammals, as well as the number of rare species at this site is  considerably higher compared to the same figures at the other steppe territories of Eurasia and planet in general. It is attributed to a number of factors: to biotope diversity (the entire range of landscapes and biotopes that is typical of the Daurian ecoregion is located here). to the presence of pristine steppe regions and wetlands of high significance, to habitat of dzeren, (gazell) the globally rare species and rich and diverse avifauna, including a number of rare and endangered species, and to location at the place where the migration flyways of the birds become narrow and at the place of junction of large biogeographical units, as well as to the variability of ecosystems caused by climate cyclicity.

A total of 15 globally endangered species inscribed on the IUCN Red List (2011) have been observed in this territory: 1 critically endangered, 3 endangered, 11 vulnerable and about 40 species have been inscribed on the Red Books of the Russian Federation and Mongolia. The site has a special significance for conservation of the crane species. Six crane species inhabit the territory.  It is one of the last Paleoarctic regions still inhabited by numerous herds of wild ungulates-dzerens (Mongolian gazelles). The territory is of key importance for  conservation of natural massive transboundary migration routes of dzeren, which is the last grandiose phenomenon of this type in Central Asia.

This proposed landscape is the vivid representative of the steppe and wetland landscapes, which are currently poorly represented in the World Heritage List.

Criterion (ix): Mongolian Daurian Landscape is outstanding example representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution of the diversity of ecosystems and species within a relatively small environment, especially of grassland ecosystem and wetlands of high significance.

Criterion (x): This relatively small landscape which comprises introzonal wetlands and grassland steppe is extremely important habitats for wide range of wild animals and plants, including specially for dzeren (gazelle), a globally rare endemic species listed in the International Red Book, and major stopover place for migratory birds, including cranes, on the East Asian Flyway.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The Mongolian Daurian Landscape (Mongol Daguur SPA which is consisted of “A” and “B” zones) includes within its proposed boundary all the elements necessary to express its Outstanding Universal Value. Its completeness is represented by the fact that this landscape exists today in comparatively unchanged natural condition. The steppe and wetland ecosystems within the Mongol Daguur SPA have not been subjected to any considerable anthropogenic impact for a long period of time. There no other regions of pristine steppes in the entire eastern part of Central Asia which would be characterized by higher integrity level. Additionally, the site has been listed since 1995 as SPA, providing it with the highest statutory level of protection at national level.

Comparison with other similar properties

The comparison of the proposed  property with other natural sites have already been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List (and those recommended to the inscribed) attests to the existence of a number of unique characteristics. Proceeding to a more thorough consideration of the temperate belt of Eurasia, the grassland vegetation here is known to for a giant belt, over 8 thousand km long(N 27-127 and E 55-46), which stretches from the lower reach of the Danube river on the west to the Manchurian.

The Following World Natural Heritage Sites comprising steppe ecosystems to a certain extent are located here: Danube Delta (Romania), Saryarka-Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan(Kazakhstan), and Lake Baigal (Russia). However these sites are distributed quite nonuniformly within the steppe belt of Northern Eurasia.

The proposed property Mongolian Daurian Landscape is located in the Mongolian Daurian subregion and is highly specific for a number of key parameters (flora composition, dominant steppe types,climatic features, relief pattern, fauna, etc.). Indeed, Daurian-type steppes and some wetlands are a true natural phenomenon that is not repeated even in the adjacent regions. These areas can be identified with neither western-type steppes (the “Danube Delta” site) nor with Kazakhstan steppes (Saryarka), nor with montane steppes of southern East Siberia (Altai, Uvs nuur, Baikal sites).

It also becomes clear that only three sites out of the compared ones are completely located in the Temperate Grasslands biome, namely, Dauria, Saryarka, and the Danube Delta. Montane Grasslands and Shrublands are represented at two sites: the Uvs nuur basin and the Altai. As for the World Natural Heritage site  Lake Baikal the similar steppes to Mongolian Daurian-type steppes can be found at Baikal-Lena Nature Reserve, Zabaikalsky and Pribaikalsky National Parks. However, these steppe regions represent the extrazonal inclusions within zonal forest vegetation, which are attributed to the historical factor, climatic effect, and the presence of carbonate rocks.

The property proposed includes vast areas of Mongolian Daurian steppes, the biome that has been zonally represented in neither of the existing WH sites. Therefore, it is a reasonable task to include the Daurian-type steppes into the Mongolian Tentative List, since it will broaden the representation of this biome in the list and enhance its general representativeness.

Since the contemporary habitat of dzeren (gazelle) is strongly limited, the survival of this species almost completely depends on the nature conservation measures performed, and primarily, on the efficiency of functioning of special protection areas in the Central Asian steppe zone. From this viewpoint, the special role in this region is played by the Mongol  Daguur SPA, in addition to the adjacent refuge “The Valley of Dzeren” in Russia. These protected areas have a multifunctional and exceptionally important role in the survival of the rare gazelle species.

In this context, the nominated property resembles the Saryarka site located in Northern Kazakhstan, where another ungulate species, the saiga antelope, is the key fauna species that subject to strict protection. Analogies can also be drawn with the other World Natural Heritage Sites that have already acquired this status, where one of the most significant (in some cases, the most important one) aims consists in preserving a specific species: Simien National Park in Ethiopia (conservation of the endemic abyssinian goat), Okapi National Park in Kongo (the okapi), The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (the mountain gorilla), etc… And one of the main purposes of the transboudary WH property Uvs nuur basin (Russia-Mongolia) and WHS The Golden Mountains of Altai (Russia) is to conserve the snow leopard and argali.

Thus, the presence of the key habitats of dzeren (gazelle), a globally rare endemic species listed in the International Red Book, is a very important reason in favour of this property for inclusion into the Tentative List.

This transboundary Russian-Mongolian territory, which vividly represents one of the most valuable landscapes in the eastern part of Central Asia, is the best variant for filling the existing gap on the global map of distribution of the World Natural Heritage Sites.