Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

U-M receives grant to study impact of climate change on Mongolian Plateau

Researchers at the School of Natural Resources and Environment, collaborating with Eastern Michigan University and the Chinese and Mongolian Academies of Sciences, have received a $900,000 grant from NASA to study human adaptation to climate change on the Mongolian Plateau.

The plateau is in Central Asia and covers substantial portions of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China and the independent state of Mongolia. The study will enhance the understanding of the dynamics of the grassland system in this region and contribute to a more general understanding of human responses to the dynamics of grassland productivity, says Dan Brown, the project’s principal investigator. Brown also is a professor of environmental informatics and terrestrial ecosystems at SNRE.

The project is part of ongoing research within SNRE on human-environment interactions in China and other parts of Asia, including India and Siberian Russia. Projects have examined the effects of the break-up of the Soviet Union on the forest dynamics in Siberia; how land-use changes in the Central Yangtze Basin contribute to changes in vulnerability to flooding; and the roles that community forest resource management play in determining the contributions forests in India make to human livelihoods and ecosystem services.

Co-investigators on the new project include SNRE professor Arun Agrawal and associate research scientist Kathleen Bergen. In their work, the team will evaluate interactions between grassland ecosystems and herder communities at multiple scales, and the role of climate variability in determining changes in grassland productivity and human adaptations.

The Mongolian Plateau contains rolling grasslands (steppes) that cover about two-thirds of central Mongolia. The treeless, semi-arid Mongolian steppes provide grazing land for many types of animals, including oxen, sheep, goats and camels.

The grant comes from NASA’s Earth Science Division and its Land Cover/Land Use Change (LCLUC) program. For this latest round of funding, NASA received 66 initial proposals, of which 48 applicants were invited to submit full proposals. NASA/LCLUC selected 18 for funding, including the one from the SNRE-led team.

All research funded under the program is expected to contribute to the goals of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program by providing scientific information about LCLUC-climate interactions and the consequences of land-cover and land-use change on environmental goods and services; the carbon and water cycles; and the management of natural resources.