Results of work package I
CADI Fellows 2018/19
Herpetologist graduated at the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University
Professional activities: Senior researcher at the Research Institute of Zoology at Kazakhstan Ministry of Education and Science
Scholarship project: to study the biodiversity of deserts Herpetofauna and the population of endangered species of South Kazakhstan to develop measures for their protection. Besides, she will improve her skills in the field of molecular genetic analysis and develop proposals for reptile protection in southern Kazakhstan using German experience.
Master of Science in Rangeland Management at the Gorgan University of Agricultural Science and Natural Recourses (Iran).
Professional activities: research assistant at Iran Mega Project on the Integrated Watershed Management.
Scholarship project: to analyze ecosystem services by various climatic conditions in the Iran-Turan region.
Ph.D. in Biology at Irkutsk State University (Russia)
Professional activities: Researcher in the laboratory of Entomology at the Institute of General and Experimental Biology of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences
Scholarship project: to analyze the link between herbivorous beetles and Saxaul, a tree distributed in the Gobi Desert. She will also examine whether these beetles can be used as an indicator of a healthy ecosystem in the Saxaul forest.
Interview with Bayartungalag Batsaikhan, CADI fellow 2017/18 from Mongolia
Dear Bayartungalag, please tell us briefly where did you hear about CADI Fellowship and why did you decide to apply for the program?
In 2017, I received my PhD in Environmental Geochemistry at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences of Korea University in Seoul (South Korea). After completion of my research for the PhD I was interested in further studies. Currently, I am working as full-time researcher at the Faculty of Geology and Mining Engineering at Mongolian University of Science and Technology. I realized that I need additional support and looked for research funds and fellowships for young scientists. Finally, I decided to apply for CADI Fellowship. The one year program provides the support that is needed by young researchers – a monthly grant, travel allowances, support for field work and laboratory equipment.
What is your research topic about?
My research topic is about carbon stock assessment of Haloxylon (Saxaul) vegetation in temperate deserts of Mongolia using remote sensing and field measurements. Most areas of Gobi Desert are naturally covered by sparse shrub vegetation dominated by Haloxylon ammodendron. During Mongolia’s transition to a free market economy, socio-economic factors such as poverty and profit-seeking mining exploitation of the environment have contributed to its deterioration. Consequently, a loss of biodiversity, land degradation and vulnerability together with additional impacts of climate change are critically affecting the deserts and their vegetation. The vegetation is most important for climate conditions and the nomadic people living in the area. Currently, there is a lack of modelling assessment for monitoring and management. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a modelling approach applying GIS and remote sensing. Against this background, I will elaborate a new modelling methodology which focuses on estimating carbon stock of biomass in vegetation of desert regions. The results will be verified by field data.
How may your research contribute to CADI and the conservation of the Mongolian or Central Asian temperate deserts?
My research will allow stakeholders in Mongolia to better assess ecological impacts of activities such as pasture and mining. Environmental scientists in Mongolia will better understand the importance of the study of carbon stock of above and below ground biomass in the vegetation of temperate deserts of Mongolia. My research work will also contribute to a closer cooperation between the CADI project and Mongolia.
Within the program, you recently spent your research stay in Greifswald. What was the goal of your stay and how would you assess your results?
I have been in Greifswald for two months. It was a really good opportunity for me to improve my knowledge and enhance the outcomes of my research activities. One of my major goals was to modify my research methods by studying different literature on carbon assessment using remote sensing data and field measurements. After arriving in Greifswald I made a presentation about my research objectives and work plan. This paved the ground for further discussions with colleagues of CADI project, Michael Succow Foundation and University of Greifswald. During my stay, I could establish excellent contact to my supervisor from the University of Greifswald. He provided me with good advice for my research, the data analysis and planning of my field work. At the end of my stay, I presented my studies within a short colloquium with my supervisor and CADI colleagues. I very much benefited from my stay in Greifswald. Thanks a lot to my supervisor and all colleagues in Greifswald for helping and supporting me.
How can you describe the overall time spent in Greifswald?
In Greifswald I found myself in an inspiring, challenging and international environment. I have learnt much about other cultures, people and last not least about myself. The time helped me to identify my real interests and academic ambitions. I joined many activities during the program – there has been a big variety of offers, including participation in other research works, group discussions, research presentations and mentoring. Additionally to my core research, visits to protected areas in the region or celebrating Christmas in Germany have been a great enrichment. It was definitely an amazing experience that has broadened my mind and improved myself in an international environment.
Where did you experience the biggest difference between Mongolia and Germany?
In my opinion, one of the biggest differences between Mongolia and Germany is the way junior scientists get supported. In Germany, non-governmental organizations like the Michael Succow Foundation and projects like CADI contribute to international research exchange and environmental cooperation, involving young scientists. In Mongolia, most of the research was focused on Russia, scientific publications were mostly in Russian. During its economic and political transition since 1990, Mongolia suffered under serious economic problems. After the collapse of the Communism, only little attention has been paid to academic and scientific work in Mongolia. Only recently academic research and exchange open itself to other countries.
How are you going to use your research results and experience gained during the fellowship in the future?
The results of my research will be published in a peer-reviewed international journal. I will also share the results with the Mongolian Geospatial Association, a local NGO. Its main purpose is raising awareness, knowledge sharing and professional networking for environmental experts, students and specialists.
What was the most exciting experience during your work within the project?
I have spent an unforgettable time in Greifswald in an international and inspiring environment.
Which recommendations would you give to young researchers applying for the next CADI fellowship?
CADI Fellowship is a really good program. In terms of organisation, scientific supervision and provided funds it fully covers the needs of young researchers, especially from Central Asia.
CADI Fellowship: expedition findings
The fauna of Kyzylkum is unique and distinctive. Each day spent in this mysterious desert brings new encounterings and discoveries. On April 19, 2018, during the field research within the CADI fellowship in the southern part of the Butte Mountains of Kuldzhuktau Ridge, the team of researchers discovered a sand cat (Felis Margarita)! Close to the borrow was set a camera trap which traced the cat went into hiding. The installed camera trap provided the team with an opportunity to get unique video series, which shows how the male cat in the period of 15:00 to 19:40 hours remained near the borrow. The cat hid in the borrow to protect itself from the strong wind, wandered, looked around and left the place at the night (video clip with sand cat, courtesy to video: Valentin Soldatov).
In Central Asia, this unique African cat came from the Arabian Peninsula through Iran. The main habitats of the sand cat on the territory of the Republic Uzbekistan are distributed in the desert Kyzylkum, much less can be found within the plateau Ustyurt and in the sands of Termez. The basic information on distribution and amount of sand cat was collected mainly during the Soviet time. Further data are less available. In the last 10 years, only several reliable discoverings of the sand cat were done on the territory of Bukhara region. According to J. Burnside (2014), on March 24, 2013, one individual sand cat was identified 15 km easter of Karakyr Lake. On March 31, 2014, around the same area, a burrow with a female sand cat and kittens was discovered. In addition, on April 15, 2013, another adult sand cat was photographed in the southern part of the village of Kalaata. On November 16, 2014, the sand cat was traced by a camera trap set in the North of the village of Kalaata (northern part of the Low mountains of Beltau, which are the western extremity of the Kuldzhuktau Mountains) (Gritsina et al., 2016).
It is obvious that for the present time, sand cat is a rare cat on the territory of the Republic of Uzbekistan which demands as well as more research, as protection.
With John Burnside, Soldatov Valentin, Abduraupov Timur and Anna Ten.
Text prepared by Maria Gritsina.
Further results of different activities
Biodiversity expeditions to update baseline data of populations and distribution as well as trends of endemic species
Preparation of a spatial analysis of conservation potential in cold winter deserts of Central Asia
Development of an exemplary biodiversity monitoring concept for temperate desert biomes
Monitoring activities to discover Persian leopard in Ustyurt Nature Reserve
Little reliable information exists about encounters with leopards in Kazakhstan in recent decades. In fact, the leopard is not even listed on the country’s fauna list. The discovery of a leopard in autumn 2018 came entirely by accident during a project by the Rufford Foundation involving supplementary feeding of vultures, which is currently being repeated in the Ustyurt Nature Reserve (Kazakhstan).
To provide permanent observation and to increase the probability of a new sighting, 18 camera traps were set within a ten-day Ustyurt expedition in November 2018, organized by ACBK along with the Ministry of Agriculture of Kazakhstan’s Forestry and Wildlife Committee. The observations will last until end of January 2019.
While the leopard could not be spotted in November, there were other interesting sightings: a caracal, as well as a Brandt’s hedgehog which would usually be hibernating at this time of year. The expedition team has also found a young Urial female, probably torn apart by a leopard.
Ecological monitoring of wetlands in the Syrdarya river basin and the North Aral Sea in Kazakhstan
Wetlands are vitally important ecosystems for the entire surrounding region, including temperate deserts. In the period of 14-20 October 2017, several field trips were undertaken in the Aral Sea basin of the Kyzylorda region in Kazakhstan. The main purpose of these was to provide an assessment of a current biodiversity situation of the wetlands within the Syrdarya river basin according to Ramsar Convention (2014) as well as a guidance formulation for sustainable development of ecosystems. The expedition included experts from different backgrounds, like a botanist (ecosystems specialist), a hydrobiologist, an entomologist, an ornithologist as well as other specialists from “Barsa-Kelmes” Nature Reserve. During the field trips several studies were conducted on the territory of the emerging Syrdarya river delta, the North Aral Sea area, coastal strip and on the following sites included into the Ramsar List (The List of Wetlands of International Importance): a left-bank territory of the Bayan and Kartma lakes, a right-bank territory of the Karashalan and Sarteren lakes, Kymystybas territory (Kymystybas, Raym and Jalanashkol lake) as well as Akshatau territory (Akshatau, Karakol and Shomishkol lakes).
Ecological monitoring takes place regularly in this region since 2011 with a purpose to identify trends in ecosystems development. Obtained data are required to make recommendations for sustainable ecosystem development of the region. The full report on the state of ecosystems and biodiversity status of wetlands under the Ramsar Convention belonging to the Syrdarya river delta and the North Aral Sea will be published in 2018.
Development of target-specific communication strategy and material for integrated, sustainable natural resource management and nature conservation
New info poster on biodiversity in Ustyurt