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Conservation of Arid Pastures


Preservation and Improvement of Arid Pastures Exposed to Uncontrolled Grazing

Tech Area / Field

  • AGR-DIG/Diagnostics/Agriculture
  • AGR-PPR/Plant Protection/Agriculture
  • BIO-DIV/Biodiversity/Biotechnology
  • ENV-EHS/Environmental Health and Safety/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
National Kazakh National Agrarian University, Kazakhstan, Almaty

Supporting institutes

  • Center for Ecological-Noosphere Studies National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia, Armenia, Yerevan\nKyrgyz Institute of Livestock and Pasture, Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek


  • Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain, Madrid\nLeibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies, Germany, Drezden\nSzent Istvan University in Godollo, Hungary, Godollo\nUniversity of Thessaloniki, Greece, Thessaloniki\nInstitute for Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry Centre for Agricultural, Hungary, Budapest

Project summary

The pasture degradation issue has a special place among ecological problems the whole of Central Asia and the Transcaucasia face today and is tightly linked to social and economic welfare of local communities as pastures both serve as a strategic resource for economic development particularly of rural regions and ensure ecological and food security. In Central Asia over 1.072 thous. sq. km are under the threat of desertification (Glazovski et al., 1996). According to II National Report of the Republic of Kazakhstan, as much as 60% (including 48mln ha of pastureland) and in Armenia -18% (480thous.ha) of total area, in Kyrgyzstan – some 90% of agricultural lands are degraded to a varying degree (Evaluation report, 2006; Ghazaryan, 2013). A concept “desertification” is defined by the UN Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD) as land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors including climatic variations and human activities. Land degradation means reduction or loss of biological or economic productivity of arid lands (UNCCD, Paris, France, 1994). It is considered that as of today degradation (desertification) has affected about one third of the Earth’s surface. The aftermath of desertification and drought is drastic deterioration of regional food security, poverty and hunger of 1.5 bln people. The associated social, economic and political tension can burst into different conflicts, impoverishment of people and intense land degradation. The increasing rate of desertification threatens the world by the dramatically increasing number of poor people consequently forced to migrate in search for a source of livelihood and a new shelter to live (UNCED Rio de Janeiro 1992 “Agenda 21”). Kazakhstan has vast arid pasturelands – 169,2 to 179,9mln hectares. Consequently, lots of studies done by researchers of the Kazakh National Agrarian University, Kazakh State Research and Production Center for Land Resources and Land Management, the Institute of Botany and Phytointroduction, Institute of Geography, Kazakh Research Institute of Livestock and Forage Production are aimed at different aspects of arid pastures. Over years of devoted efforts the staff of the Institute has developed theoretical pasture classification problems and ecologically safe standards of grazing load; has determined digressive series of pasture loads under manmade transformation, has studied succession series, has developed methods of mapping of transformation processes and recovery of arid pastures, has developed indicators of desertification processes, has developed a scheme of rational utilization of arid pastures, and so on. (Baytulin, 1987; Byikov, Kurochkina, Makulbekova, Terehov, 1981; Aralbaev, Sadyirova, Kazkeev, Bazargalieva,Esenaliev, 2004; Kurochkina, Vuhrer, 1990; Mirzadinov, 2001; 2003; Mirzadinov, Podolskiy, 1995; Duysenbekov, Mirzadinov, Usen K., Torgaev, 2006; Mirzadinov R., Usen K., Mirzadinov I.R., Torgaev, Abdreshova, Imangalieva, 2012 and so on). In 2011 in partnership with UNDP/GEF a project “Kazakhstan model of sustainable management of grazing land" was implemented. Тhe staff of the Kyrgyz Research Institute of Livestock and Pastures were involved in long-term studies of distant pastures surface improvement techniques; terms, application doses of nitric fertilizers on summer steppe, meadow steppe and meadow pastures (Isakov et al., 1971; Ismailov, 1973; Ionov et al., 1988) and weed control techniques based on application of herbicides (Shikhotov et al., 1980) were studied; nutritional value of grass stand and dominant plant species (Zakhariev, 1968) were determined, and techniques of rational use of pasture rotation, its terms, ratio, etc. tested (Satiev, 1984; Shikhotov et al., 1984). In Armenia agromethods intended for increasing yield capacity and quality of natural meadows became widely applicable in the second half of XX cent., (Aghabayan, 1950; Aslanyan, 1952; Pavlovich, 1955; Sukoyan, 1955; Shur-Baghdasaryan, 1955, 1957, 1966, 1985; Soghomonyan, 1970; Sukhova-Petrosyan, 1971; Babayan, 1982; Shatvoryan et al.,1985), with wide use of surface improvement techniques and wide application of mineral fertilizers (N,P.K) in particular. Subsequent tests implemented at the Institute of Livestock Farming and Veterinary, Soil Science and Agrochemistry MA RA and CENS NAS RA on severely- and lightly trampled pastures have indicated high effectiveness of application of mineral fertilizers combined with a 1-3 year-long rest interval. (Shur-Baghdasaryan, 1966, Aghababyan, 1970; Mezhunts, 2010; Mezhunts et al., 2010, 2012). Good results for yield capacity were obtained from alpine pastures, for the share of grains and legumes – from natural hayfields. However, surface improvement techniques have been studied insufficiently in strongly degraded near-village pastures. So, a necessity arises to implement assessment of arid pastures by vegetation cover and soil degradation degree and to study techniques of surface improvement and sustainable management of degraded near-village pastures.The major goal of this project is assessing ecological status of arid pastures of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia exposed to intense grazing and identifying a possibility to reduce further degradation of pastures and improve vegetation cover through application of different agrotechniques. To achieve the goal, the project plans implementation of a defined scope of research work generalized in 5 work portfolios. Terms of implementation are also scheduled and executive research teams from each partner country, appointed. Today, in order to assess condition of pastures different organizations and authorities (pasture committees, state agencies, academic and research institutions, international organizations) employ different approaches and methods, this bringing to different results and as a consequence to discordance and lack of joint coordination of pasture improvement measures. While local researchers use traditional – geobotanical and agronomical - methods of assessment, international specialists implement remote measurements. This project is aimed at a systematic in-depth analysis of all approaches, methods, degradation indicators both up-to-date (remote sensing) and traditional in order to support selection of most appropriate pasture degradation indicators and their further application. The research methods include sections of remote sensing, expedition and field studies and analytical lab work. In order to assess condition of arid pastures, the project plans to study the following compartments of ecosystems with help of appropriate indicators: climatic conditions (seasonal dynamics of atmospheric precipitation, temperature and drought periods); terrain (exposure, slope inclination and dissection degree); state of soil (particle size, degree of salinization, degree of moisture, pH, contents of carbon, humus, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, toxic heavy metals); vegetation cover (productivity of above-ground and underground mass, biopersity, density of grass stand, phonological observations, nutritional and energetic value). Field tests on pasture improvement will be based on additional application of mineral fertilizers, additional sowing of grains and legumes and a 1-2 year-long rest of degraded places; a grazing optimization scheme – with involvement of animals and simulation testing. Research teams from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia have an extensive expertise and qualification and are sufficiently competent to implement the project goals and tasks. The partner Institutes are equipped with state-of-the – art devices and instruments for conducting complex investigations pursuing improvement and rational use of forage lands, increasing productivity, nutritional value and vegetation composition. For many years, employing traditional remote sensing methods the researchers of the Institutes have been monitoring and assessing landscape stability, level of effect of bioclimatic and manmade factors on soils and vegetation degradation. The Institutes actively collaborate with colleagues abroad in implementation of different international projects.
In particular, the researchers of Kazakh National Agrarian University (KazNAU) took part in implementation a number of research projects such as a UNDР/GEF project “Kazakhstan model of sustainable management of grazing land” (2011) and “Central Asian Countries Initiative for Sustainable Land Management” (CACILM, 2006-2012).
1. Projects supported by the Ministry of Environmental Protection RK (MEP RK projects): Scientific and technical evaluation of the ecological state of the area of ​​oil and gas deposits in the Republic of Kazakhstan (2008-2009); Development of assessment methods and measures to combat desertification processes in the centers of ecological crisis (2009-2010); Development of desertification indicators and the creation of a data bank on the West-Kazakhstan region (2008-2009); Development of establishing a regional environmental monitoring program of the Caspian Basin of Kazakhstan sector (2009-2010).
2. Scientific and Technical Program and Projects supported by the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan: Development of innovative recovery technology and improve the fertility of degraded land to ensure food security in the south-east of Kazakhstan (2012-2014); The botanical persity of wild relatives of cultivated plants in Kazakhstan - as a source of enrichment and conservation of agro-biopersity gene pool to implement Food Program (2014-2016)
The Kyrgyz Research Institute of Livestock and Pastures took part in international projects such as: “Development of livestock and market(PDLM IFAD); Norwegian project “Sustainable pasture management”; WB -supported project of agricultural investments and services “Pasture management and improvement”; “Sheep development project, KyrgR”, ISTC Project KR-766.

Center for Ecological-Noosphere Studies of NAS RA participated in a Swiss-Armenian project “Deploying Armenian distributed processing capacities for environmental geospatial data” (ARPEGEO), the World Bank project “Management and Competitiveness of Agricultural Resources of Communities” (CARMAC CS-11/103); EU FP-6 “Re-Invention of Sainfoin: an Example of a Novel Resource for Sustainable Agriculture” (HealthyHay, MRTN-CT-2006-035805), UK NIAB “Investigations of ecotypes of Lithospermum arvense available in Armenia”, NATO for Peace project “Quality Assessment of Non-Traditional Forage Resources in Armenia”, USA CRDF project “Wood Biomass of Fast-Growing Poplar Plantations as Alternative Source of Energy” etc.