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Interdependent dynamics of food, energy and water in Kazakhstan and Mongolia (FEWMK):
Connecting LCLUC to the transitional socioecological systems

Project Overview

In response to the LCLUC call for the FEW initiatives in Central Asia and based on our previous research within the Asian drylands, we propose to study the two largest landlocked countries, Kazakhstan and Mongolia (KaZ & MG), on the interdependent changes of FEW functions, as well as their driving mechanisms at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Both countries have undergone dramatic shifts in governance following the collapse of the USSR and have experienced distinctive socioeconomic changes and extreme climate events (drought, dzud). Our three specific objectives are to:

(1) Quantify the interdependent changes of food production, evapotranspiration and radiation balance for Kazakhstan (KaZ) and Mongolia (MG) during 1981-2020, and to identify the socioeconomic and biophysical drivers responsible for the changes through empirical and mechanistic explorations and modeling;

(2) Quantify the direct consequences of land use/cover change on net primary production (NPP), evapotranspiration (ET) and albedo at 30-m spatial resolution through innovative top-down modeling and bottom-up linear scaling, and to discern the indirect influences of infrastructure (e.g., road networks, transportation, technology), herder/farmer demography, policy, and climate within three selected provinces in each country;

(3) Explore the direct impacts of management practices on land use/cover as well as the FEW returns through manipulative field experiments at crop- and grassland-dominated landscapes. Land use/cover changes will be treated as the mediating variables for quantifying the spatiotemporal changes of FEW functions, with critical processes (e.g. land conversion, grazing/harvesting, irrigation) explored for their underlying mechanisms.

Figure 1. Land cover in KaZ and MG in 2016 (MODIS; note that legends for only four major cover types are presented). Three provinces in each country (red dots) will be intensively studied by developing 30-m resolution land cover maps, with one province to be examined through manipulative experiments (Töv in MG; Almaty in KaZ) (light blue boxes).

Figure 2. Three paired eddy-covariance (EC) flux towers will provide continuous measurements of net ecosystem changes in NPP, ET, and albedo, microclimate and other ancillary measurements of vegetation/soil for model validation.

Figure 3. Specially-designed GPS collars will be placed on cattle to track their grazing patterns as they are herded across the MG and KZ landscapes.

Project news

From August to September 2020, our Mongolia team engaged 20 herders and installed 40 GPS collars on their livestock in Bulgan province in Mongolia(See Fig. 1 and Fig. 2). Our first set of movement data from Mongolia came back in August (See Fig.3 )

Images of team install GPS collar on livestock
Fig.1 Team Mongolia installs GPS collar on livestock in August. Photo credit: Batkhishig Ochirbat
Images of goat with GPS collar
Fig.2 Goat with GPS collar on. Photo credit: Batkhishig Ochirbat
Map of livestock movement
Fig. 3 Herder and livestock movements tracked by high temporal resolution GPS in Bulgan province, Mongolia from August 9 -16, 2020. Colored octagon icons represent different herder’s yurts. Triangle dots represent livestock movements and are colored matched with their herder. Some herders moved their yurts during this week (herders in yellow and red) and their yurt after the move is presented as an octagon with a cross.
GPS install in KaZ GPS install in KaZ
Fig. 4 and 5. Team Kazakhstan installs GPS collars on livestock in Kazakhstan from October 3 - 4, 2020.Photo credit: Maira Kussainova

Training Videos

Our project leverages low cost GPS collar to track livestock movement on a large scale. The GPS units was developed by Dr. Colt Knight . Here is the  link to download the manual. We also provide series of videos created by Dr. Jing Yuan to demonstrate how to configure this GPS units and conduct basic data analysis in excel.

In this vide,  Dr. Colt Knight talks comprehensively the preparations for field deployment of Knight GPS collars.

Chapter 2 Setting up Mobile Action i-gotU 120 travel and sports loggers for data collection and extracting data

Chapter 3 Sorting bad data from Mobile Action i-gotU GT120 travel and sports loggers

Chapter 4 Converting Longitude and Latitude to UTM

Chapter 6 Generating Accurate Elevation measurements and 7 Generating Slope utilization data

Chapter 8 Generating Distance from Water measurements

Chapter 9 Utilize Pivot Tables in Excel to easily calculate Means, Mins, Max, and Counts

Dr. Kussainova prepares GPS collar for field work.

Open Data Resources

In alliance with NASA, our researchers openly share their data with the broader community. The latest information and resources from our project can be found here for exploration and education.

Data use policy

Use of this data is for demonstrative and educational use only. To publish this data or apply it in other for-profit endeavours, please contact Dr. Jiquan Chen for information. For help interpreting the data, contact the author listed. Information provided here does not conflict with our committment to confidentiality or expose personal information from survey participants.

Land cover change sankey diagram
  • Akmola Land cover transition
  • Aktobe Land cover transition
  • Almaty Land cover transition
  • Arxangai Land cover transition
  • Tov Land cover transition
  • Dornod Land cover transition
  • Publications

    Journal Articles

    1. Fernández-Giméneza, M.E., N.H. Venable, J. Angerer, S.R. Fassnacht, R.S. Reidb, j. Khishigbayar. (2017). Exploring linked ecological and cultural tipping points in Mongolia. Anthropocene 17: 46-69.
    2. Dong, G., F. Zhao, J. Chen, Y. Zhang, L. Qu, S. Jiang, B. Ochirbat, J. Chen, X. Xin, C. Shao. 2020. Non-climatic component provoked substantial spatiotemporal changes of carbon and water use efficiency on the Mongolian Plateau. Environmental Research Letter
    3. Gutman, G., J. Chen, G., Henebry (Eds.). 2020. Landscape Dynamics of Drylands across Greater Central Asia: People, Societies, and Ecosystems.
    4. Henebry, G. M., N., Moore, and J. Chen. 2020. Land-Atmosphere Interactions. Oxford Bibliographies in Geography. Jan 15, 2020.
    5. Qu., L., G. Dong, H. J. De Boeck, L. Tian, J. Chen, H. Tang, X. Xin, J. Chen, Y. Hu, and C. Shao. 2019. Joint forcing of heat waves and mowing poses a threat to grassland ecosystems: Evidence from a manipulative experiment. Land Degradation & Development DOI:10.1002/ldr.3483

    Team Members

    Jiquan Chen Professor, PI
    Michigan State University
    Jinhua Zhao Professor, Co-I
    Michigan State University
    Ranjeet John Assistant Professor, Co-I
    University of South Dakota
    Jing Yuan Research Associate
    Michigan State University
    Colt Knight Assistant Professor of Extension, Collaborator
    The University of Maine
    Tlektes I. Yespolov Professor, Academician of NAS RK, Chairman of the Board - Rector,   Collaborator
    Kazakh National Agrarian Research University
    Maira Kussainova Head of Sustainable Agriculture Center, Collaborator
    AgriTech Hub Kazakh National Agrarian Research University
    Abdirahman Ombayev Professor, Head of the department “Livestock production technology” Collaborator
    Kazakh National Agrarian Research University
    Kuat Nurgazy Professor, Department “Livestock production technology ”, Collaborator
    Kazakh National Agrarian Research University
    Kanat Tazhen Senior lecturer of the department “Technology and Food Safety”, Collaborator
    Kazakh National Agrarian Research University
    Timur Tamenov Specialist of the Sustainable Agriculture Center, Collaborator
    Kazakh National Agrarian Research University
    Gulnaz Iskakova Head of the Situational Center , Collaborator
    Kazakh National Agrarian Research University
    Batkhishig Ochirbat Collaborator
    Dinara Yessimova Collaborator
    Eurasian National University
    Amarjargal Amartuvshin Professor, Collaborator
    University of the Humanities, Mongolia
    Marat Beksultanov Collaborator
    AgriTech Kazakhstan
    Diana Dushniyazova Collaborator
    AgriTech Kazakhstan
    Venkatesh Kolluru PhD Student
    University of South Dakota


    Center for Global Change and Earth Observations

    202 Manly Miles Bldg. 1405 South Harrison Road
    Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48823