Ecosystems Earth on Edge
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Grasslands Ecosystems

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The grasses . . . were so high in my childhood years. No matter how much the horses and oxen ate, [the grasses] would be still the same height as my stirrups. Now you see they all have become sparse. It is becoming more and more like desert.

— Naisurendorj, Mongolian herder

Over the vast plains of Asia, herding has been a way of life for centuries. Ancient migratory herding techniques gave the grazing pastures time to restore and regenerate throughout the year. However, in the 1990s, when communism collapsed and state run businesses shut down, many of the newly unemployed turned to herding to make a living. As Earth on Edge showed,
Man on horseback
Naisurendorj on the Mongolian steppe.
today's Mongolian families are striving toward a more settled and prosperous life. They're raising larger goat herds to meet the demand for cashmere and permanently pasturing the herds closer to markets. The grasslands are failing from the assault. Thinning grasses can't protect the topsoil, so more and more of it blows away with the persistent Mongolian wind. The quality of the grasslands on which the animals feed determines the health of the animals' and, thereby, the health and well-being of herders and their families.There is concern about what will happen if or when the grasslands can no longer support the herders.

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The Value of Ecosystems

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