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Hovsgol GEF/WB Research & Objectives

Mongolian Long Term Ecological Research (MLTER)

Between 1963 and 2003, northern Mongolia and the Hövsgöl region warmed on average 2°C. The region is underlain by permafrost that has temperatures between -0.5 and -2°C that is now warming resulting in permafrost thaw; the deeper active layers are resulting in major changes in the landscape and causing the drying of soils. Understanding long-term climate change impacts on local ecosystems is essential to minimizing, if not preventing, major negative changes that will be detrimental to economic development and environmental protection of Mongolia. Furthermore, knowledge of the natural ecosystems of Mongolia contributes to the attractiveness of destinations for Ecotourism. For these reasons, the Government of Mongolia approved establishment of the Mongolian Long Term Ecological Research (MLTER) Network in December 1997. A joint Mongolian Russian Expedition to the Lake extended from 1972 to 1989 (Kozhova et al. 1989) with extensive monitoring and description of the region.

The MLTER is under the direction of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences with institutional support from the National University of Mongolia, The Ministry of Nature and the Environment of Mongolia, and The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia (USA). Hövsgöl National Park in northern Mongolia was designated the first MLTER network site in 1998, and MLTER was adopted as part of the network of the East Asian International Long Term Ecological Research network (ILTER) in 1998. Other potential sites in Mongolia are under consideration and will include steppe grassland and desert sites. Monitoring and research efforts have been initiated (see Hövsgöl GEF funded project) at Lake Hövsgöl. For additional information, please see Tsogtbaatar and Goulden 2000.

Hövsgöl MLTER


Lake Hövsgöl is at the southern boundary of the Siberian Taiga and the boundary for continuous permafrost. The Siberian larch (Larix sibirica) dominates the forest in this region, composing more than 90% of the trees in the watersheds of Lake Hövsgöl. The lake is surrounded by discontinuous and continuous permafrost. Hövsgöl National Park has many rare and endemic taxa of plants and animals. The level of endemism in the Lake is ca. 10% of the taxa of several phyla, but many taxonomic groups are poorly studied. Endemic taxa compose most of the animal biomass of the Lake. Based upon phytoplankton biomass and primary production measurements, Hövsgöl is an ultra-oligotrophic lake. Because of the very low productivity, larch leaf detritus may be a primary source of food for plankton and benthic invertebrates. Detritus can be carried deep into the lake by thermal density currents that mix the water in the spring from the shoreline areas. The tributary streams have many endemic species of insects and are important spawning sites for the lake's fishes. For more information on Lake Hövsgöl, see Kozhova et al. (1989), and Goulden et al. (2005).


Meteorological and hydrological data are collected daily at the south and north ends of the Lake. The National Park has a chemistry laboratory and has monitored water chemistry of the Lake. In 1999 new equipment was purchased for analysis of water samples, and an improved water quality monitoring program was developed, which included study of the major tributary streams entering the Lake. The Hovsgol GEF Project began in 2002 and is a five year program, ending in 2006. Several other studies have been on-going, and long-term data sets will soon be available. More data are being obtained for the region and the Lake. A new land cover map and GIS are now being developed for the MLTER network site.


  • Goulden, C. E., T. Sitnikova, B. Boldgiv, J. Gelhaus (Editors). (2005). The Geology, Biodiversity and Ecology of Lake Hövsgöl (Mongolia). (28 chapters by Mongolian, Russian, Japanese and American scientists). Backhuys Publ.:Amsterdam.
  • Kozhova, O. M., O. Shagdarsuren, A. Dashdorj, and N. Sodnom (eds). 1989. Atlas of Lake Hövsgöl. Cartographic Ministry of USSR, Moscow, 118 pp. [In Russian].
  • Tsogtbaatar, J., C. E. Goulden. (2000). "Mongolia: Long Term Ecological Research". Pp. 28-29 In: J. R. Gosz, C. French, P. Sprout (Eds), The International Long Term Ecological Research Network. Academy Printers, Albuquerque, NM.

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