Understanding transportation-caused rangeland damage in Mongolia

Keshkamat, S.S.; Tsendbazar, N.E.; Zuidgeest, M.H.P.; Shiirev-Adiya, S.; Veen, A. van der; Maarseveen, M.F.A.M. van


Mongolia, a vast and sparsely populated semi-arid country, has very little formal road infrastructure. Since the 1990s, private ownership and usage of vehicles has been increasing, which has created a web of dirt track corridors due to the communal land tenure and unobstructed terrain, with some of these corridors reaching over 4 km in width. This practice aids wind- and water-aided erosion and desertification, causing enormous negative environmental effects. Little is being done to counter the phenomenon, mainly because the logic of the driving behaviour that causes this dirt road widening is not fully understood.

The research in this article postulates that this driving behaviour has rational foundations and is linked to various geographical factors (natural and man-made geographical features). We analysed 11,000 km of arterial routes in the country using spatial statistics and determined that geographically weighted regression (GWR) analysis offers a good explanation for whether, and by how much, the selected geographical factors affect the creation of corridor widths and how their effect varies across the landscape.

We determined that corridor widths are correlated to factors such as proximity to river crossings, traffic intensity, and vegetation abundance. Knowing these factors can help local planners and engineers design counter-measures that could help to control and reduce the widths of these corridors, until paved roads can replace the dirt track corridors.