Monitoring forest cover change in Mongolia with participatory approach


Project title: Monitoring forest cover change in Mongolia with a participatory approach [Project ID: 2015P5-MN]
Executing agency: NUM-ITC-UNESCO Space Science/Remote Sensing International Laboratory, National University of Mongolia. Environmental Research, Information and Study Center
Supervision agency: Ministry of Environment, Green Development and Tourism of Mongolia
Budget in USD (total/ APFNet grant): 98,772/73,372
Duration: January 2015–December 2015
Target economy: Mongolia
Objective: Main goal of the project is to make a quantitative assessment of forest cover in Mongolia, and assist in the development of a strengthened local strategic document to manage forest resources.
Activities: Data procurement; Mapping, analysis and validation; Training (in-class training and OJT); Public awareness, dissemination; Management; Project progress monitoring and financial auditing.

Expected outputs: Quantitative assessment of the forest cover change in Mongolia; Forest cover maps of the selected two community forests with high-resolution images; Extension of a new method in forest cover assessment in Mongolia; Technical and human capacity is strengthened in two forest communities; Strengthened management plan of two forest communities; An Extension of the new method for use in a strengthening forest inventory/ management.

Project background

Mongolia is a country in a transitional economy experiencing the shift from an agriculture and animal husbandry economy to a free market economy based on mining, agriculture and intensive animal husbandry in the past 20 years. There are 21 main administrative divisions - provinces (called aimags), the aimags are subdivided into soums (sub-provinces) and Bags.    Climate change in Mongolia is relatively high; in the country with an extreme dry climate, and low precipitation the input of forest resources on the ecosystem functioning is relatively higher than in humid areas.   Forest cover accounts for 9.2 percent of the total territory, out of which 70 percent is intensively deteriorated by ageing, fire and insect infestation. Generally, forest in Mongolia is highly disturbed by increased illegal logging, mining activities and fires by nut and fruit collectors. To the forest law of Mongolia, an inventory is to be completed once in 5 years. However, due to a lack of resources and capacity, the inventory can be accomplished for the entire country only once in 15-18 years resulting in incorrect and inconsistent figures about the forest cover in the country. There is any single number defining the forest cover change detection, which hinders forest resources planning, use and protection processes. Therefore, with the use of remote sensing data the change in forest cover increase and decrease will have a significant contribution to the adequate formulation of the forest policy of Mongolia. Thus, for a vast countries with a scarce population, earth observation will save time and money, and contribute to the effectiveness of improved management plans and policies (DeLeeuw et al., 2010).

The proposed project is relevant to the APFNet priorities. Forest cover change detection and assessment will be completed in the case of Mongolia. Two community forests will be selected for local forest type classification and assessment with further implications in strengthening management plans of the pilot sites. Both monitoring of the forest cover change and strengthening of forest management to reduce deforestation with the participation of local communities are in line with APFNet priorities and objectives.  The forest communities in Mongolia possess large-sized areas, which supports the need for the use of satellite data for the development and formulation of the forest community management plan. At present, there are 1062 communities with 21 thousand members possessing a 2,310,663 ha area. These communities lack knowledge of the use of earth observation data for planning. Thus, the development of a method for the formulation of management plans with the use of satellite data, training communities on the method, and extending it to the forestry personnel of Mongolia will have value addition to the country’s forestry sector.

Produced Mongolian forest cover change map

Project feature topics
Methodology and approaches
The medium resolution satellite data is used for the forest cover change detection of the entire country; and high-resolution satellite data is used for community forest mapping. The assignment shall employ vegetation indices and forest index calculation. For pilot sites, the forest types were determined. The results were validated with field data collected with the active participation of community members and relevant stakeholders. The outputs of the forest cover change would be used in the development of the management plan, and forest inventory, and are expected to contribute to the APFNet strategy to monitor the forest cover.
Human Capacity building is obtained by both in-class training and on-the-job training courses. Classroom training will invite personnel from the selected pilot communities and forest entities in Bulgan province to attend classes for 7 days. Afterwards, upon need and during the field data collection, additional on-the-job training will be conducted on the sites. Special sessions on the use of RS data for forest cover change detection will be included in the training program of the graduate students of the department of forestry, National University of Mongolia.
Public awareness work will include workshops and seminars delivering progress and the final outputs of the project. It shall invite relevant organizations and stakeholders to discuss and engage in the extension of the approach used in the forest cover change detection and its implications. A TV program is also intended to be prepared for the increase in general public decision-makers’ awareness. In addition, a guideline elaborating on the use of advanced technology for forest cover assessment shall be published and disseminated.
An unprecedented methodology of using high-resolution satellite data for sustainable forest management
To enable Mongolian decision-makers to plan strategically, this project aimed to produce forest cover maps by retrieving scientifically reliable data from high-resolution satellites. All technologies have proven to be accurate and comprehensive for spatial analysis, which is ideal for producing maps of forest type and forest change. Digital mapping based on GIS drove the advance of Remote Sensing use in the Mongolian forestry sector. 
MODIS and Landsat detected the Mongolian forest cover change from 2000 to 2014
Forest cover change detection starts with data retrieval from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Landsat satellite data. The two high-resolution satellite datasets provided complimentary measurements in large-scale global dynamics occurring on the Earth's surface which carry millions of images that are easy to present and download information. The two technologies, therefore, assisted the digital mapping of forest cover change in Mongolia from 2000 to 2014, which detected a decreasing trend of Mongolian forest cover and will be valuable in the future, as it provides an information base to conduct reforestation and mitigate desertification.This renewed assessment of forest cover change from 2000 to 2014 is expected to make a tangible contribution to the strategic planning of forest management after its implementation. It also has ecological and economic significance, as both the Ministry of Green Development and Tourism (MEGDT) of Mongolia, as well as APFNet, can use the data for their respective interests.
The project research results indicate that the forest cover area in the forest-steppe is 9,480,923.23 ha. It has been decreasing in the past 15 years. In all provinces wherever infrastructure is being developed forested areas are continuously decreasing, which means those areas need to be monitored more closely. In particular, Dornod and Khentii provinces’ steppe forests decreased so fast that reforestation and desertification control are urgently needed. In this regard, assisted natural reforestation is deemed an economically and ecologically effective approach for forest reforestation in these areas. The forest area in the northern permafrost may increase due to global warming. The increased area usually occurs on the boundary of the forest and decreased area in its deepest parts. 
KOMPSAT and SPOT satellites mapped out two communitiesforest types in 2015 and 2016
The project selected two pilot sites in Bulgan aimag, one in the “Khanbuyan community” and the other one in the “Buuraldomuu community” to try out this new method. The Korea Multi-Purpose Satellite (KOMPSAT) and SPOT high-resolution satellite, compared to MODIS and Landsat, have a higher resolution for the detection of more accurate information on a smaller scale, which is especially helpful for capturing the compositions of forest types in the two communities. This methodology also indicated landscapes where wildfires frequently occur. As forest types could be detected accurately from satellite images, they can be used as the foundation of local forest management plans. Both productions are milestones for forestry management and research in Mongolian history. This project was linked to the United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UNREDD), and Mongolia became an UN-REDD Partner Country. 

Project outcomes
Project achievements
The project effectively produced the following results:
1. Mongolian fifteen years forest cover change from Landsat satellite data year by year from 2000 to 2015 for the first time in the forest sector of Mongolia. Most probability data of the Mongolian forest cover by each year.
2. Produced Mongolian forest cover change map, it has not been produced before.
3. In Mongolia, we could not calculate forest cover change of the forest fund declared in the community and enterprise owning forest and soum, province and state’s forest 11 management plan. Before this project, this part of the forest management plan was empty except for state forest management. The project result has importance with those data produced on the free data from the internet and distributed to every unit of the forest as a book.
4. Project produced an improved forest management plan and other communities should follow that model.
5. Important output of the project is the base database for the decision-makers for forest policy in each province because the change map is produced by the province.
6. Two-doctorate student and two master student and two-bachelor student made their study by project result.

Three books and guidelines were produced and published and disseminated to the universities and relevant agencies

Project impacts
The project is currently just finished. If the MET takes a policy for each province instead of the state level for the forest then that is the importance of this project implemented. In particular, the provinces that increase forest because of climate change should support natural reforestation. Whereas, steppe forest which is converting into the steppe quickly needs to take a policy of nursing reforestation. The project enhanced for the ability to do short-term monitoring in forest cover changes at the community and soum, province level. Mongolia has five-level forest management plans such as forest communities, enterprises owning forests, soums, provinces and state levels. That forest management plan may improve because of the project result.
MET suggested using project results for monitoring Mongolian forest cover in the promotion workshop. The project can continue. In Mongolia, only certified forest organizations can do forest management plans and only 750 forest communities’ management plans are processed from the 1281 forest pilot communities. Even an approved forest management plan has not determined forest cover change. As the project methodology can be imparted to the forest community members and ERISC can work for the forest management plan if certified.

 Project documents
Project Proposal, Progress Report, Completion Report

 News and related information
Results of the “Monitoring Forest Cover change in Mongolia” project had introduced during the discussion (local news)
Three books were published and gifted to the library of the Mongolian National University of life Sciences (local news)

Monitoring Forest Cover Change in Mongolia with Participatory Approach (English)
Монгол орны ойн бүрхэвчийн өөрчлөлт (Mongolian) 
APFNet and ERISC project TV programme (