Grazing resource management and grassland degradation: The impact of privatization in northern China's steppe area
Land degradation is closely related to resource management in major terrestrial systems. To identify the driving forces of land degradation that have caused increasing concern around the world, it is necessary to examine the socio-economic, cultural, and political conditions of land use, resource institutions, and management strategies in areas with unsatisfactory records of resource management and conservation. This research examines the impact of privatization of livestock and grassland use-rights in China's northern steppe area. Here major reform of property rights has been implemented since the early 1980s, with privatization as its main feature. This study investigates the change in grassland conditions and further explores the relationship between grassland change, grazing management strategies, and institutional arrangements for grazing resource use in different ecological zones (typical versus desert steppe) and areas with distinct socio-demographic conditions.
The study area is Xilingol Steppe, a major and representative part of the temperate steppe of Inner Mongolia and one of the most important pastoral areas in China. Change in grassland conditions over a nineteen-year period are investigated using satellite remote sensing data and GIS techniques. Field research was conducted during the 1998 growing season. Mechanisms that had caused the observed environmental changes have been examined during and after that time. This research shows that grassland condition indeed is declining, but the primary causes are herd growth, population increase, and reduced mobility rather than either open-access use or the privatization of use-rights. Lack of internal regulation within groups has also contributed to the problem.