Concept of Forest Use in Mongolia

The official title of the GTZ project for the eastern buffer zone of the Chan Chentej Strictly Protected Area is "Nature Conservation and Buffer Zone Development". Nature conservation must take precedence over buffer zone development, which in this case is in the form of forest utilization. Utilizing the forest means using natural products (primary production). The forest management (utilization) concept must therefore first of all take into account the ecological characteristics of the Chan Chentej area. This should cover plants, wild animals and men as well as the herds’ livestock. Mongolia’s forests have developed in natural forest communities which are currently being considerably interfered with through human activities such as uncontrolled and incorrect logging, fires and grazing cattle. Furthermore, subsidiary forest uses such as hunting, collecting of shed antlers, gathering of herbs, berries, mushrooms and cedar nuts are to a large extent carried out without any controls.

Nor are global air pollution, the destruction of the ozone layer and the resulting worldwide climatic changes bypassing Mongolia.

Through the proper management of the forests, especially through the use of fuel wood, the ability of the forest communities to survive and reproduce will be promoted and the quality of the standing timber improved. When wood is harvested, only individual trees or small clusters (500 cu.m. maximum) should be removed. There will be no clean-cut areas. The criterion for felling should be the maturity of the tree (in the case of larch: before the onset of natural stem rot) or the need to use the timber to meet the requirements of the local population.

Forest renewal will be through natural regeneration. Planting or seeding will only take place where forests have been destroyed by hot fire or insects, or on areas previously clear-cut.

The methods, equipment, machinery and materials employed for forest utilization should as far as possible be environmentally sound. For this reason, only specially developed forest equipment and machinery -not the old russian technic-, oxen or horses for timber haulage and ecologically acceptable materials should be employed. Forest work should not take place during the growing season.

The following definitions of the different forms of utilization of the forests in the eastern buffer zone were arrived at:

1.Protected forests:
No utilization of wood whatsoever

Forests protected on limited term basis:
Utilization forbidden for limited period of time

Commercial forests:
Wood is utilized on selective sustainable and ecologically sound basis.

The above classifications were made in situ using suitable examples. To document these, I took photos whilst Dr. Enkhsaikhan made a video. This material will be used for a forest management map which will be prepared for the eastern buffer zone by the Forest Taxation Institute. The existing forest taxation maps will serve as a basis. In the field, the numbers and boundaries of the compartments are indicated by wooden posts so that orientation is possible in situ. To facilitate matters, the classification of the forest into the three different types of use should be on the basis of compartments (logging units) and sub-compartments (sub-units).

1.0 Protected forests

In protected forests, any use whatsoever of wood is strictly forbidden. These forests have the maximum degree of protection. The reasons vary greatly ranging from rare habitats to religious considerations. These forests were subdivided into seven categories.

1.1 Natural forest regeneration areas in the forest/steppe transition zone

Here, in the combat zone between steppe and forest, reforestation takes 20 years on average. The tree species are larch (Larix), pine (Pinus), birch (Betula) and very rarely the aspen (Populus). A ground fire which hits young larches under 12 years old as well as birches and aspens will generally cause these to die off again. The regeneration phase of the forest should be considered in very long time scales. The following points should be observed:

no planting, only natural regeneration;

no hay-making;

cattle should be prevented from grazing on the area;

ground fires should be extinguished with priority.

1.2 Shrub and tree areas along the river and brook valleys of the forests, no river plains

During periods of high water, the rivers which generally flow rapidly, carry large amounts of stones and debris. Brooks meander increasingly and often form wide marshy areas. Forest growth consists primarily of the shrubs willow (Salix) and birch (Betula). Larch (Larix), birch (Betula) and poplar (Populus) grow along the edges of the rivers, on islands and in the transition zone between the rivers and the slopes along the sides. These areas serve as erosion protection, slow down water flow and are important for the continuous water supply of the local population. The following points should be observed:

no planting, only natural regeneration;

the grazing of livestock should be prevented;

ground fires must be extinguished.

1.3 Forested mountain tops, screes and slopes of more than 40°

Depending on location and soil type, the following species grow on these extreme sites: larch (Larix), pine (Pinus sylvestris), cedar (Pinus sibirica) and aspen (Populus tremula). Although their main function is erosion protection, they also play an important aesthetic role. The following points should be observed:

no planting, only natural regeneration;

efforts should be made to extinguish ground fires.

1.4 Individual trees or groups of trees in the steppe

On particularly favourable sites, larch (Larix) and elm (Ulmus pumila) often grow in the

steppe as individual trees or tree groups at a considerable distance from the forest. The elms

are often found at the foot of rocky slopes where sufficient water is still available. These trees

are important as shade trees for man and animal.

1.5 Forested areas with special habitats

Forests which should be protected because of their special composition e.g. fir (Abies sibirica), spruce (Picea obovata), cedar (Pinus sibirica), pine (Pinus sylvestis), larch (Larix sibirica), birch (Betula platyphylla) and aspen (Populus tremula). This includes special flora and fauna habitats (medicinal herbs) which have been designated as protected areas on the basis of specialist knowledge (knowledge documented).

1.6 Forests destroyed through hot fires or insect calamities

If the forest ecosystem has been destroyed through fire or insect calamities, it must be allowed a longer regeneration phase. Any utilization of the wood, as tempting as it may be since this wood could well be used, should be absolutely excluded. Dead standing or fallen timber is an important precondition for the natural reforestation of the area: moving shadows; no wind on the forest floor; better and longer dew formation; access difficult for livestock and wild animals. A favourable micro-climate is achieved, a full-scale birch (Betula) succession does not occur. A wide range of mixture distributions will develop: birch (Betula), aspen (Populus), larch (Larix) and pine (Pinus). Basically, preference should be given to natural regeneration. The planting of larch (Larix) and pine ( Pinus), the climax forest tree species, is possible; the trees should be planted in groups or clusters, and not on a blanket coverage basis. Fires always have to be extinguished, otherwise any newly developing biomass will immediately be burnt again. Fencing fields are able to controll the regeneration phase. (Monitoringprogramme)

1.7 Forests protected for religious reasons

The "holy forests" have again become extremely important in Mongolia. They are often found around monasteries destroyed in the past and currently being rebuilt. Activities of any kind are forbidden. Fires should be fought.

1.8 Forests protected on a limited term basis

In these forests, the utilization of wood will be forbidden for a limited period of time so as to enable the forest ecosystem to go through a regeneration phase after either a ground fire (cold fire) or minor insect damage. The length of the period should be fixed, e.g. 5 years. If at the end of this period the ban on wood utilization is not lifted again by a competent authority, the period will automatically be extended. Two subdivisions are possible:

2.1 Forests protected on a limited term basis with a strict ban on wood utilization.

In these forests, wood utilization of any kind will be forbidden until the ban is lifted again.

2.2 Forests protected on a limited term basis - utilization of fuel wood by local population only.

The careful collection of dead fallen timber to cover the fuel wood requirements of the local population can be permitted at times.

3.0 Commercial forests

All other forests will be commercial forests and marked as such. Logging should take place on an environmentally sound, sustainable and selective basis. The annual cut for larch (Larix), pine (Pinus) and birch (Betula), the three tree species currently available, was fixed at 1.2 cu.m./ha which is less than their annual increment of 1.25 cu.m..

In general, a 5-year rotation with a cutting volume of 6.0 cu.m./ha should be aimed at. In the case of a 10-year rotation, 12.0 cu.m. of timber/ha can be removed at a time.

With the above cutting volume, sustainability will always be maintained. The exploitable size was fixed as follows: for larch (Larix), from 40 cm DBH upwards and before the onset of internal trunk rot which generally begins at age 120, and for pine (Pinus), from 60 cm DBH upwards. When timber stocks drop to below 120 cu.m. per ha, there will be no logging. A dendrometer can be used for checking.

The point of transition to clean-cutting is reached when the square of the height of the existing trees amounts to less than 500 m²; height of trees of exploitable size 22.5 x 22.5 = 500 m². When timber has been harvested, this should always be entered on the form by compartment (logging unit). It is neccessary that the auxiliary areas, hectare sizes, tree species and volumes removed should be recorded in a special book. In the column "comments", all the important data should be noted, e.g. forest fires, illegal wood utilization, calamities, poaching, observation of rare plants or animals, biotopes worth protecting, etc. The ranger will be equipped with a GPS and will give exact details of his location so that it can always be found again. The above information will form part of a data bank and will also enable the activities of the individual rangers to be checked.

Due to the large size of the compartments (600 - 1,200 ha) and of the resulting sub-compartments (20 to 100 ha), the exact control of forest utilization poses a problem. The individual ranger will only slowly be able to master this problem through practice and experience.

In order to arrive at a feasible solution, the rangers were trained in marking timber for extraction and were shown how to pick out such timber intuitively. In stands planned to be thinned, poor quality wood to be removed or clusters to be thinned were marked as fire wood. Likewise, to obtain poles for building winter livestock housing, clusters were marked for thinning. For stem timber of medium diameter for the construction of wooden houses or for large diameter stem timber for sawmills, exploitable size stems were marked at a distance of at least a bole length or half a bole length between the individual trees to be felled so as to avoid clear-cutting.

The following procedure has been fixed for the logging operations: the licensee informs the ranger of his timber requirements. On the basis of his local knowledge, the latter then determines which part of the forest is to be used and marks the trees to be removed by a vertical stroke with the bark blazer ("document"). This will be the most importend work in the forest! All the work in the forest is to be carried out during the non-growing season. The licensee then has to cut his timber and deposit it along the log trail or on the edge of the forest. When the ranger has determined the volume and payment has been received, the timber can be removed. When marking the trees for logging, the rangers will also mark the log trails, i.e. the trails along which the timber is to be extracted, by means of a horizontal stroke on the trees along either side. The volume of timber removed will be documented.

Trees with cavities and nests/aeries, rare and very old individual trees or groups of trees worth protecting, and small, ecologically important forest parts within the commercial forest can be protected by marking them with a V (Mongolian for "leave").

An information sheet listing the main rules to be followed will be handed to all the licensees by the rangers.

3.10 Commercial forests within forest areas legally protected to date

If positive results are achieved in practice using the methods described above - and a period of five years should suffice to put this to the test - an expansion of the commercial forests within forest areas legally protected to date would be possible. This could in particular be regarded as a reward for well functioning community-based organizations (CBO´s) operating on an ecologically sound basis. Once it has been proved that these forests are managed properly using appropriate techniques and know-how, then the following areas could be used.

3.11 River meadows forests

From a forestry point of view, intact river meadows forests are the most productive forests in the eastern buffer zone. Selective logging of willows (Salix) and poplars (Populus) is possible. Such river meadows forests are currently found along the Onon river.

3.12 Cedar stands

At present, only the fruits (nuts) of the cedar (Pinus sibirica) are harvested. They are popular throughout the country and in years in which seed is produced they are offered for sale everywhere. In the forests above Mongomort, near the park boundary, the cedar is found on the mountain tops where it forms mixed stands with larch. Selective harvesting is possible. With its vivid structure, the timber is suitable for furniture making and for the interior completion of houses.

3.13 Green Zones

The green zones form a circle with a radius of 10 to 30 km around the Sum and Aimak centres. In these zones, only fallen timber for use as fuel wood is allowed to be removed. Selective harvesting of timber for other purposes would be possible.

4.0 Final remarks

The above forest management concept is intended to serve as a basis for the future utilization of forest resources with the emphasis on wood. It will ensure that the forest is managed in an ecologically sound way and should be judged on that basis. All these arguments based at a certification in the near future like FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). Criticism and suggestions for improvements are welcome.

Autor: Manfred Vesper