Pastoral land use changes in the North Caucasus [Raisa Gracheva]
Pastoral land use changes in the North Caucasus Raisa Gracheva, Elena Belonovskaya Institute of Geography of RAS, Moscow
ProjectsInternational project “Sustainable development ofmountain regions of the Caucasus – Local Agenda 21”(2004-2006) as a part of Mountain Partnership’sprograms.Russian-Swiss project IB7310-111103/1“Sustainable Development of mountain regions forcountries in transition (SMD –T) - An appraisal ofoptions for sustainable development with case studiesin Caucasus mountain villages (2006-2008) as a part ofSCOPES program supported by SNSFPrograms of Russian Academy of Sciences
Mountain grasslands of the Caucasus hadbeen formed under human impact forseveral millennia. Seasonal grazing andmowing are the important factors ofstability/instability of these ancientseminatural landscapes, and the variety oflocal land use determines ecosystemdiversity to a great extent.
2 1Case studies: North Caucasus, Russia1- Republic of North Ossetia-Alania;2 - Kabardino-Balkarian Republic
North Caucasus – region of traditional mountain livestock farmingThe established pastoral land use systemgenerally remained unchanged in Soviet time
Questions under consideration1991 started the extremely significant political and socio-economic changes in the former USSR.During the last 20 post-soviet years the mountain land usechanged, local regulations were disturbed and changing humanimpact affects the condition of the pastoral landscapes.An integrated study of the current land use and its impact onmountain environment was made. What are the main social and economic processes which are responsible for land use changes in transition time? What are the effects of land use changes on the mountain pastoral ecosystems? Opportunity of bringing the results of scientific research to administrations and local population
Mountain pastoral lands are about 5 million ha in the North Caucasus, extending from elevations of 3200 – 1900 m a.s.l. in the East and Central Caucasus, to 3500 – 900 m a.s.l. in the West Caucasus. They occupy 30-40% of total area in the eastern Caucasus and over 25% in central and western regionsThe established traditional pastoral land usesystem generally remained unchanged in Soviettime and was strongly stratified along altitudinalbelts.
Carpet Taraxaco- Meadow Anemone-Carpet Carici- Geranietum CampanuletumColpodietum Alpine short grass meadows andcarpet-like meadows (3200 – 2500 м) Summer range (2-3 months/year)
Subalpine high-grass meadows (2800-2000m).High-yield hayfields and fall ranges
Meadow steppes (900-2500 m) have both climaticand anthropogenic origin. These are the mostpopulated areas used as the summer or year-roundranges and croplands (terraced slopes)
Land use change in the Central-North CaucasusTraditional system (until 1928) 12 Pastures Haylands Croplands 50 38Kolkhoz system (1959) Today (2009) 10 2 3537 53 63
In reality: current land use of available lands Pastures 30 Haylands Croplands 60 10 Abandoned or underused 0,5Estimated 60-80% of far alpine ranges areabandoned or underused in North Ossetia,50-60% - in Kabardino-Balkaria.
Local levelChronologically, land use changes in themountain catchments within forest andsubalpine belts were as follows:- long-term arable lands (for centuries until1960s) haylands (1960s to 1990s-2000th)pastures (the last 15-20 years);- long-term haylands present free grazing.
Former croplandCroplands occupied ancient terraces and gentleslopes until 1960th (barley, millet, rye)
At present arable lands occupy only small flat plots Potato fields
Main factors of mountain land use changePopulation outflowDecrease of livestock numberDamage of kolkhoz system, new land legislation,land conflicts;Destruction of the state purchase system, problemof production distribution and transportation.Unprofitable and hard labour.
Local level: population dynamics, Iraf district, 1886-2008.300002500020000 Total15000 Mountains10000 5000 0 1886 1926 1959 1979 1989 2008
Livestock:The cattle number decreased up to 5-10 times just afterdisintegration of the kolkhoz system, and is slowlyincreasing during the last 5 years.Small cattle number almost disappeared in NorthOssetia.Example: in a studied mountain village there is 80sheep instead of former 2000.Small cattle decreased in a less degree in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachaevo-Cherkessia where wool istraditional source of income.In Daghestan and Chechen Republic increasing ruralpopulation expands cattle breeding activity howeverunder neglecting traditional regulations of natureprotection.
Changes in the livestock management system:Pastures rotation andcommunal grazing arebeing stoppedA private animalhusbandry abandonsextensive remote high-mountain grazings anduses the nearest pasturesand hayfields.No control over the rangeactivity is effected.Population neglects thetraditional environmentalregulations
Urgent problems of mountain population. RNO, KBR Questioning 2006-2008г. FARM MARKETING 95,8 public transport 59,7 roads 48,6 power 45,8 healthcare 38,9 reequipment 29,2 range quality 23,6 education 19,4 authorities 15,3 waste utilization 13,9 nature protection 6,9 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
What are consequences of mountain land use changes for seminatural pastoral ecosystems? Remote grasslands:Caucasian wild got number is not restored as yet, mountain livestock number is decreasing.
Release of grazing pressure increases bioproductivityand strengthens erosion resistance; biodiversity ofmeadows can be gradually recovered by plantsuccessions, however recovery rates for certainecosystems are not known well enough.Field observations show that 20-year disturbance ofgrazing regularity destroys the specific assemblage ofalpine and subalpine meadows and leads to ruderalvegetation expansion.The most visible and significant natural processes actupon soil surface: tussocks formation, phytogenic andzoogenic turbations, cryoturbations and stonyaccumulation up to formation of “stone paving”. Theovercoming of these natural phenomena required greatefforts.
Forest and bush spread rapidly throughout abandoned hayfields and pastures: 10-years forestTree line raising: much more likely due to socio- economic, and not to climate changes
Remaining hayfieldsAnthropogenic meadow steppes and current reforestation
Chronosequence: croplands – haylands – pasture – bush invasion
The nearest pastures and hayfields Former croplandYear-round grazing pressure became confined to a smaller area, within a radius of about 2 km around villages.Haylands occupy only lower slopes and bottoms of valleys
Wide distribution of annual plants with short and fragilerootage instead of soil-protecting permanent grasses wasrecorded during the last 20 years.Projective cover of nearest grasslands varies from 50-40to 10-0%% depending on current human impact and pastland use.In extreme case of current grazing pressure spatial-temporal changes of vegetation are as follows:meadow – steppe meadow – meadow steppe – steppe– eroded barren plots.Anthropogenic steppes and eroded barren plots occupyabout 15-20 % of the nearest pastoral lands.
Land use chronosequence: haymaking andgrazing – currentuncontrolled range Surface erosion Surface and gully erosionErosion processes strengthened by anthropogenicimpact are usually much faster than soil formation. It means irreversible loss of fine soil matter
Uncontrolled grazing: fresh surface and gully erosion 35 I 90 II 110 III 140Buried soils as evidences of past erosion.
Change of land owners: 1) can become a prerequisite of land lack and future land conflicts; 2) much more likely that is a step to new strategy of development of mountain regionsFormer hayfield occupied by summer houses
Conclusion- During the last 20 years private land ownership became afactor of the rest of pastoral ecosystems as well as the catalystof degradation.- Generally, changes of land use augment spatial diversity ofmountain pastoral ecosystems. Current grazing does notcontribute essentially in the pastoral ecosystems conditions;nevertheless it accelerates degradation of lands overgrazed inthe past.-Monofunctional economy has no more potential fordevelopment. New strategy of development of mountainregions is urgent for North Caucasus. Traditional farming and family tourism and recreation, supporting each other, would ensure steady income and maintain ecologically adapted land use and environment protection.