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Geography and climate


Only with a population of around 2.9 million people live at 1,564,116 square kilometers. The territory contains very little arable land and forest, as much of its area is covered by steppes, with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south.

The remarkable feature of Mongolia's climate is extremely cold winter, shiny summer and more than 250 cloudless days a year. Average temperature in January is -300C and in July more than 300C. The country has unpredictable weather and average of 10-35 cm precipitation per year depending on region. Some regions of Gobi receive no precipitation the whole year. Summer and autumn, i.e. June to October, are definitely pleasant time to visit Mongolia.

Geographic region information

As a result of Mongolia's wide territory, altitude variations in its surface geography, and extreme weather conditions, its plant life is diverse and special. From the north to the south the land is divided between three main regional types, taiga forest, steppe, and desert; with intermediate transitional areas dispersed between them. For example, there are mountainous semi - forested steppe regions, forested steppe regions, desert steppe regions, dispersed among other areas. For the most part, Mongolia is mountainous, and from the base of the mountains to the peaks the temperatures drop, and humidity levels vary. The vertical zones are established in the mountain regions by the distribution of humidity levels, sun exposure, and topsoil composition. Therefore, the Mongolian land surface characteristics are divided into six basic regional types.

  • High altitude plateau region
  • Mountainous taiga region
  • Forested steppe region
  • Steppe region
  • Desert - Steppe region
  • Desert region

High Altitude Plateau Region

The Mongolian Hovsgol, Khentii, Khangai, Mongol - Altai, and Gobi - Altai mountain ranges are located from 2000 - 2900 meters above sea level, including permanent snows, icy rivers, rocky cliff faces, high mountain peaks, and high altitude plateaus. In this region there grow an estimated over 500 species of plants. The tundra plateaus and mountainous steppe have thick humus - filled topsoil, and the winds are strong, temperature is cold, and the humidity is mostly made up of snow and hail. The areas being covered in permanent snows and icy rivers; the plants not being able to get sufficient warmth; the growing season being so short; the daily temperature differences being extreme; the humidity being high but made up of mostly snow and hail, causing the plants to not get enough moisture; causes only two basic types of plants to survive - dry - cold, and humid - cold tolerant plants.

Mountainous Taiga Region

The mountainous taiga region is located in Mongolia's Hovsgol, and Khentii mountains, between 1700 - 1800 meters above sea level, where forests are very thick, and the atmosphere is either cold or chilly and humid, situated above mid - slope on the mountains: these areas also exist in some parts of the Khangai range. About 1000 total species of plants grow in these regions. Topsoil is made up of both podzol and turf. The lower part of this zone usually receives over 250 mm of humidity, making the atmosphere cold and humid, or chilly and humid, depending on the area itself. Although the humidity is higher in the taiga regions, the growing season is shorter because of less warmth. The plants here are mostly wet - dry, wet - muddy, wet - cool tolerant.

Forested Steppe Region

The forested steppe region is where a combination of forest and steppe plant varieties grow together, and is located in Mongolia's Khentii, Khangai, and Mongol - Altai mountain ranges. This region stems from hot, dry desert steppe areas causing neighboring taiga regions to dry out and become sparse. As a result, forest and steppe plants grow there together; and some steppe variety plants grow where there is either sparse forest, or un - forested mountains. A total of almost 1600 plant species grow in these regions.

The majority of places belonging to Mongolia 's mountainous forested steppe have very high humidity, and are consistently warm, however, sudden cooling has been observed in the middle of June and August. Most locations have black or brown carbon - rich and carbon free topsoil, and the southern mountains of the Khangai, Mongol - Altai, and Gobi - Altai ranges have very carbon - rich topsoil. Predominantly, humidity tolerant, humid - dry and cool - dry tolerant plants grow in these regions.

Steppe region

The main characteristic of Mongolia is usually thought of as vast steppe zones, which is also entirely true. The high elevation of the country gives unusually clear air - all the year round. It is an overwhelming visual experience of emptiness to visit the completely silent treeless steppes stretching away into the distance: not a fence, no trace of human activity, no tracks, no telegraph poles, no haze whatsoever and the horizon sharp.

The predatory animals of the steppes are Dog Fox (Vulpescorsac), Wild Cat which is common but nocturnal (Felismanul) and Pole-cat. Their prey are three species of Marmots, Hare and Field Vole etc. There are also Saiga Antelopes. Cranes are common all over and represented with several species, especially in the eastern Dornod province. In the steppes we also find Great Bustard, Steppe Falcon, Steppe Eagle, Mongolian and Horned Lark, Dancing Wheatear etc.

The Przewalski Horse (Equusprzewalskii), the only remaining wild ancestor of the domestic horse became extinct in Mongolia in 1961. The Mongols call it the Takhi. As of July 1992, a unique conservation project is being implemented in the Hustain Nuruu Steppe Reserve by the Foundation for the Preservation and Protection of the Przewalski Horse and their local counterpart MACNE (Mongolian Association for the Conservation of Nature and the Environment). This steppe area is only 105 km from Ulaanbaatar. Sometimes, due to project needs, the reserve is closed off for visitors, but mostly we are able to visit and see the Takhi in wild surroundings.

Desert - Steppe region

The Gobi is a word describing one third of the Mongolian territory to the south. It extends into northern China (Inner Mongolia) and this life zone gradually start to emerge only some 140 km south of Ulaanbaatar. The Gobi has come to be translated as the Gobi desert by Westerners but in the Mongolian language it is a description of the entire south. It has very diverse habitats and for the most part semi-desert. Mongolian scientists argue that there are at least 3 different "Gobis".

There is water available and open streams have very fresh and cold water. The herdsmen dig wells which produce very cold water just one meter below the ground. The Gobi is said to contain 33 different ecosystems. The Altai Mountains stretch into the Gobi and extend as the Gurvan Saikhan Mountains into the middle of the Gobi. In spite of the high summer temperatures all around, the ravines of the Yol Valley of the Gurvan Saikhan Mountains have permanent ice and snow! At Yol Lammergeiers nest. Right here there is alpine flora and fauna. There are Ibexes, Argalis and quite a number of the elusive Snow Leopards in these mountains.

Desert region

The desert fauna of the Gobi is biologically diverse. Only 3 percent of the Gobi is considered true desert. There are five species of Jerboas, Mongolian Hamster, Mongolian Jird and Przewalski Lemming. Among predatory species in the desert zones there is the only desert Bear in the world, the Gobi Bear (Ursospruinosus) which the Mongols call the Mazaalai. It is an extremely rare species, and threatened with extinction.