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Pastoralism and land degradation in Kazakhstan

By Sarah Robinson


This thesis looks at the major factors, both environmental and institutional, which\ud haye affected pastoralism in Kazakhstan throughout this century, concentrating in\ud particular on the changes which have occurred since the end of the socialist period.\ud The recent reforms were found to be highly negative for the livestock sector, leading\ud to a crash in livestock numbers, high levels of poverty and the abandonment of many\ud pasture areas. Winter fodder as a limit to livestock production has gained importance\ud as it is no longer provided free by the state.\ud There have been many reports of overstocking and land degradation in Kazakhstan.\ud The literature on this was reviewed, and stocking rates in the Soviet periods compared\ud with forage availability in different vegetation zones. From this, the regions of the\ud study area which were probably most seriously affected by grazing regimes were\ud identified. It was found that land degradation did not have negative effects on meat\ud production at regional scales in the Soviet period.\ud Since 1994 Kazakhstan's rangelands have undergone a transition from being highly\ud stocked to being virtually empty of livestock. The potential for monitoring vegetation\ud recovery using both biomass data and NDVI from the AVHRR satellite was\ud investigated. Relationships with rainfall were explored for both datasets in order to\ud determine the relative importance of climatic and human influences on forage\ud availability. The NDVI data was found to have poor relationships with rainfall due\ud both to its low sensitivity to the biomass changes involved, and the low rainfall\ud variability. Better relationships between net primary production and rainfall were\ud found using the biomass data. A severe drought occurring just after the stock crash\ud was detected by the NDVI, but confounded any detection of vegetation recovery

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