Ecology (Habitat) Flora & Nutrition In The Different Geographical Areas (Part ~ 4 China)
In the Region of Xilin hot, inner Mongolia, researchers Agren, Zhou and Zhong noted in their study in 1989, that gerbils in this region mainly fed on the plants Artemesia Sieversiana, and that other plants such as Artemesia Commutata, Salsola Collina, Setaria Viridis, and also Aneurolipideum chinense (syn. Leymus Chinensis) In barren areas they were seen foraging for seeds, roots and presumably insects. The remains of two winter food store chambers were excavated and on examination both contained entire stores of just one plant, A. Chinensis.
The photos in the gallery below were taken by Mark Chopping in August 1996. When he first visited the region in 1993 and again in 1995 they had had an enormous explosion in the rodent population in the north part of the sum (Village unit) and as a result of this he could see many birds of prey in the region.
Below and in the photo gallery above, several different types of typical steppes are highlighted and the plants described.
Site A - Stipa gobica desert steppe
Stipa species are short perennial grasses, which are well adapted to withstand the wide yearly variation in temperature and rainfall. The soil surface here is littered with stones of various colours, often white or red. The terrain is very level and vegetation is quite homogeneous in its distribution. Local herders here report increasing invasion of their pastures by annual plants in parts of this particular zone.
Site B - Caragana species desert steppe
This woody semi-shrub is dominant in this region. It is interspersed with various short grasses and forbs, and the soil is bright and sandy. Rodent's burrows are often found under these shrubs. It is cooler under these shrubs and offers protection from predators. The distribution of this shrub varies, depending on soil moisture content, and inter-shrub distances range from 2m to 10m Transitional Zone (S. krylovii typical steppe)
Site C - Typical Steppe Zone Artemisia frigida typical steppe
This particular area comprises Artemisia frigida grassland in the northern half. The southern half of this zone is populated with A. frigida, Allium mongolicum and Carex spp. Artemisia frigida is a hardy silvery shrub. The zone itself is bordered with some water sources in the form of small, shallow lakes.
Site D - Stipa grandis typical steppe
This particular site is located on elevated ground and is approximately 60km north of the capital of Xilingol Aimag, Xilinhot. A small part of the site in the east is reservation steppe and is grazed only lightly. At the peak of the growing season Stipa grandis can grow to almost 1 metre at the peak of the growing season. A. chinense (syn.Leymus Chinensis) is nearly always found alongside this plant.
Site E - Lush Aneurolipideum chinense (syn. Leymus chinensis) typical steppe
This zone is a large haymaking reserve and is located about 70km south of Xilinhot city. Only very modest grazing is permitted here. The elevation of this zone is relatively high, and the area in Mongolian is called 'Huitenshile' which translates as 'Cold Mountain'. Greater diversity of plant species occurs in this particular zone when compared to any other area in the typical steppe zones.
Site F - A. chinense (syn.Leymus Chinensis) typical steppe
This site is a typical steppe that is used for grazing, with A. chinense than Stipa grandis being the dominant plant species. A. Chinensis is commonly called 'sheep grass' or 'yang cao' in Chinese. The leaves become slightly blue when soil moisture conditions become favourable. Notice the small flat-topped hill on the right hand side of the photo; these are quite a common landform feature in this high plateau region where volcanic activity was once widespread.
Site G - Degraded Stipa krylovii typical steppe
This site known as a transitional zone (ecotone) and is between the desert and typical steppe zones which is still sometimes described as typical steppe. The dominant species is usually Stipa krylovii, but this was reported to be much sparser now in the southern part of the region, most likely through intense overgrazing. Neopallasia pectinata, a short, yellow forb once thought to be a type of Artemisia is a dominant plant species in this region. An effort to fence the zone off from grazing livestock in order to replenish the grassland here has proved ineffective for unknown regions.