Final Report

The "Permafrost and Culture" Action Group (supported by IPA and IASC) intends to make permafrost dynamics understandable and relevant for social-sciences research in Inner Asia and the circumpolar North. Our ambition is a comparison of how local inhabitants deal with environmental change in different parts of Asia’s vast area of permafrost.

The workshop in Ulaanbaatar was attended by 20 researchers from Mongolia and beyond, it included a half-day seminar with students of geography and a field excursion to the permafrost research site at Terelj. The workshop revealed new aspects of permafrost distribution and the interplay of cryosphere, hydrology, vegetation, pastoralism, and socio-economic setting. Though not located in the Arctic, large parts of Mongolia are characterized by permafrost. Similar to neighbouring Siberia, pastoralism is an important source of income and subsistence for many inhabitants. This form of land use is strongly dependent on environmental conditions. In permafrost regions, changes in the landscape and thus in the resource base may proceed rather rapidly and in unprecedented ways. Reversely, animal husbandry may also have an impact on local and regional environmental conditions – and on permafrost dynamics – as was demonstrated in earlier workshops (in Yakutsk and Vorkuta) of this research initiative.



  • Participants discussed the need for better access to more accurate meteorological data, in particular regarding changing precipitation patterns at local scale; and for a more nuanced understanding of how landscape aspect, snow and ice conditions, changes in plant species, grazing and logging all interact locally with permafrost dynamics.
  • Traditional (unwritten) and new (officially established) land-use management strategies may help promote sustainable pasture and forest use in permafrost areas, but they must reflect changes in herd composition (e.g., the recent increase in cashmere goats), long-term inter-regional migration of herders and herds within Mongolia, as well as legal and technological changes.
  • Drawing on successful examples from Central Yakutia (Sakha Republic, Russian Federation), participants recommend more frequent knowledge exchanges between local herders, social and environmental scientists in different communities across northern Mongolia.


Date and Location: 

20 - 24 March 2019 | Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia)


IASC Working Group / Committees funding the Project:


Project Lead

J. Otto Habeck


Year funded by IASC



Project Status





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