Responses to climate and economic risks and opportunities across national and ecological boundaries: changing household strategies on the Mongolian plateau

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Geography and Geology


Climate changes on the Mongolian Plateau are creating new challenges for the households and communities of the region. Much of the existing research on household choices in response to climate variability and change focuses on environmental risks and stresses. In contrast, our analysis highlights the importance of taking into account environmental and economic opportunities in explaining household adaptation choices. We surveyed over 750 households arrayed along an ecological gradient and matched across the national border in Mongolia and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, asking what changes in livelihoods strategies households made over the last ten years, and analyzed these choices in two broad categories of options: diversification and livestock management. We combined these data with remotely sensed information about vegetation growth and self-reported exposure to price fluctuations. Our statistical results showed that households experiencing lower ecological and economic variability, higher average levels of vegetation growth, and with greater levels of material wealth, were often those that undertook more actions to improve their conditions in the face of variability. The findings have implications both for how interventions aimed at supporting ongoing choices might be targeted and for theory construction related to social adaptation.

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