Xilin Gol Biosphere Reserve is situated in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, about 600 km north of Beijing. It was established as China’s first grassland biosphere reserve in 1987 to protect the biodiversity of a typical steppe ecosystem and to develop models of sustainable grassland resource use for improved well-being of the local people. The area is extensively grazed by wild herbivores and domestic livestock managed mainly by sedentary herders.
Before 1950, the area was used by nomadic Mongols as pasture land. After the establishment of four state-run livestock farms for breeding fine-wool sheep, 13% of the inhabitants of the biosphere reserve (in total 125,850 people in 1999) live on these farms whereas 87% in the town of Xilinhot. The population of this city has rapidly expanded with increased investments in mining and oil industry. People are mainly ethnic Han, but there are also about 28% Mongols in the biosphere reserve.
Several development projects have been set up to meet the multiple objectives of the biosphere reserve. For example, a demonstration farm, raising traditional animals of the grassland such as horses, sheep and goats, has been established to present alternative practices and means of animal husbandry to local herders. Read more about this biosphere reserve on the UNESCO Biosphere Reserves website.
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