Rivers without Boundaries

Dauria Going Dry

Adaptation to climate change in transboundary headwaters of the Amur River Basin

Dauria project is one of  8 members of UNECE Water Convention pilot projects on adaptation to climate change in transboundary basins.(See UN review of all projects)

Argun valley at Abagaitui 2007

Background: of the project.

Dauria wetlands support globally significant populations of at least 20 bird species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, including the Red-crowned Crane, and resting and feeding areas for several million migratory waterbirds. Indigenous 30-year climate cycle effectively drives dynamics of Dauria ecosystems, but multiple manifestations of global climate change are also very evident there. Recent rapid socio-economic changes and loss of nomadic lifestyle in Dauria Steppe  makes ecosystems and local communities less resilient to naturally fluctuating availability of resources and to droughts and floods exacerbated by climate change. Drastically different cultures, population density and mode of economic development and water use in Russia, China and Mongolia, make it very difficult to build transboundary mechanism to protect common water resources. Meanwhile risks for wetland ecosystems and dependent population  are further exacerbated by recent  proposals for several inter-basin water transfer projects in the Argun River basin in China and Mongolia.

Dauria International Protected Area (DIPA) was created by Mongolia, China and Russia in 1994 to protect and study ecosystems of the region. All three countries also have bilateral agreements on transboundary waters, which lack clear mutual obligations. Increasingly altered by human activities Argun River basin with Dalai Lake and still relatively pristine Uldz River basin with Torey lakes form a great comparative pair for a study on transboundary water management options and climate adaptation in Amur River Headwaters.


The project coalition led by Daursky Biosphere Reserve (representing DIPA) and WWF Russia is aiming to harmonize transboundary river protection and management in Dauria by

1.        -Strategic assessment of river management options in the light of climate adaptation

2.        -Establishing wetland monitoring system  in both Argun and Ulz basins

3.        -Enhancement of protected areas network as one of key adaptation measures

4.        -Awareness raising program on climate adaptation in transboundary Dauria.

The project seeks to develop and promote science-based adaptation measures to complex cycling climate of Dauria region, which is severely affected by global warming. The project addresses domestic and international policy-making, as well as selected conservation and monitoring practices in the field. We also seek to create a platform for scientists from interested countries to advance understanding of dynamics in Dauria ecosystems under climatic and anthropogenic influences.

In 2010 the project formed partnerships with Administration of Zabaikalsky Province, International Crane Foundation, East Asian-Australasian flyway Partnership, Rivers without Boundaries Coalition, Institute of Natural Resources and Cryology of Russian Academy of Sciences, and a number of Mongolian and Chinese NGOs and researchers.  RwB coalition provides tri-lingual information support,  transboundary communication among NGOS and experts, information dissemination, etc. WWF Amur Branch supported project financially and some project activities were  supported  by UNDP\GEF “Russian Steppe Conservation” Project administered by the Russian Ministry of

Achievements in 2010-2011:

1) Analysis of climate change influence on hydrology in Argun , Onon and Ulz River basins has been started based on hydro meteorological data, remote sensing data and field observations. Data on Torey lakes water regime, area and shape dynamics were derived from satellite imagery, Torey lakes water balance calculated for 1960-2009. WWF Mongolia contributed study on climate change projections in Dauria for 2020, 2050 and 2080 determined by models HADLEY and ECHAM and possible consequences for 3 transboundary rivers (Khakh, Kherlen and Onon).

2) Data collected on habitat and biota conditions on key water courses and water bodies during the dry phase of climate cycle. Hydrometeorologycal data for the entire period of instrumental observation were obtained and are available for needs of the pilot project.

3) Monitoring network developmentDIPA transboundary monitoring in Argun Basin

Formation of ecosystems monitoring network was completed in the transboundary part of Argun and Onon rivers and Torey lakes basins. The netwok includes more than 200 wetland and steppe monitoring plots and transects in Russian, Mongolian and Chinese parts. In collaboration with the Institute of Natural Resourses, Ecology and Cryology of Russian Academy of Sciences hydro chemical and hydrobiological field studies at 11 lakes of the basins were carried out. An agreement with WWF Mongolia for complex monitoring (climate, hydrology, biota, human activities) of Uldz river basin as a model basin with natural flow was achieved.

Complex ecosystem monitoring will make possible understanding of natural and antropogenic processes in the basin and estimation of natural and human contribution to the landscape dynamics. It will give information for developing of climate adaptation strategy and can be the tool for controlling of its realization.

Within the framework of the information collecting improving a training seminar on environmental analysis of botanical data was held in the Daursky reserve.

4) Analyzed datasets on  multi-year observations of wetland plant communities succession, abundance and breeding success of waterbirds, etc.

5) Development most of information base necessary to determine parameters of environmental flows on transboundary watercourses. Collected most relevant case-studies and methodologies from dryland rivers of the world (e.g. Australia, US, etc);

6) Started establishment of International Bird Observatory: agreed on common monitoring protocols, developed network of observation points for bird migration and nesting periods.

7) Delivered Project-related reports at 6 international conferences and published 8 short papers.

Results of long-term investigations of concordant climate and biota changes in Daurian region were colligated and published in a chapter of book “Eurasian Steppes” ( V.E.Kirilyuk, V.A. Obyazov,T.E. Tkachuk, O.K. Kirilyuk Influence of climate change on wildlife in the Daurian ecoregion // Eurasian Steppes —  Ecological Problems and Livelihoods in a Changing World” edited by Marinus J.A. Werger & Marja A. Van Staalduinen. Published by Springer, (Dordrecht, Berlin, Tokyo, Boston, London) – 400-470 р. )

8)  Sustained collection and dissemination of  project -related information via  English and Russian -language web-sites: www.arguncrisis.ru, www.dauriarivers.org (web-site in Chinese under construction).

9) Water infrastructure assessment

Project representative took part in official Russian inspection of the Hailaer river-Dalai-lake Water Transfer Canal and developed report recommendations on the outcomes. It was the first case of such international inspection between Russia and China. The inspection has shown that that the China water authority is ready to take measures to limit water-transfer volume but is not ready to tolerate international control and to monitoring ecological consequences of the water-transfer.

Water management plans at Kherlen River basin (Mongolia), including including dam building and water transfer to Gobi desert, were examined, and an expedition to proposed dam sites on Kherlen Rriver was carried out.


Dr.V.Kiriliuk, Daursky Biosphere reserve (DIPA) vkiriliuk@bk.ru

Dr. E.Simonov, RwB Coordinator, Consulant to WWF Amur Programme simonov@riverswithoutboundaries.org

Dr.T. Tkachuk, Daursky Biosphere reserve (DIPA) tetkachuk@yandex.ru

Dr. O.Kiriliuk, Daursky Biosphere reserve (DIPA) kiriliuko@bk.ru

Natalia Kochneva, Ministry of natural resources and ecology of Zabaikalsky kray. natashakochneva@gmail.com


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