© Tsatsralt S.
Altai-Sayan Ecoregion

The Altai-Sayan Ecoregion (ASER) is one of the last remaining untouched areas of the world, situated on the boundary between Siberian taiga forests and Central Asian deserts. 

The landscape holds important populations of the near-threatened Altai Argali, the endangered snow leopard, and the critically endangered Mongolian Saiga. With 412,000 km² of forestland encompassing 39% of the region’s total area, the ASER also contains some of the world's largest intact stretches of Siberian fir, pine and larch trees. 
Despite its harsh continental climate, the region contains more than 600 species of mosses, 1,200 species of lichen and 3,700 species of vascular plants. Of this, 16% are rare or endangered, and 9% can only be found in the landscape. The ASER is also home to 650 vertebrate species, of which 6% are endemic.

The ASER gives life to two of the world’s ten largest rivers, the Ob and the Yenisei, with a total watershed of over 5.5 million km². It’s also home to over 27,000 lakes, the largest ones being the Baikal, Khuvsgul, Uvs and Teletskoe. Its year-round snow-topped mountains lock large freshwater reserves in their 49 km³ of glaciers, which are mostly located in the Central and Southern Altai.

Today, the ASER is increasingly threatened by economic developments from hydropower generation and destructive mining to deforestation and unsustainable tourism.

As livestock grazing increases, competition for pastures are causing ecosystem degradation and water pollution and scarcity, which further lead to conflict between herders and wildlife. In addition, poaching and illegal trade of the landscapes’ unique fauna and flora - often fuelled by poverty and unemployment - are leading to the endangerment of many rare species.

Climate change is already exacerbating the situation in one of the world’s most extreme landscapes - Mongolia’s total river flow has decreased significantly and remained lower than its long-term mean since 1996; glacier retreat and shrinkage has intensified since 1990; the most intensive ablation has occurred in the last decade; permafrost is degrading, ice cover is rapidly thinning and river ice continues to break.

What WWF is doing

In order to protect this pristine landscape and its wildlife, we are working with partners in:

  • Establishing networks of protected areas and improving legislation for forest and freshwater conservation
  • Driving national strategy plans for the conservation of snow leopards, saiga and argali
  • Enhancing the livelihood of local communities
  • Promoting responsible business and development
  • Expanding environmental education