Mongolia, with an area 1.567 million sq.km, lies in a transitional zone at 42° to 52° N, between the boreal forests of Siberia and the Gobi desert, spanning the southernmost border of the permafrost and the northernmost deserts of Central Asia. The country is far from the sea and has an extreme continental climate with marked ranges of seasonal and diurnal temperatures, and low precipitation. Altitude ranges from 560m in the far East to 4374m in the Altai mountains. Mongolia‟s wide range of relatively intact ecosystems provides habitat for a variety of plant and animal species, some of which are globally endangered. Mongolia belongs to one of the few countries which is still considered relatively untouched regarding air, water, plant and animal species in the world.
Human influence on the country has been relatively light, the taiga, steppe and desert ecosystems have been less affected by man than in neighboring countries. The eastern steppe ecosystem is still the home to hundreds of thousands of migratory Mongolian gazelles.
There have been 128 plant species registered as endangered and threatened in the second edition of Mongolian red book (1997). This group lncludes 75 medicinal species, 11 for food, 16 species used in industry, 55 decorative species and 15 species used in the soil fixing process and in controlling pests.
More than 100 species of plants are currently used for medicinal purposes and more than 200 species are used for pharmaceutical purposes. Additionally, 200 species are used for tea, 50 species for food and over 100 species are important for livestock feed. It must be emphasized, however, that because of the intensive use of more than 80 species for food and other purposes, the numbers and resources of species like Sausurrea involucrate, Allium altaicum, Sophora alopecuroides, Glycyrrhiza uralensis, Gentian algida, Cynomorium soongaricum, Allium oblicium and many others are decreasing rapidly today in Mongolia. For example, since 1998, the biological resource of Glycyrrhiza uralensis has been decreased by a factor of 6.6and the industrial resource by 7.2. Saposhnokovia divaricata is an important medicinal plant distributed in the eastern parts of Mongolia, with a 17.8 tonne biological resource and a 110.7 tonne industrial resourse, however, now some 5=6 tonnes is being prepared annually for foreign export.
According to inventory of 2007, the total forest fund is 19002.2 thousand ha, including closed forest area occupies 13397.1 thous.ha. Area of forest fund occupies 12.1 percent of Mongolian total land area. Closed forest area (country‟s percentage of forest land) occupies 8.56 percent of the total land area. Coniferous and deciduous forests are occupied 75.6 percent of our country forest fund and saxaul forest 24.6 percent occupy.
Forest of the country consists of 140 species tree, shrub and larch, pine, cedar, spruce, fir are conifer, birch, aspen, poplar, elm, willow, shrub are deciduous. Dominant main tree is a larch.
Today, 19 insect species (which includes 11 species of butterflies and moths, 4 species of wasps, 2 species of beetles, 1 species of dragonfly and 1 species of fly) are conserved by legal protection. However, information about their population approaches and the detailed factors influencing rates of population decline are still poor. Despite this, in recent years some species with membranous wings and aquatic insects‟ population approaches in Mongolia have been discovered through studies on biology and ecology of those animals and the base line of information is slowly accumulating. For example, an open population of butterfly and moth species: Leptidea morsei F., Nymphalis vau-album (Dennis & Schiff)., Euphydryas intermedia (Menet)., Triphysa phryne (Pall)., Coenonympha glycerion (Bork)., Lycaena helle (Dennis & Schiff)., Coenonympha oedippus (Fab)., Coenonympha hero (L)., Cupido minimus (Fues)., Nymphalis polychloros (L)., whose status is categorized “extinct” and “critically endangered” in most European countries, has been recorded as occupying forest steppe in Mongolia.
The Mongolian water system is based on the following watersheds: Khalkh gol, Kherlen gol, Onon, Shishhed, Bulgan gol, Selenge, Tes, Great lake depression and the Southern lakes valley, and Mongolia itself geographically belongs to the three main water catchments in the region, being the Pacific Drainage Basin, Arctic Ocean Drainage Basin and the Central Asian Inland Basin (Figure 1). There are 76 species of fish belonging to 46 genera and 14 families reported in these watersheds. In the Arctic Ocean Drainage Basin there are 29 species, while in the Pacific Drainage – 43 species, and 10 in the Central Asian Inland Basin.
There are 6 species of amphibians in Mongolia belonging to 4 families of 2 orders, and 21 species of reptiles in Mongolia belongs to 13 genera, 6 families of 2 suborders. Mongolia‟s diversity is low, compared to that of Middle Asia, Northeast Asia and Central Asian herpetoligical species, primarily due to the harsh continental climate of Mongolia.
Currently, about 472 bird species have been recorded in Mongolia, belonging to 61 families and 19 orders. There are 81 species of resident birds and 391 species of migratory birds. In addition, 254 species of migratory birds breed in Mongolia, 10 species are winter visitors from Siberia, 8 species are summer visitors and 64 species are vagrants.
Four major global migratory routes have been recognized in Mongolia: the East Asia-Australasia flyway; the Central Asia flyway; the West Pacific flyway; and the Africa-Eurasia flyway. Of these, the former two account for the majority of bird migration.
Mongolia has 138 species of mammals, which belongs to 73 genus and 23 families, 8 orders; which includes 13 species of insectivores; 12 species of chiropters; 6 species of lagomorphs; 69 species of rodents; 24 species of carnivores; 2 species of perissodactyls; 1 species of tylopoda; and 11 species of artiodactyls.
The major threats facing biological diversity of Mongolia include climate change, water shortage, changes occuring in land use and as consequence, the progression of desertification processes.