Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2011, Vol. 21 ›› Issue (6): 1112-1122.doi: 10.1007/s11442-011-0904-z

• Human-Environment Interactions • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Adaptation strategies to pasture degradation: Gap between government and local nomads in the eastern Tibetan Plateau

YAN Jianzhong1, WU Yingying2, ZHANG Yili2   

  1. 1. College of Resources and Environment, Southwest University, Chongqing 400716, China;
    2. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2011-01-07 Revised:2011-06-20 Online:2011-12-15 Published:2011-10-03
  • Contact: Zhang Yili, Professor, E-mail:
  • About author:Yan Jianzhong, Ph.D, specialized in LUCC, global change and regional responses. E-mail:
  • Supported by:

    National Basic Research Program of China, No.2010CB951704; National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41071066


In the last decade, there has been increasing interest in climate change, pasture degradation and its driving forces, and innovations in nomadic pastoralism on the Tibetan Plateau. However, little is known of indigenous strategies of adaptation to pasture degradation, which limits the effectiveness of adaptation strategies planned by local government. This paper analyzes nomads’ strategies of adaptation to pasture degradation on the basis of a field survey of three townships of Dalag County in the source regions of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers. Pastures there have evidently degraded, with pastures in Wasai mainly in a state of slight or medium degradation and those in Manzhang and Jianshe in a state of medium or severe degradation. With the degradation of pasture, the grazing time is reduced, which affects the livelihoods of nomads. Although the Four-Package Project has commenced in this region, there is still severe fodder shortage in winter and spring. The traditional hay storage strategy does not work because of pasture degradation, and few nomads establish fenced and artificial pastures. Therefore, nomads have employed other strategies, such as renting pasture, providing supplementary feed, and diversifying their livelihoods. Local strategies taken by nomads can provide valuable insights into ecological restoration and livelihood improvement in the region and suggest changes to means promoted by local government. It is necessary to seek new means that combine the best aspects of nomadic pastoralism with modern stockbreeding technologies to help nomads adapt to pasture degeneration and improve their livelihoods.

Key words: pasture degradation, adaptation strategy, nomadic pastoralism, Tibetan Plateau