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researchers on site

Two inflatables were used to collect a sediment core from Kholboo Lake

Mongolia project description

An international partnership of Mongolian, American, and Belgian scientists surveyed the diatoms, ostracodes, chironomids and water quality of western Mongolia. During the course of two field seasons, a biotic inventory was conducted on over 60 lakes that range from fresh to saline, vary in brine types, and cross major ecotones between the Altai Mountains, the Valley of the Great Lakes, and the western Khangai steppe. The Mongolian government (Ministry for Nature and Environment) has also established strictly protected areas in the region and registered the area on the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage List. Despite more than thirty years of survey work by Mongolian, German, and Russian teams, only ancillary efforts had attempted to document much of the aquatic diversity. However, these studies have provided clear evidence of novel distributions in well-studied organismal groups—relict fishes and disjunct distributions of aquatic invertebrates. The diatoms, ostracodes, and chironomids of these areas had been little studied, in spite of current interest surrounding resource management and geologic, climatic, and ecological processes in and near Mongolia's western basin. Furthermore, no established collections or deposited specimens are readily available from this region.

Our inventory targeted the most useful biota for developing paleoclimate reconstruction models (diatoms, ostracodes) and water-quality indicators (aquatic insects, diatoms) applicable in this sensitive region. The 60 studied lake systems (including some rivers, inlet streams and springs) have yielded about 400 diatom, 200 ostracode, and 200 insect composite collections. Approximately 80 genera and 450 to 600 species of diatoms will be encountered; 20-70 of these taxa will likely be newly discovered or poorly known. The ostracode fauna will encompass 50 species in 20-30 genera from seven families. New species are expected, as are living relicts currently known only from European fossil faunas. The chironomid collection will comprise 50-60 species from 187 possible genera and seven subfamilies; 15 or more new species are expected. Physical and chemical environmental data taken in concert with biological collections will allow calculation of species-specific environmental optima and tolerances, thereby laying the critical foundation for construction of water-quality and paleolimnologic inference models. In particular, transfer functions will be developed to infer lake-water chemistries from diatom assemblages, a keystone tool for paleoclimate reconstruction in this little-studied but climatically pivotal area. Results will be presented in four formats: conventional scientific papers; a set of regional floras and faunas; this website for dispersal of data and results to an international audience; and archives of collections, taxa distributions, and habitat descriptions in museum databases and collections that are organism-specific and web-accessible.