Included here are the deserts in and around Mongolia including the Gobi Desert.

Mongolian Desert and Semi Desert

This formation represents one of the most extensive natural area of the world covering some 1.75 million square kilometres and ranging over much of Inner Mongolia and the Sinkiang region and extending into other areas such as Tsinghai. The soils are typically low in organic matter and often saline. In the semi desert areas the vegetation is sparse and limited to draught resistant grasses and shrubs and various halophytes, but is generally typified by a variety of Stipa, Cleistogenes and Allium species. The main shrubs include Artemisia caespitosa, A. incana, Caragana bungei, C. pygmaea, Salsola passerina, Sympegma regelii, Tanacetum achillaeoides, T. fruticulosum, T. trifidum and the endemic Artemisia xerophytica (Asteraceae) and Potaninia mongolica (Rosaceae).  In the more extreme desert the vegetation becomes very sparse and patchy. The main species, particularly in saline areas, include Agriophyllum gobicum, Alhagi camelorum, Anabasis brevifolia, Calligonum mongolicum, Caragana leucophylla, Echinopilon divaricatum, Eurotia ceratoides, Kalidium gracile, Nanophyton erinaceum, Peganum nigellastrum, Salsola ruthenica and the endemic Ephedra przewalskii (Ephedraceae) and Nitraria sphaerocarpa (Nitrariaceae). Other characteristic species include the small tree Haloxylon ammodendron together with various species of Reaumuria (e.g. R. soongorica), Salsola passerina, Convolvlus gortschakovii, while the endemics or near endemics include Brachanthemum gobicum (Asteraceae), Potaninia mongolica (Rosaceae) and Zygophyllum xanthoxylon (Zygophyllaceae). 

In the most drought-ridden areas Ephedra przewalskii may become dominant in association with other endemics such as Ammopiptanthus mongolicus (Fabaceae) and Gymnocarpos przewalskii (Caryophyllaceae), while in the gypsum deserts Nitraria sphaerocarpa becomes more conspicuous. However, in areas surrounding Lap Nor (the central saline lake) in the Takla Makan Desert the vegetation is made up of just two psammophytes: Agriophyllum arenarum and Corispermum hyssopifolium. On the other hand, the Alashan Desert unlike the Takla Makan or the Ordus deserts is not an unbroken expanse of barren sand. It also includes areas of steppe, gravel desert, marshes and oases, and some of the sand dunes of this desert can reach heights of over 150 m and regarded among the highest in the world. In these more typical desert areas, one of the main psammophytes is the endemic or near endemic Calligonum mongolicum (Polygonaceae). With roots that can penetrate to a depth of 30 m it is well adapted to these arid conditions. Commonly associated species include grasses such as Agriophyllum gobicum, Peganum harmala, Pugionium dolabratum, Timouria villosa and the small tree Haloxylon ammodendron. The latter can reach heights of about 6 m and can form open stands but usually occurs as isolated trees. Ground vegetation usually consists of Convolvulus ammannii, C. tragacanthoides, Inula salsoloides, Kalidium gracile and Nitraria schoberi. In the western part of the Alashan there are extensive gravel deserts. Here a low scrub predominates with species such as Alhagi kirghisorum, Ephedra equisetina, Lycium ruthenicum, Zygophyllum xanthoxylum and the endemic or near endemic Piptanthus mongolicus (Fabaceae). Other endemic species found here include Arnebia szecheny (Boraginaceae), Artemisia xerophytica (Asteraceae), Astragalus dengkouensis (Fabaceae), Brachanthemum pulvinatum (Asteraceae), Calligonum alaschanicum (Polygonaceae), Cancrinia lasiocarpa (Asteraceae), Caragana korshinskii (Fabaceae), Chesneya mongolica (Fabaceae), Cistanche sinensis (Orobanchaceae), Clematis canescens (Ranunculaceae), Corispermum patelliforme (Chenopodiaceae), Cornulaca alaschanica (Chenopodiaceae), Cynanchum cathayense (Apocynaceae), Dontostemon senilis (Brassicaceae), Elachanthemum intricatum (Asteraceae), Euphorbia kozlovii (Euphorbiaceae), Iris bungei (Iridaceae), Kalidium sinicum (Amaranthaceae), Kochia macroptera (Amaranthaceae), Lappula deserticola (Boraginaceae), Lepidium alaschanicum (Brassicaceae), Medicago alaschanica (Fabaceae), Microstigma brachycarpum (Brassicaceae), Myricaria platyphylla (Tamaricaceae), Oxytropis langshanica (Fabaceae), Panzeria alaschanica (family?), Potaninia mongolica (Rosaceae), Prunus mongolica (Rosaceae), Pugonium calcaratum (family?), Reaumuria trigyna (Tamaricaceae), Salsola ikonnikovii (Chenopodiaceae), Saussurea petrovii (Asteraceae), Scorzonera capito (Asteraceae), Spongiocarpella grubovii (Fabaceae), Sterigmostemon matthioloides (Brassicaceae), Stilpnolepis centriflora (Asteraceae), Stipa mongolorum (Poaceae), Suaeda przewalskii (Chenopodiaceae), Tamarix austromongolica (Tamaricaceae), Tetraema mongolica (family?), Tugarinovia mongolica (Asteraceae) and Zygophyllum mucronatum (Zygophyllaceae). 


Gunin, P., Vostokova, E. A., Dorofeyuk, N. I., Tarasov, P. E. & Black, C. C. 1999. Vegetation Dynamics of Mongolia. Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Hilbig, W. 1995. The vegetation of Mongolia. SPB Academic Publishing, Amsterdam.

Walter, H. & Box, E. O. 1983. Deserts of Central Asia. In: Ecosystems of the World 5 - Temperate Deserts and Semi-Deserts. Ed. N. E. West. Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company.