Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

James Murdoch


Cashmere is a multi-billion dollar commodity and recent increases in demand have led to the degradation of grassland and desert steppe ecosystems in East and Central Asia. Cashmere wool is a product of goats and 90% of the world’s supply originates from Mongolia and northern China. As global demand for cashmere increases, the consequences to the natural landscapes and people of the region may be severe, especially given the rapid rate of environmental change due to warming climatic conditions in the region.

Textile manufacturers recognize the need for better goat herding practices and support the development of a sustainable cashmere certification program. While simple in concept, sustainable certification requires a clear set of goals and measurable attributes that define the various dimensions of sustainability. Any certification program also needs to account for ongoing landscape changes due to factors like climate change, infrastructure development, and livestock grazing. In Mongolia, several nonprofits, industry representatives, government officials, and herders have formed partnerships in separate areas of the country to develop systems for sustainable cashmere production. However, these projects are mostly operating independently from one another and there is no consensus among these groups about what sustainable cashmere livestock management actually entails.

The goal of this study was to develop a framework for making decisions about the management of goats that maximize sustainable outcomes. The framework accounts for livestock impact on wildlife and habitat composition, two key components of ecological sustainability, and makes use of monitoring data to allow decisions to adapt to changing landscape conditions. The project occurred at Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, a study site in central Mongolia that characterizes many of the goat producing regions of the country. Objectives included: 1) defining rangeland management priorities by seeking input from key stakeholders, 2) developing models that quantify relationship of livestock with wildlife and habitats, and 3) constructing an adaptive management framework that integrates models and ongoing monitoring data to evaluate the ecological outcomes of different alternative livestock density decisions.

Results from this study will provide a framework for informing livestock management decisions at a regional scale that maximize cashmere production and sustainable outcomes. The framework serves as a foundation that can be scaled-up to other parts of the country and possibly support larger-scale sustainable cashmere certification standards.



Number of Pages

99 p.