Hidden treasure of the Gobi: understanding how water limits range use of khulan in the Mongolian Gobi
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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- Scientific publications 
Most large herbivores in arid landscapes need to drink which constrains their movements and makes them vulnerable to disturbance. Asiatic wild ass or khulan (Equus hemionus) were widespread and abundant throughout the arid landscapes of Central Asia and Mongolia, but have undergone dramatic population declines and range constrictions; denying khulan access to water is believed to have played a major role. Mongolia’s South Gobi Region now houses the world largest remaining khulan population, but is undergoing rapid land use changes. Khulan water use is poorly understood, largely due to the difficulty of mapping waterpoints used by khulan throughout their exceptionally large ranges, prone to high variations in precipitation. We used the special movement path characteristics of GPS tagged khulan to show us where water is located. We identified 367 waterpoints, 53 of which were of population importance, characterized the seasonal and circadian use, and identified snow cover as the most important variable predicting khulan visits during the non-growing season, and vegetation greenness during the growing season. Our results provide a data layer to help guide a regional khulan conservation strategy, allow predictions for other part of the global khulan range, and illustrates the overall importance of waterpoints for dryland herbivores.