A Utah State University researcher recently studied pastoral systems on the Tibetan Plateau of China.

Richard Cincotta, a USU range science research professor and his wife, Preminda, lived at the Habei Open Research Station near Menyuan Pastoral Commune, a community of some 2,500 Tibetans.Cincotta worked with a team of Chinese researchers studying how the Tibetans managed their resources, what the effects of the management were and how local climate influenced small areas, he said.

Their interviews with the Tibetans produced information about where and why the pastoralists moved their sheep, yaks and horses, what crops were raised and how those were used and how the Tibetans reached decisions with the Chinese who control that region, Cincotta said.

They constructed enclosures that shielded small areas from rainfall and winds, simulated rainfall on other study sites and measured plant production in existing structures.

Cincotta learned that a pastoral family unit which included sons, their wives and children might have 300 sheep and 80 to 120 yaks. The sheep were used for meat and wool; the yaks for meat, milk and butter used in tea, the traditional Tibetan drink. Yak hair is prized for tents and clothing and the animals are ridden.

Horses are raised by one group of the commune. These are ridden and occasionally raced.

Another brigade in the commune farms, Cincotta said, and their main cash crop is rape seed which is converted to oil. Oats and barley grasslands are used for supplemental winter livestock feed, the USU researcher added.

Research has been carried out at the station on nitrogen and phosphorous content of plants, the structure of plant communities, measurement of production, regeneration and decomposition, Cincotta said.