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Socioenvironmental Threats to Pastoral Livelihoods: Risk Perceptions in the Altay and Tianshan Mountains of Xinjiang, China



Subjective risk perceptions give rise to unique policy implications as they reflect both the expectation of risk exposure and the ability to mitigate or cope with the adverse impacts. Based on data collected from semistructured interviews and iterative ranking exercises with 159 households in the Altay and Tianshan Mountains of Xinjiang, China, this study investigates and explains the risks with respect to a seriously understudied population and location. Using both geostatistical and econometric methods, we show that although fear of environmental crisis is prevalent among our respondents, recently implemented pastoral conservation, sedentarization, and development projects are more likely to be ranked as the top concerns among affected households. In order to reduce these concerns, future pastoral policy must be built on the livestock economy, and intervention priority should be given to the geographic areas identified as risk hot spots. In cases where pastoralists have to give up their pastures, the transition to other comparable livelihood strategies must be enabled by creating new opportunities and training pastoralists to acquire the needed skills.