The Gobi Desert is a large desert region in Asia. It covers parts of northern and northwestern China, and of southern Mongolia. The desert basins of the Gobi are bounded by the Altai Mountains and the grasslands and steppes of Mongolia on the north, by the Taklamakan Desert to the west, by the Hexi Corridor and the Tibetan Plateau to the southwest, and by the North China Plain to the southeast. The Gobi is notable in history as part of the great Mongol Empire, and as the location of several important cities along the Silk Road. The Gobi is a rain shadow desert, formed by the Tibetan Plateau blocking precipitation from the Indian Ocean reaching the Gobi territory.
Despite the harsh conditions, these deserts and the surrounding regions sustain many animals. The most common vegetation in the Gobi desert are shrubs adapted to drought. Due to livestock grazing, the amount of shrubs in the desert has decreased. Several large nature reserves have been established in the Gobi, including Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, Great Gobi A and Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area. The area is vulnerable to trampling by livestock and off-road vehicles (effects from human intervention are greater in the eastern Gobi Desert, where rainfall is heavier and may sustain livestock). In Mongolia, grasslands have been degraded by goats, which are raised by nomadic herders as a source of cashmere wool. The economic trends of livestock privatization and the collapse of the urban economy have caused people to return to subsistence rural lifestyles, away from urbanization.