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Kyrgyzstan Review, 10 years ago




Econet of Kyrgyzstan

 

I. The Chuisk Zone (North Kyrgyzstan)

 

1. Protected zone area

The existing SPAs in the Chuisk zone cover approximately 80,000 ha. The total area of planned core zones is estimated at 100,000 ha. The total area of econet elements in the Chuisk zone is 600,000 ha.
 

2. Altitudes above sea level

The Chuisk zone is a mountainous area that follows the Kyrgyz Ala-Too ridge (1500 to 4400 m. a.s.l.). The highest mountain of the ridge is the peak of Zapadny Alamedin (4875 m a.s.l.)
 

3. Justification of econet criteria

The Chuisk zone stretches along the Kyrgyz Range, with its gliding intergradation of co-existing species characteristic of the North and West Tien-Shan. It supports habitats and migration routes of many wild animals (the snow leopard, black vulture, bearded vulture, hawk-type raptors, lynx, wild boar, Siberian ibex, Himalayan snowcock) as well as archa and spruce forests that need protection. It is also a riverhead formation zone. A dense river network is inhabited by many fish species.
 

4. Physiographical description (topography, hydrography, climate, soils)

The Chuisk zone stretches to 375 km along the Kyrgyz Ala-Too Ridge in the North Tien-Shan (North Kyrgyzstan and, partly, at the Kazakhstan border). Altitudes reach up to 4875 m. The Tyoo-Ashuu pass at the height of 3,586 m divides the Kyrgyz Range to the eastern and western parts. Just west of the pass, the range is bordered on the south by the Talassky Alatau ridge. The western part of the Kyrgyz Range, with altitudes of up to 3817 m, has a coarse topography and little glaciation. The eastern part of the range has an alpine topography and is extensively glaciated, with about 600 glaciers that cover an area of up to 500 km2. Slopes of the Kyrgyz Range that face the Chuisk valley have a very rugged topography. Its spurs up to 50 km long vary in elevations from 1500 to 4000 m. The southern slope of the eastern Kyrgyz Range has short (up to 25 km) valleys with altitudes of 3000 to 4000 m.
The climate varies from temperate continental and subarid (in piedmonts) to boreal and mountain tundra type (in highlands). The climate formation is affected by Arctic, Atlantic, and tropical air masses. Mountains hold moisture and bring about local winds that blow from the mountains to the valleys at nights (mountain winds) and in the opposite direction during days (valley winds).
The Chuisk zone belongs to young mountain structures, where seismic processes are still active; ongoing tectonic processes are a factor of rock evolution in the North Tien-Shan.
There, as altitudes grow and hydrothermal conditions change, grey and chestnut soils typically give way to mountain medium-humus chernozem soils. Spruce forests on slopes grow on mountain brown forest soils, while archa forests and fruit trees prefer mountain cinnamon soils. Slopes above the tree line are dominated by mountain meadow soils and mountain peaty soils.
 

5. Ecological overview

The area is dominated by nival and subnival landscapes, alpine meadows (150,000 ha), subalpine meadows (100,000 ha), and highland meadows. The mountain belt is represented by highland savannoids (over 300,000 ha) that are mainly used for cattle grazing. Piedmont stretches of archa and spruce forests are occupied by zoological zakaznik reserves, game reserves, and game husbandries. Present are also small-leaved forests and deciduous scrubs. Anthropogenic landscapes used for crop production have an insignificant proportion.
 

6. Important and protected objects

Highlands of the Chuisk zone are inhabited by animals and birds of prey that are listed in the Red Data Book of the Kyrgyz Republic, such as the snow leopard, black vulture, bearded vulture, and lynx. Forest steppe areas are home to indicator species like the wild boar, Siberian ibex, and Himalayan snowcock. Habitats of these animals are spruce and archa forests that need special protection too. The Orsinis viper and a few endemic mollusks can be found in piedmonts and at medium heights. The most important vegetation communities of medium heights are andropogon-and-wheatgrass savannoids, and feather-grass-and-fescues steppe associations. The Chuisk zone comprises the Ala-Archa national nature park (22,000 ha), Chon-Kurchaksky and Chon-Aryksky botanical zakaznik reserves (100 ha each), the Yablonevaya Schel botanical zakaznik reserve (100 ha), the Aksuisky complex zakaznik reserve, and the Dzharly-Kaindinsky zoological zakaznik reserve.
 

7. Land tenure/ownership

The Chuisk zone comprises 11 raions (administrative units), whereof most are located in the Chuisk Oblast (province). Settlements come down to 10 small villages. Agricultural lands covering about 100,000 ha are private or communal property used for agriculture and as highland or medium-height grazing grounds. 400,000 ha are state reserve lands, with 5% belonging to state forest lands, and 3% being designated as SPA.
 

8. Current land use

Lands used for growing crops are sparse in the Chuisk zone, with just a few business entities in the area. There are deposits of complex ore, ornamental stones, and construction materials in the west of the Chuisk zone; mining plants next to the Chon-Keminsky national park in the north-east of the Chuisk zone; and mineral springs that are intensively exploited.
 

9. Threatening factors

Geographically, the zone is located in the Chuisk Oblast, which is the most populous province nationwide (over 1.5 million people). The proximity to the capital city of Bishkek makes the Chuisk zone more vulnerable because of a heavy recreation pressure from city dwellers visiting the nearest national park, mountaineer camp, zakaznik reserves, ski resorts, thermal springs etc.
The anthropogenic impact on natural ecosystems is especially pronounced in summer, as domestic cattle (over 100,000 heads of cattle, over 250,000 of sheep and goats) are put to pastures in the piedmonts of the Kyrgyz Range. The commonest violations of land use are unsystematic cattle grazing, illegal hunt and forest felling. Mining puts a considerable technological impact on natural landscapes, so activities of private miners may be a certain problem, as far as future econet coordination is concerned.
 

II. Western Tien Shan

 

1. Protected zone area

The existing SPAs cover a total area of 285,116 ha. Planned core zones cover about 200,000 ha. Planned zones of limited nature management cover 700,000 ha. The total area of the Chuisk zone is about 1,4 million ha.
 

2. Altitudes above sea level

It is mainly a mountainous area that includes the Chatkalsky, Sandalashsky, and Talassky ridges, with maximal altitudes of 3500 to 4200 m. a.s.l., and medium-height valleys in the catchments of the Chatkal and Ters rivers (1800-2000 m a.s.l.)
 

3. Justification of econet criteria

Especially valuable in the area are unique forests: walnut and wild fruit tree forests, archa and spruce/fir tree forests, broad-leaved and tugai forests, pistachio and almond tree forests. Thanks to these, the Western Tien Shan is considered one of the worlds most important ecoregions having a special importance for conservation of the biological diversity and support of stable environments. Also present are communities typical for continental deserts, mountain steppe, savannoids, and meadows.
The wildlife is very diverse and concentrated in a relatively small area. There are about 2000 species of vascular plants, with 600 genera and 100 families. The flora is to 12% endemic. Over a hundred local species are ancestral forms and relatives of agricultural crops (about 50% of the total species number in Central Asia).
Rare animal species listed in the Red Data Book of Kyrgyzstan include the Menzbiers marmot, snow leopard, bear, marten, argali, vultures, hawk-type raptors, falcons, Himalayan lynx etc.
The vertebrate fauna is represented by some 40 mammal species, 300 bird species, 10 reptiles, 3 amphibians, and 20 fish species. The invertebrate fauna is studied to 15-80% depending on species groups. Registered are about 10,000 insect species of 25 orders. Many groups of invertebrates have a high endemism at the species, order, or higher taxonomic levels.
The Western Tien Shan discharges about 10 cubic km of fresh water per year to adjacent areas.
 

4. Physiographical description (topography, hydrography, climate, soils)

The focal zone stretches over the Talassky Alatau ridge and its spurs: the Chatkalsky, Sandalashsky, Pskemsky, Maidantalsky, and Ugamsky ridges that trend almost parallel in a south-westerly direction. The Chatkalsky ridge, in its turn, has large spurs of Sargardon, Kumbel, and Kuraminsky. The Pskemsky ridge produces the Koksuisky spur, while the Ugamsky ridge is extended by the Korzhantau mountains. Numerous streams flow from the Western Tien Shan mountains to feed main water arteries of the area the Chatkal and the Pskem rivers.
The geographic situation and topography of the Western Tien Shan determine principal natural and climatic features of the region. Its remoteness from oceans is responsible for the severe continental and generally arid climate. Its surroundings are extremely arid, with evaporation being twice greater than precipitation. High mountain ridges that condense moisture from the upper atmosphere mitigate the arid and continental character of the climate and therefore support abundant and diverse organic life. Medium-altitude mountains have a warm forest climate, with mean air temperature of the coldest month being -8 C and that of the warmest being +20 +26 C. Upper mountains are dominated by a cold continental climate with virtually no frost-free period. The snow line in the Western Tien Shan is as high as 3700 to 4000 m a.s.l., which can be explained by the general aridity of the climate. Since most of the ridges rise just above the snow line, the glaciation is not so expansive there, as it is in the higher Central Tien Shan. As it has been observed in recent decades, most glaciers have retreated in the Tien Shan and smallest ones have disappeared completely. The contraction of mountain glaciers may negatively affect the ecological well-being of the area, because the glaciers attract and accumulate much of the atmospheric moisture. The main soil type in the Western Tien Shan is mountain grey soils.
 

5. Ecological overview

The Western Tien Shan is very diverse as far as its landscapes and natural ecosystems are concerned. The most widespread forest ecosystems are archa forests (arboreal and elfin forms) covering about 600,000 ha and spruce-and-fir and nut-bearing forests (150,000 ha) that are especially valuable in this zone. Maple and small-leaved forests grow in some areas. Medium heights are occupied by deciduous shrubs (130,000 ha) that have grown on forest felling sites and overgrazed pastures. Alpine, subalpine, and medium-altitude meadows (500,000 ha) are primarily used as summer grazing grounds.
Medium-height savannoids covering about 1 million hectares dominate in the Western Tien Shan and occupy all over it on altitudes from 1300 to 3000 m a.s.l. This ecosystem is especially abundant at altitudes between 2000 and 2500 m a.s.l.
 

6. Important and protected objects

Endemic species of animal and plant listed in the Red Data Book of the Kyrgyz Republic are as follows: the Menzbiers marmot, snow leopard, bear, marten, argali (Ovis ammon polii), Himalayan lynx, Himalayan Griffon Vulture, Saker, Paradise Flycatcher, Golden Eagle, Bearded Vulture, White-winged Woodpecker, porcupine, Black Stork etc. Other animals include Siberian ibex, stoat, least weasel, red marmot, Chukar Partridge, Himalayan Snowcock, wild boar, badger, relict suslik, Bearded Partridge, White-throated Robin, Rose Starling. Relict nut-bearing forests, pistachio forests and almond forests. Spruce and fir-tree forests, archa forests, scrubs.
Established in the area are:
1. Sary-Cheleksky state zapovednik reserve (23,000 ha);
2. Padysha-Atinsky state zapovednik reserve (15,000 ha);
3. Kara-Buurinsky zapovednik reserve (59,000 ha);
4. Besh-Aralsky state zapovednik reserve (82,000 ha);
5. Sandalashsky tract of the Besh-Aralsky state zapovednik reserve (25,000 ha);
6. Sandalashaky zoological zakaznik reserve (19,000 ha);
7. Besh-Tash national nature park (12,000 ha);
8. Chychkansky zoological zakaznik reserve (36,000 ha);
9. Uzun-Akhmatsky forest zakaznik reserve (14,000 ha);
10. Batrakhansky forest zakaznik reserve (600 ha);
11. Miskin-Saisky forest zakaznik reserve (483 ha);
12. Kuru-Kolsky forest zakaznik reserve (33 ha).
 

7. Land tenure/ownership

The zone comprises 4 raions (administrative units) of the Zhalalabat Oblast and 3 raions of the Talas Oblast. About 15% of lands (mainly in Chatkalsky and Toktogulsky raions) are owned by raion akimiats (local authorities), 50% are state reserve lands, 10% are state forest lands, and 25% are specially protected areas.
 

8. Threatening factors

Surroundings of the Western Tien Shan belong to the most populated areas in Central Asia, which may threaten biodiversity conservation in the zone. It is a purely rural area. A shortage of energy resources makes the local population use forest trees for fuel and construction purposes. Lack of statutory regulations prohibiting cattle grazing in mountain forests negatively affects young trees and undergrowth, but also leads to a selective feeding of domestic animals on certain groups of plants. Lack of pasture rotation in high mountains results in the degradation of intensively used pastures and substitution of primary natural vegetation by secondary ruderal associations. Illegal and legal hunt by local population and visitors is a reason for a decline of populations of the most valuable large mammals.
Deposits of precious metals were discovered in the Western Tien Shan zone. They have been exploited with a growing intensity, new mines have being founded. Natural attractions of the zone, such as Lake Sary-Chelek, mountain parklands, healing mineral springs, and pilgrimage places imply a high recreation pressure that is virtually impossible to control.
 

9. Conservation measures taken

The area includes 15 to 20% of zapovednik reserves, and 10% of zakaznik reserves, as compared with the total contour area. All existing state zapovednik reserves and national parks have organized security programmes. Reserve staff are well enough trained and technically equipped with the support of the GEF/World Bank project on biodiversity conservation on the Western Tien Shan.
Botanical zakaznik reserves are virtually not protected. Forest zakaznik reserves are protected by rangers of respective forestry divisions. Zoological zakaznik reserves are protected by rangers of game husbandries; the Kyrgyzokhotrybolovsoyuz Society; and the State Glavokhota Service of the Kyrgyz Agency for Environmental Protection and Forestry.
 

III. The Inner Tien Shan

 

1. Protected zone area

Total area of existing SPA: 87,000 ha;
Total area of planned core zones: about 200,000 ha;
Total area of planned buffer zones: about 70,000 ha;
Total area of planned zones of limited nature use: 200,000 ha;
Total area of the Inner Tien Shan zone: about 1,8 million ha.
 

2. Altitudes above sea level

It is mainly a mountainous zone with many ridges, such as the Song-Kyol, Naryn-Too, Moldo-Too, Kekerim-Too that rise up to 4100 m a.s.l., and upland plateaus at altitudes of 2000 m a.s.l.
 

3. Justification of econet criteria

The wetland system of Lake Son-Kyol is an important stopover site of migrating waterbirds, such as the Demoiselle Crane, Bar-headed Goose, Black Stork, and Great Black-headed Gull. The mountain lake is a spawning site of fishes (in particular Diptychus sewerzowi) that have a very narrow habitat range.
Mountain systems of the Inner Tien Shan are habitats of many animal species listed in the Red Data Book of Kyrgyzstan.
The zone comprises valuable high alpine and subalpine meadows; spruce, archa, and floodplain forests; ephemera-ephemeroid communities.
The cultural heritage comprises medieval towns dating back to between 11th and early 13th centuries.
 

4. Physiographical description (topography, hydrography, climate, soils)

Most part of the focal zone is occupied by mountain ridges that alternate with deep intermountain troughs, vast forests, and water bodies. Characteristic of the area are deep loose sediments and flat plains dissected by a sparse network of river valleys and shallow gullies.
Valleys of the Inner Tien Shan (Kochkorskaya valley, Djumgalskaya valley, Suusamyrskaya valley, At-Bashynskaya valley etc.) are located at altitudes of 2000 to 3000 m a.s.l. and surrounded by high szyrt plateaus that carry mountain ridges rising up to 4500-4700 m a.s.l. The climate is continental, with cold and long winters; absolute lows reach -50 C. Summers are short, cool, with mean July temperature +15 C. Mean annual precipitation is low on the plains (200 to 300 mm) and becomes somewhat higher in the mountains.
The largest rivers of the area are the Naryn, Bolshoi Naryn, Maly Naryn, On-Archa, Kokomeren, and Ala-Buga. They are mainly fed by meltwater of seasonal and permanent snows, and glaciers. Therefore, the rivers swell in summer. The area includes a large natural freshwater body Lake Son-Kul located at an altitude of 3013 m a.s.l.
 

5. Ecological overview

Slopes of the Inner Tien Shan above 2000 m a.s.l. are occupied by conifer forests of Tien-Shan spruce, fir trees, and archa. Above 3000 m a.s.l., elfin wood groves of archa and rhododendron can be observed. Subalpine and alpine meadows that normally do not form a continuous belt are located at altitudes of 2800 to 3400 m a.s.l., alternating with almost barren rocks and screes; they are widely used as summer pastures. Typical of szyrts are elevated cold deserts that are used as winter pastures. Nival and glacial-nival landscapes are widespread at altitudes above 3200 m a.s.l.
 

6. Important and protected objects

Protected animals include the brown bear, lynx, Golden Eagle, Black Vulture, Bearded Vulture, Saker, Gyrfalcon, Great Black-headed Gull, Lesser Kestrel, argali, relict suslik, Bar-headed Goose, Black Stork, Demoiselle Crane, Daurian Partridge, Snowcock, Chukar, osman fishes Diptychus maculates, D. dubowskii, and D. sewerzowi, trout Salmo trutta oxianus, and whitefish Coregonus peled and C. coregonus.
The left-bank area of the Kokomeren River, ridges of Kavak, Akshiirak, and western Moldotoo are inhabited by 15 species of rare plants, of which two are endemics. The Shrenk spruce, Tien Shan spruce, archa (arboreal and elfin forms), dog rose, honeysuckle, willows, currants, and buckthorn can be found there. Floodplain forests, subalpine and alpine meadows.
Established in the area are:
1. The Toguz-Torouzsky zoological zakaznik reserve covering 26,000 ha;
2. the Karatal-Zhapyryksky zapovednik reserve (6000 ha);
3. the Son-Kulsky tract of the Karatal- Zhapyryksky zapovednik reserve (8000 ha);
4. the Narynsky zapovednik reserve (36,900 ha);
5. the Salkyn-Tor nature park (10,500 ha).
 

7. Land tenure/ownership

The zone comprises 1 raions (administrative unit) of the Zhalalabat Oblast and 5 raions of the Naryn Oblast. About 20% of lands are owned by raion akimiats (local authorities), 30% are state reserve lands, 10% are state forest lands, 10% are specially protected areas, and the rest belongs to the category of Lands under industries, transport, communications, defense and others.
 

8. Current land use

Pastures are intensively used mainly for grazing by sheep, but also by musk oxen and horses. Lake Son-Kul is used in the economy as a fish farm for growing whitefish (Coregonus peled and C. coregonus). For now, over 30 natural and borehole outlets of mineral and thermal waters of variable content, temperature, and healing properties were discovered in the area.
The interior of the focal zone is rich in fossil minerals. Large coal deposits concentrate in the Kabaksky basin of the Djumgalsky raion; there are deposits of lead, zinc, other non-ferrous and rare earth elements, and richest salt deposits. Sited everywhere are deposits of construction materials, such as clay, gyps, gravel, shingle, marble, and construction stone. The fossil minerals have been intensively exploited by private and national enterprises.
 

9. Threatening factors

Lands of this zone have always been considered the best medium-height pastures for sheep, goats, and horses. However, they are currently used without any system, with no rotation of pastures, which leads to the degradation of landscapes. Medium-height slopes are intensively used for hay harvesting. More and more lands are ploughed for growing crops. Forests are felled uncontrolled for construction timber.
An intensive economic use of Lake Son-Kul is a dramatic disturbance factor for migrating and wintering birds and may as well cause a depletion of fish stock. Surroundings of Lake Son-Kul are also used for recreation, especially for mountain tourism. Hunting is popular with the local population. Deposits of coal and other fossil minerals have been exploited in the area; gold mines are planned to be exploited.
 

IV. The Issyk-Kul Basin

 

1. Protected zone area

Total area of existing SPA: 87,000 ha;
Total water surface area of Lake Issyk-Kul: 620,000 ha;
Total area of planned core zones: about 500,000 ha;
Total area of planned zones of limited nature use: 700,000 ha;
Total area of the Issyk-Kul zone: about 1,8 million ha.
 

2. Altitudes above sea level

It is primarily a zone of medium-high mountains. The lake basin is located at an altitude of 1608 m a.s.l. Mountain tracts rise as high as to 3000 m a.s.l.
 

3. Justification of econet criteria

A wetland system of Lake Issyk-Kul and its tributaries is an important stopover site of migrating waterbirds (the Demoiselle Crane, Bar-headed Goose, Black Stork) and wintering birds (the Coot, Anas spp., Greylag Goose), as well as about 850 mute and whooper swans.
A long history of isolation of Lake Issyk-Kul (disconnection from the Chu River) led to the development of some new features in fish and, thus, to the formation of new fish forms characteristic of Lake Issyk-Kul. Typical Issyk-Kul fishes are marinka (Schizotorax intermedius), chebak (Leuciscus schmidtii), chebachok (Leuciscus bergii), gubach (Noemacheilus strauchi), Issyk-Kul Minnow (Phoxinus issykkulensis), and gudgeon (Gobio gobio latus).
Mountain ridges are crossed by migration routes of a small population of red deer and support habitats of the manul cat.
Most birds of prey, such as the Saker, Ibisbill, Bearded Vulture, Cinereous Vulture, and Imperial Eagle, breed in the piedmont steppe.
The zone includes natural occurrence ranges of the Shrenk Spruce, tragacanth deserts, valuable entomocomplexes relict species of pollinizer insects, and endemic mollusk species.
Paleontological findings (woolly rhinoceros, mammoth, Senonian horse) have been made in the Issyk-Kul zone. The lake shores are rich in historical monuments of ancient times, such as petrogliphs and remnants of old towns.
 

4. Physiographical description (topography, hydrography, climate, soils)

The Issyk-Kul basin belongs to the North Tien Shan geographic province (Kyrgyzstan). It is located at an altitude of 1608 m a.s.l. (the water surface). The lake basin extends in a west-to-east direction for a distance of 240 km. It is 75 km across at its widest point.
Being of a tectonic origin, the lake was formed as a result of faults, downthrows, and depressions of the earth surface; its large part sagged and was filled with water, while surrounding areas rose to 3000 to 3500 m above the lake level and formed the Terskei-Alatau mountain ridge south and the Kungei-Alatau north of the lake. Uplands of Chaar-Jon (2722 m) and Ala-Bel border the lake on the east, while Kara-Koo and Kyzyl-Ompol fringe it on the west. The mountain circle is interrupted on the west by a narrow Boomsky gorge that comprises the Chu River. The Chu does not enter Issyk-Kul, but it is connected to the lake with a 4-km-long Kutemaldy Channel and sometimes discharges floodwater into it.
Lake Issyk-Kul is 182 km long and 58 km across at its widest point, and averages 280 m in depth. The maximal depth of 702 m is registered approximately in the lakes center, closer to the southern shore. With the surface area of 6206 km2, it is the worlds second largest lake lying at altitudes of above 1200 m a.s.l. (after Titikaka in South America). At the same time, it is the deepest one and having the greatest water volume.
Issyk-Kul does not have an outlet, which results in a slightly brackish water. Because its surface temperature does not fall below +3 - +4 C, the open surface of the lake never freezes.
The Issyk-Kul basin has a flatland, piedmont, and mountain topography complexes. The lake is fringed by a typical piedmont flatland built by river and lake sediments. Boulders, gravel, pebbles, and debris predominate in the west of the basin, while clay and sand are more common in the east. The flatland is bordered by steep, dissected slopes of mountain ridges, and only at the eastern and south-western parts of the basin, a belt of foothills screens the flatland from high watershed ridges.
As it approaches the mountains, the lakeside flatland gives way to piedmonts called adyry. Sometimes the piedmonts protract as isolated plateaus rising to 300-1100 m (mean 700 m) above the flatland; they are built by loose sediments and dissected by river valleys and dry gulches (sai).
 

5. Ecological overview

The Issyk-Kul shore up to piedmonts (1630 to 1850 m a.s.l.) is occupied by a flatland-piedmont desert in the west and semi-desert in the east. Heights between 1850 and 2100 m a.s.l. are occupied by a piedmont-medium height zone. Small areas at altitudes above 2800 m a.s.l. are covered with alpine and subalpine meadows.
 

6. Important and protected objects

Oxygen-rich water of Lake Issyk-Kul is inhabited by 13 fish species of the families Cyprinidae, Cobitidae, and Salmonidae, such as the scaleless osman, common carp, grey loach, and trout. Typical fishes of Issyk-Kul are marinka, chebak, chebachok, gubach, Issyk-Kul minnow, and gudgeon.
Up to 50,000 various ducks (mainly red-crested pochards), coot, teal-type ducks, and greylag geese as well as about 850 mute and whooper swans winter in the ice-free waters of the lake, mostly in its western corner. The Demoiselle Crane, Grey Heron, Dalmatian Pelican, swans, Pallas's Sandgrouse, White-tailed Eagle and other waterbirds stage there during migration periods.
The fauna of the Issyk-Kul basin, especially in its mountain belt, is rich and diverse. The western, desert part of the basin is inhabited by typical desert animals, such as the Mongolian five-toed jerboa, tamarisk jird, Libyan jird, and Eremias spp. The eastern part of the lake basin up to the treeline is inhabited by the relict Tien Shan suslik. Pheasants can be found in thick sea-buckthorn groves at the shore. The cape hare and the Armenia hamster occur in the piedmonts. Typical of the foothill forests are the Northern Wheatear, Common Redstart, Egyptian Vulture, Bearded Vulture, Golden Eagle, and Goshawk. High mountain ecosystems are habitat of many large mammals listed in the Red Data Book, such as the manul cat, Tien Shan brown bear, Turkestan lynx, red deer, and argali. Relict species of pollinizer insects can be found there on alpine and subalpine meadows.
Sediment rocks with fossils of the woolly rhinoceros, mammoth, and Senonian horse should also be included in the list of protected objects.
The zone comprises the following specially protected natural areas:
- Tracts of the Issyk-Kulsky state zapovednik reserve: Ottyk (11,500 ha), Toru-Aigyr (2400 ha), Kamenka (65 ha), Uryuktu (100 ha), Sukhoi Khrebet (200 ha), and Koi-Sary (2000 ha);
- Teploklyuchinsky game zakaznik reserve;
- Dzhety-Oguzsky game zakaznik reserve;
- Karakolsky national park;
- Tyupsky zoological zakaznik reserve (19,000 ha);
- Ken-Suisky zoological zakaznik reserve (8700 ha).
 

7. Land tenure/ownership

The focal zone is located in the Issyk-Kul Oblast (province) and covers 6 raions (administrative units). About 30% of zone are state reserve lands, about 15% are specially protected areas, 6% are state forest lands, 7-10% belong to local administrations, and 20% are private property (villages and farms) and privatized vacation hotels. State vacation hotels are owned by the state and managed by the government, as they are especially valuable lands.
 

8. Current land use

Alpine and subalpine meadows are used as summer pastures, while medium- and low-altitude savannoids are used for cattle grazing in winter.
Lake Issyk-Kul is intensively used in the economy. Annual fish catches exceed 12,000 tonnes and include marinka, osman, trout, common carp, chebak, but 90% of the catches are chebachok. The lake is a recreation site of international importance. The northern shore is built up with recreation facilities.
 

9. Threatening factors

The main threatening factor in the Issyk-Kul zone is the great recreation pressure. Over 200 vacation hotels and other recreation facilities are located at the lake shore. Several thousand tourists visit Issyk-Kul every year. They also visit the mountain tracts of the area and disturb wild animals.
The economic use of the lake and introduction of several fish species led to a disbalancement of the fish fauna. In recent years, stocks of osman, chebak, and common carp decreased noticeably as a result of robbery fishing at shallows in spring (at spawning time) and mass felling of mountain forests, which have altered hydrological regimes of mountain rivers. They became shallower and some of them, for example the Targa, do not reach the lake any longer.
Signs of land degradation are clearly visible at the shore. Cattle overgrazing in the medium-altitude zone and lack of pasture rotation resulted in the depauperization of ecosystems.
Illegal hunt and forest felling are the most common land use violations.
The Issyk-Kul zone has a dense network of roads.
 

V. High szyrt plateaus in the Inner and Central Tien Shan

 

1. Protected zone area

Total area of existing SPA: 90,000 ha;
Total water surface area of Lake Chatyr-Kul: 153 km3;
Total area of planned core zones: about 400,000 ha;
Total area of planned buffer zone: 40,000 ha;
Total area of planned zones of limited nature use: 2 million ha;
Total area of the Issyk-Kul zone: about 3 million ha.
 

2. Altitudes above sea level

It is a mountainous area, with the countrys greatest peaks: Pik Pobedy (7439 m), Khan-Tengri (6995 m), ten more peaks above 6000 m, and over 30 peaks above 5000 m. Typical of the zone are high mountain valleys and szyrt plateaus (mean altitude 2800 to 3000 m a.s.l.) that have long been ploughed by glaciers and succumbed to water and wind.
 

3. Justification of econet criteria

High mountain szyrt ecosystems of the Inner and Central Tien Shan are habitats of many species of large mammals, such as the snow leopard, argali, brown bear, Siberian ibex, manul cat, stone marten, roe deer, lynx, wild boar, and porcupine. The area is remote and hardly accessible, which helped survive the largest populations of the snow leopard and ungulates.
The wetland system of Lake Chatyr-Kul and its tributaries is a moulting and breeding site of the Bar-headed Goose and is an important stopover site of other migrating waterbirds.
A medium-height belt of the mountains comprises desert xerophilous biota, endemic reptiles and insects.
Unique monuments of the medieval architecture are the Tash-Rabat caravanserai and the town of Koshoi-Korgon dating back to the 7th and 8th centuries.
 

4. Suggested protection status

A zone of limited environment friendly nature use.
 

5. Physiographical description (topography, hydrography, climate, soils)

The western part of the Kok-Shaal-Too ridge near the Chinese border is the southern margin of the Inner Tien Shan. The highest 70-km tract of the ridge is located between cut-through valleys of the Kok-Shaal and Chon-Uzengikuush rivers. Characteristic of the ridge is a combination of alpine forms (many upright walls with elevation differences of 1500 to 2000 m), extensive snow patches and thick ice. The Aksai glaciation network (153 glaciers covering 443 km2) is one of the greatest in the Tien Shan. The snowline is located at altitudes of 4000 to 4500 m. River valleys lie at great absolute altitudes of 3000 to 3500 m. Paludified sites can often be seen up to 4000 m of altitude. The climate is severe, with mean monthly temperature of 5 to 8 C (summer) and mean monthly precipitation of 20 to 30 mm. The weather is unstable. North of the Kok-Shaal-Too ridge, across Aksai szyrts (3900-3800 m) and the Chon-Uzengikuush valley, there is an elaborate, deeply cut system of mountain ridges the range of Borkoldoi (5170 m at the highest point) that extends in a south-west to north-east direction to a distance of about 100 km (glaciation 250 km2).
In the western part of the valley, at an altitude of 3530 m, there is a deep basin of Chatyr-Kul, the highest-lying Kyrgyzstans lake and the third largest in the country. It covers an area of 153,000 km2 and ranges from 5 to 20 m in depths. Twenty four rivers enter the lake, with only one, the Kok-Argyr, having a perennial stream.
The climate is sharply continental. Mean annual air temperature is 5-6 C (maximal +24 C, minimal -50 C). All the area of the Chatyr-Kol basin, Ak-Sai ridge, and, in the eastern part, the Kagalyachap stow is formed as szyrt plateaus long ploughed by glaciers and subdued by water and wind. Flat-bottomed and shallow river valleys and broad hilly hollows alternate with flattened interfluve areas and low ridges. Permafrost, a remnant of ancient glaciation, is widespread at altitudes above 3400 m.
The Ak-Sai River is the principal water artery of the area. It is mainly fed by glaciers of the Kok-Shaal-Too ridge. Because the river valley is only slightly tilted, the river and its tributaries have broad watercourses branching into numerous channels.
 

6. Ecological overview

Several climatic zones can be observed within the outlined area: deserts at altitudes of 1200-1500 m a.s.l., semideserts at 1800-2500 m a.s.l., subalpine and alpine belts at 2500-4000 m, and permanent snows above 4000 m.
Typical are landscapes of grass-sagebrush steppe at the altitudes of 3100-3550 m, fescue-feather grass steppe at 3500-3800 m, semideserts and cold deserts (3550-3800 m), in various combinations.
 

7. Important and protected objects

Hard-to-access mountain szyrt plateaus of the Inner and Central Tien Shan are the safest local habitats of many animals, such as the snow leopard, argali (Ovis ammon polii), Siberian ibex, red deer, stoat, least weasel, grey marmot, red marmot, lynx, manul cat, brown bear, bearded vulture, Griffon vulture, booted eagle, cinereous vulture, Himalayan snowcock, black grouse, chukar partridge, golden eagle, saker, spotted nutcracker, black stork, large-eared pika, Himalayan pika, merlin, crossbill, wolf, badger, tolai hare, Mongolian five-toed jerboa, Szczerbaks racerunner (Eremias strauchi kopetdaghica), and common clam. Lake Chatyr-Kul becomes a birdy spot in summer, as bar-headed geese and ducks arrive to it. Roe deer, martens, lynxes, wild boars, and porcupines inhabit deep river valleys. Mountain desert szyrts are habitats of many reptiles.
Existing SPAs in the focal zone:
The Chatyr-Kulsky tract of the Karatal-Zhapyryksky zapovednik reserve;
The Sarychat-Ertashsky zapovednik reserve.
 

8. Land tenure/ownership

The zone includes 1 raion (administrative unit) of the Naryn Oblast (province) and 2 raions of the Issyk-Kul Oblast.
About 30% of land fall into a category of lands under industries, transport, communications, defense and others. These also include land under frontier stations and mining plants. 7% of land are designated as SPA. The zone comprises many private tourist and game companies that rented land plots from the category of state reserve lands, aiylokmotu.
 

9. Threatening factors

The zone is sparsely populated, but mountain tourists from all over the world actively visit it attracted by great, hardly accessible peaks and glaciers.
The main threatening factor is legal and illegal hunt for ungulates (argali and Siberian ibex). Using alpine meadows and nival zones as pastures for domestic cattle is a disturbance factor for wild ungulates and undermines their fodder resources. Furthermore, a decline in ungulate numbers affects population numbers of snow leopards.
The Kyrgyzstans largest Kumtor gold-mining plant of the Kyrgyz-Canadian Kumtor Operating Company is located next to the Sarychat-Ertashsky zapovednik reserve. An accident that happened there in 1998 through the companys fault made the plant administration turn their policy towards nature conservation; since then, the company has actively promoted conservationist activities.
Movements of migrating animals across the Kokshaal-Too ridge at the national border cannot be monitored and their numbers cannot be counted. Border guards kill wild ungulates with impunity.
The area is crossed by a large and very busy motor-road that connects Kyrgyzstan with China. The Torugart customs station at the Chinese border close to Lake Chatyr-Kul is a severe disturbance factor, because of large concentrations of vehicles, people, and corresponding infrastructure, such as cafes, hotels etc.
 

VI. The Ferghana Ridge

 

1. Protected zone area

Total area of existing SPA: 66,000 ha;
Total area of planned core zones: about 60,000 ha;
Total area of planned zones of limited nature use: 450,000 ha;
Total area of the Ferghana Ridge zone: about 600,000 ha.
 

2. Altitudes above sea level

The area belongs to the West Tien Shan mountain system and comprises the Ferghana Ridge that divides the Ferghana Valley from the Inner Tien Shan. Its length is 225 km and heights are 1500-4692 m above sea level.
 

3. Justification of econet criteria

A unique natural object of the South-West Tien Shan a belt of nut-bearing forests has its southern distribution border at south-western slopes of the Ferghana Ridge at altitudes of 1500 to 2000 m a.s.l. Highland tracts of the zone are habitats of many Red-Data-Book species of animal and plant.
A unique historical monument a gallery of petroglyphic drawings with tens of thousands of many-figure compositions dating back to 2000 to 1000 years B.C. is located at southern slopes of the Ferghana Ridge at an altitude of 3200 m.
 

4. Physiographical description (topography, hydrography, climate, soils)

The Ferghana Ridge 225 km long and 4692 m high at its highest point is a part of the Tien Shan mountains. It separates the Ferghana basin from the Inner Tien Shan, which it margins on the south-west. The south-western slope is long and gentle, while the north-eastern one is short and steep. The ridge is built with slates, sandstone, limestone, and other sediment-metamorphous rocks. The modern glaciation covers approximately 125 km2 and consists of over 150 glaciers, mainly located in the south-eastern part of the area. The south-western slope is overgrown with walnut forests in the lower reaches; dark coniferous and archa forests above them, and subalpine and alpine meadows in the upper reaches.
The climate is humid. Western aerial currents dominate at the heights of over 3000 m. They are very important, as they carry much moisture that falls mainly at the western and north-western slopes of the mountains that face the aerial currents.
 

5. Ecological overview

Medium-altitude savannoids are a dominant ecosystem in the Ferghana Ridge zone. They are used as pastures.
 

6. Important and protected objects

The area is known for its unique nut-bearing and mixed forest complexes and archa forests that support habitats of many species of animal and plant, such as the snow leopard, argali, Siberian ibex, brown bear, lynx, large-eared pika, stoat, least weasel, badger, wild boar, bearded vulture, Himalayan griffon vulture, Himalayan snowcock, saker, golden eagle, and red marmot.
 

7. Land tenure/ownership

The area includes 2 raions (administrative units) of the Osh Oblast (province), 1 raion of the Zhalalabat Oblast (partially), and 2 raions of the Naryn Oblast (partially). The south-western slopes of the Ferghana Ridge fall into the category of state forest lands (about 10%) and lands of local administrations used as grazing grounds.
 

8. Nature use / Threatening factors

Despite the importance of these forests, nearly half of their area is used in the economy: for hay harvesting, fruit collecting, and chaotic pasturage with an excessive grazing pressure. The severe human pressure threatens the very existence of these ecosystems.
Many historical monuments, Moslem sanctuaries, and mineral springs attract numerous tourists and believers, but create a disturbance factor for natural ecosystems.
There is an industrial zone - the Makmal gold mine - at the northern spur of the Ferghana Ridge.
Argali numbers have been decreasing through uncontrolled hunting.
 

VII. The Alai

 

1. Protected zone area

Total area of existing SPAs is 23,500 ha;
Total area of planned core zones is about 1 million ha;
Total area of planned buffer zones is about 2 million ha;<0}
Total area of the planned zone of limited nature use is 1500 ha;
Total zone area is approximately 1.8 million ha.
 

2. Altitudes above sea level

The Alai is mainly a mountainous area, with hundreds of peaks rising to 5000-5500 m a.s.l. and medium-height tracts of about 2500 m a.s.l.
 

3. Justification of econet criteria

The area is overgrown with mixed forests of the Shrenk spruce and birches. A Red List species of Iskandera alaica can be found there. One should give attention to the Western Pamir vegetation communities; mountain moss bogs; low-height desert and dry-steppe vegetation associations; and unique archa forests that need protection. Important species include the Capricorn beetle (Prionus (Pogonartron) tschitscherini), Schneider's Skink (Eumeces schneideri), sand boas, and Diadem Snake (Spalerosophis diadema). Animals listed in the Red Data Book are: the stoat, least weasel, vultures, red marmot, Snow Pigeon (Columba leuconota), and the argali. Otters and the Amu-Darya trout (Salmo trutta oxianus) inhabit the river catchments of the Kyzyl-Suu and Kok-Suu.
Also important are unique cretaceous hills. Historical monuments are represented with Moslem sacred sites.
 

4. Physiographical description (topography, hydrography, climate, soils)

The Alai zone is fringed by the Alaisky and Zaalaisky ridges. The Alaisky ridge of the Pamiro-Alai mountains is nearly 200 km across and rises to the maximal height of 5539 m. It borders the Ferghana Valley on the south. The ridge is built with sandshale sediments and crystalline schist. Its northern slopes are gentle, with some lateral valleys. Southern slopes steeply descend to the Alai valley. Snow patches and glaciers can be observed along the crest, particularly in the west. Total area of glaciation is 568 km2. The snowline almost never descends below 3000 m. Summers are moderately warm in the Alai piedmonts, with mean air temperature + 20 C (July). It becomes cool at altitudes above 1500 m. Between 2000 and 3000 m a.s.l., the mean air temperature of July is + 15 C. In the snow and ice zone above 4000 m, air temperatures never exceed + 10 C. It can be as cold as 30 C in winter.
The Zaalaisky ridge at the upper Zeravshan and the Sokh River, that connects the Turkestansky, Gissarsky, and Alaisky ridges, borders the latter. Its western portion is relatively low and does not rise above the snowline. The Alai mountain valley that is famous for its pastures all over Central Asia is located on its northwest, within the Pamiro-Alai mountains. It extends to 150 km in a west-to-east direction between the Alaisky and Zaalaisky ridges. It is 8 to 25 km wide and covers an area of about 1700 km2. Its height varies from 2240 m in the west to 3536 m in the east. It holds the Kyzyl-Suu River and its tributaries.
 

5. Ecological overview

Semi-desert vegetation of piedmonts gives way to dry feathergrass-fescue steppe, meadow steppe, archa forests (at heights of 2000-3200 m), and upper alpine meadows that are used as mountain pastures.
 

6. Important and protected objects

Fauna: the argali, Siberian ibex, bear, stone marten, roe deer, lynx, wolf, red marmot, stoat, least weasel, badger, otter, porcupine, tolai hare, relict suslik, Mongolian five-toed jerboa, golden eagle, Himalayan griffon vulture, bearded vulture, peregrine falcon, lesser kestrel, snow pigeon, bearded partridge, black-bellied sandgrouse, harriers, stone thrush, chukar, snowcock, racerunners, Orsinis viper, and Amudarya trout.
Flora: Shrenk spruce, semi-globous and trailing archa, birches, willows, Iskandera alaica, dog roses, hawthorn, sea-buckthorn, and Knorrings Delphinium.
Associations: spruce and archa forests, floodplain poplar and willow forests, tracts of low-altitude desert and dry-steppe vegetation.
A historical monument and a sacred site of Altyn-Mazar is situated here.
Existing SPAs:
The Kyrgyz-Ata national nature park (11,000 ha);
the Ak-Burinsky zoological zakaznik reserve (13,500 ha).
 

7. Land tenure/ownership

The focal zone comprises 4 raions (administrative units) of the Osh Oblast (province) and, partly, one raion of the Batkent Oblast. 20% of land are agricultural lands, 7% are under SPAs, 10% are state forest lands, and the rest is state reserve lands and transport/defense lands.
 

8. Current land use / Threatening factors

The Alai zone is rich in mountain pastures. The local population uses them very inefficiently, which has led to an impoverishment of the vegetation composition of alpine and subalpine meadows.
Archa and other forests have shrunk everywhere as a result of uncontrolled felling for construction purposes and for fuel.
On the east of the focal zone, an important motorway connects it to the Chinese border, which is a serious disturbance factor. A railroad is planned to be built there in the future.
An uncontrolled hunt for ungulates has taken place mainly at frontier stations.
 

VIII. The Turkestan Ridge

 

1. Protected zone area

The planned SPAs cover approximately 400,000 ha;
The planned zone of environment friendly nature management covers about 250,000 ha;
The total area of the Turkestan Ridge zone is about 900,000 ha.
 

2. Altitudes above sea level

It is primarily a mountainous area along the Turkestan Ridge, with heights from 900 m to 5580 m a.s.l.
 

3. Justification of econet criteria

The zone includes preserved distribution ranges of the goitered gazelle, desert monitor, white stork, great bustard, peregrine falcon, and Pallass sandgrouse.
Other features include: a complex of desert and semi-desert landscapes at foothills of the Turkestan Ridge; archa forests; a unique complex of the desert biota; fossil locations. It is the main distribution range of the Severtzovs sheep, otter, snow pigeon, and raptors listed in the Red Data Book.
 

4. Physiographical description (topography, hydrography, climate, soils)

High piedmonts of the Turkestan Ridge are composed by individual mountain spurs of a coarse topography. The ridge is formed by a number of latitudinal ridges and chains gently sloping towards the north, the Ferghana valley, and the west. Glaciers and snow patches are not uncommon. The snowline is located at altitudes of 4000 to 4500 m a.s.l. On the east, the Turkestan Ridge is continued by the Alaisky Ridge.
Generally, the climate is dry continental, with some features of the continental Mediterranean type. Summers are moderately warm and dry, winters are mild. At altitudes below 2500 m a.s.l., mean long-term air temperature of January vary from -3.3 C to -6.9 C; that of July is 25.3 C to 15 C. At the Temingen station located at an altitude of 3000 m above sea level, mean temperature of January is -8.9 C (absolute minimum -30 C), and that of July is 10 C (absolute maximum 38.7 C). All rivers in the zone are left-side tributaries of the Syr-Darya, but actually do not reach it. Their nourishment is mainly glacier-derived and snowmelt water.
 

5. Ecological overview

Piedmont plains, intramontane basins, and floodplain terraces of river valleys in the piedmont, low-height, and medium-height zones are mostly used for irrigated and bogara crop production; some of them are used as pastures. Settlements, industrial centers, and irrigation systems are situated there. Some medium-height and mountain steppe and meadows are used as year-round pastures, but most are grazed in summer or in winter only.
 

6. Important and protected objects

The focal zone comprises a complex of desert and semi-desert piedmont landscapes. Local reptiles include the mountain agama, rock gecko, Snake-eyed Skink, common scheltopusik, mountain racer, Dione ratsnake, and desert monitor. Bird fauna is abundant, with a breeding presence of the Wood Pigeon (the most numerous species), Rufous Turtle Dove, Lesser Grey Shrike, Long-tailed Shrike, and Green Finch. Most birds breed and forage in archa forests, such as the White-winged Woodpecker, Golden Oriole, Rufous-naped Tit, Bar-tailed Treecreeper, Spotted Flycatcher, Blue-capped Redstart, Red-fronted Serin, White-winged Grosbeak, and rarer species: the Tawny Owl, Scops Owl, Eagle Owl, Hobby, Sparrowhawk etc. Common in scrubs are the Spotted Flycatcher, warblers, shrikes, buntings, Cuckoo, Mistle Thrush, Grey-headed Goldfinch etc.
Dominating birds in the steppe are the Skylark, Bimaculated Lark, Crested Lark, Humes Short-toed Lark (Calandrella acutirostris), Corn Bunting, and Red-headed Bunting. Not uncommon are the Chukar and Bearded Partridge. The Wood Pigeon, Jackdaw, Red-billed Chough, Hoopoe, Common Quail, Common Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Pallid Harrier, Eurasian Hobby, Roller, bee-eaters, Golden Eagle, Sparrowhawk etc. visit the area to forage. The Bearded Vulture and the Griffon Vulture nest there on rocks.
Rodents are the most numerous mammalian group. Carnivorous animals, such as the wolf, red fox, stoat, and stone marten, can be found virtually in all altitudinal belts. Additionally, the least weasel and badger are common in the steppe; brown bear (U. arctos leuconix) an lynx occur in the archa forests; the Severtzovs sheep and, rarely, the snow leopard can be observed in the subalpine belt.
There are numerous historical and cultural objects in the area, such as remains of ancient settlements dating back to 1-6 centuries A.D., towns of 9-16 centuries A.D. (Bulak-Bashy, Is-Fana, Kara-Bulak), remains of a Kokand fortress, and a mosque in the village of Kairagach, which is an architectural monument. An ancient settlement of diggers is located south of the village of Rabat. An old mine the Kan-i-Gut cave, which means The Mine of Death is located off the village of Samar-Kandyk.
 

7. Land tenure/ownership

The Turkestan Ridge zone comprises two raions (administrative units) of the Batkent Oblast (province). In piedmonts, 30% of land are owned by local administrations and used as pastures; 10% belong to state reserve lands; and the rest is state reserve lands, lands under industries, transport, communications, defense and other categories.
 

8. Current land use / Threatening factors

Because of land shortage, piedmonts of the Turkestan Ridge have been intensively developed. Use of alpine and subalpine meadows as pastures has led to an obvious degradation of the vegetation cover. Low life standards make people victimize archa forests for fuel and practice illegal hunt.