Nature Reserves of Uzbekistan
In the last 300 years, the forest area on Earth has been reduced by half. Many species have permanently vanished and some of them are on the verge of extinction. The situation of wildlife is even worse. Humans are responsible for 5 major environmental problems such as Loss of Biodiversity, Deforestation, Disposal of Wastes and Ozon Depletion. For the last two centuries, we have lost 106 species without taking into account vanished birds and other animals. It means that we lose 40 species within half a century. The hyena, Turan tiger, Kulan, Cheetah, disappeared from the fauna of Uzbekistan in the XX century. To protect all extant species of plant and wildlife the government of Uzbekistan has to preserve and to establish natural complexes, natural parks, and protected areas.
Some of the reserved areas, red-listed animals, birds and historical monuments, even those that have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage, are in danger. The abysmal ignorance of history and cultural heritage is the main problem in Uzbekistan.
Here we introduce all-nature reserves in Uzbekistan
Chatkal Nature Reserve is the oldest reserve on the territory of Uzbekistan. It was established right after the second world war in 1947. The area takes 35.2 thousand hectares. The nature reserve starts in the Tashkent area, Parken district. Very picturesque, an inaccessible territory with steep cliffs, scree, beautiful mountain peaks that rise to a height of more than 4600 m above sea level. The gorges are deep, with crystal streams of water. The territory of the reserve is represented by two separate sections-Bashkyzylsaysky and Maydantalsky, separated from each other bypasses. The Maydantal section is difficult to reach. It is reachable only by horse or on foot. The flora of the reserve is represented by more than 40 species.
Among the shrubs are black currant, mountain ash Turkestan, mahaleb cherry and wild pistachio. In the valley, one can find the Afghan poplar trees, willow, walnut, maple trees, Apple Severtsova, plum, and apricot ordinary. The wildlife of the reserve is rich and diverse. It is home to the Siberian mountain goat, deer, wild boar, Turkestan lynx, white-footed bear, fox, stone marten, porcupine, ermine, relict gopher, snow leopard. The most common fishes living in Amurdarjya are Marinka, Amudarya char, and small Turkestan catfish.
The main attraction here is cave paintings depicting the hunting of wild goats in Bashkyzylsay and Theraclone and other places. One can visit a museum, opened in Parkent that reflects the beauty and richness of nature, and the history of protected nature.
Zaamin Nature Reserve
The reserve was established in 1960 to preserve the unusual juniper forests with their unique flora and fauna. The area takes 26.8 thousand hectares, 4161 hectares of which are covered with forest. The reserve is located in the Jizzakh region of Uzbekistan. The territory is defined as a mountain range, slightly descending from East to West, covering the mid-mountain and high-mountain zones of the range at an altitude of 1760 to 3500 m above sea level. The southern part of the area is the steep slopes of the Turkestan ridge, dissected by deep narrow gorges. The Northern part has a more smoothed terrain with terraces covered with a thick layer of marls and loess-like loams. The soils include dark gray soils, brown soils, meadow soils, and floodplain alluvial soils.
The climate is continental. The average annual precipitation is 405 mm. most of the precipitation falls in October, January and April. The highest temperature is in July and August, when the absolute maximum is +33o, in December-January it falls to –34o.
The reserve is home to several hundred species of plants. The dozens of the most valuable herbs could be found here- Solomonia, tanning, dyeing, odoriferous, fruit and fodder. Medicinal herbs of high quality with significant clinical effects represent genetic Fund of Uzbekistan: squarrose knapweed, bindweed narrow-leaved, Phlomis Olga, Turkestan sedge, Wheatgrass, fescue, gentian, yarrow, brome, cocksfoot, meadow grass steppe, vetch, alfalfa Tien Shan, Astragalus, Ferula, dandelion Hissar, common cinquefoil, geranium, onion, tarragon, carnation, desert, prickly thrift, and sainfoin, tragacanth, gypsophila, cousin, juniper, Turkestan hawthorn, Fedchenko's briar, Korolkov's honeysuckle, oblong barberry, polychrome dogwood, Etc.
The main attractions here are huge, high red stones with various bizarre shapes looking like sphinxes. The local population calls this place "kyrk-kyz", which means "forty virgins".
In 1978, the reserve was home to about 120 Central Asian ibex, 10 white-footed bears, 6 Turkestan lynx, one pair of the black stork.
Kysilkul Nature Reserve
The area was designated as a state reserve in 1975 and is was established in Kashkardarya Region (Kysilkul). The territory includes 30094 hectares, 4192 hectares of which are covered with forest. The reserve is located on the North-Western slope of the Hissar range, on the territory of the Kamashinsky and Yakkabag districts at an altitude of 1800 to 4000 m above sea level.
The reserve seizes the basin of the Kyzylsu river and its tributaries: Dong-Dong-Ciocan, Kalasi, Saltacol, Salazar, Kattakurgan, Karakul, Aksu, Kichikalaj.
Next to the reserve, on the right steep Bank of the Kyzylsu, one can find an ancient village of Tashkurgan. Most of the inhabitants of this village were resettle to the Karsh steppe. The village was home to about 500 families and in present days it is an open-air Museum.
The climate is relatively dry and continental. The air temperature ranges from -30 to +30o. the Average monthly relative humidity ranges from 33 to 63%. More than 400 species of plants grow in the reserve. Ephedra, Alai cherry, meadowsweet, honeysuckle, rose hips, Barbery is growing in the juniper forest.
The wildlife of the reserve is very rich. A white-footed bear, snow leopard, Iranian otter, Central Asian lynx, wild boar, badger, porcupine, red marmot, Tolai hare, stone marten, white-toothed Pamir, Central Asian goat are living here.
There are 66 species of birds. These include lammergeier, Golden eagle, chukar, Himalayan snowcock, rock pigeon, eagle owl, owl, yellow-breasted azure tit, nuthatch, juniper titmouse, red-mantled rosefinch, bar-tailed treecreeper, the greenish Warbler, Hume's Warbler.
One can find cave Amir Temur Kuragoni with a length of 616 m. The entrance to the cave is possible from the Right Bank of the valley, at a relative height of 170 m. Above the entrance rises a steep rock wall with a height of about 200 m.
Mirakinsk Nature Reserve
In 1976, another reserve was established in the Kashkadarya region (Shahrisabz district, Miraki). The area covers 46,000 ha. The reserve is located on the North-Western spurs of the Hissar range, the Pamir-Alai, in the basins of the Aksu and Tankhazdarya rivers, at an altitude of 1800 to 4300 m above the sea level. The terrain is mountainous, strongly dissected by numerous river valleys with narrow, impassable, picturesque gorges. In the high-mountain part of the reserve is the largest glacier of Uzbekistan, Severtsova glacier.
The attraction of the reserve is the ancient Hazaretsultan mosque, located on the top of the mountain with the same name.
One can find here some caves, but they have not yet been studied.
A very beautiful waterfall Soutar is on the river Axudar. Miraki reserve combines elements of Pamir-Alai and Indo-Himalayan flora and fauna.
There are three main landscape zones in the reserve: low (1800 m)-, medium (up to 300 m)-, and high-altitude or subalpine (above 3000 m above sea level).
Spring is very beautiful. The lowland area filled with ephemera and ephemerides – tulips, poppies, onion, Eremurus.
In the second half of June, all spring flowers are replaced by cruciferous, spongy, gentian. The slopes of the mountains are covered with different types of rose hips, barberry, honeysuckle.
Aral Paygmambar Nature Reserve
First established in 1971 to protect tugai forest with its wildlife. The Reserve lays in the Aral-paigambar island (Surkhandarya region) along the Amu Darya river; the total area is 3043 ha, of which 964 ha are covered with forest. From the XII-XIII centuries the island became a place of pilgrimage, as, according to legend, one of the Muslim saints is buried here. The Zulkifi Mosque is believed was built above his grave.
The visitors from over the world continued coming here until the late 50s of the XX century. For this reason, the island was declared an inviolable place. Its name translates as "prophet's island".
The flat part of Surkhandarya region, where the reserve is located, is the hottest area in the entire post-Soviet space. The annual air temperature is +17o; its absolute minimum, according to long-term data, is 21o. the Absolute maximum air temperature in Termez is +50o. and on the soil surface +70-75o.
The wildlife is of great interest. The cat family is introduced by a reed cat. Occasionally one can meet wolves here. The Turkestan tiger disappeared here in the mid-20s of the XX century. The island was mainly reserved because of Bukhara deer that constantly lives in the protected area.
Kizilkum Nature Reserve
The reserve was established in the coastal part of the Amu Darya in 1971 (Tourist center is in the village Darganata of Charjou region). It stretches along Amur Darja banks for 30 km. The nature reserve is divided into two areas; Turgai area and a Desert area. The area includes 3985 hectares, 1883 hectares are covered with forest. The climate is extremely dry and continental. In summer, the temperature reaches +44o, in winter it falls to –20o and below. Characterized by rare clouds, long hot summers with strongly drying winds. Precipitation falls on average 120 mm per year. The Nature Reserve is a paradise for birdwatching. Many species of birds stay for the winter here. One can find a lot of steppe turtles, hedgehog, crawlers, and one art of poisonous snakes Gyurza.
Zarafshan Nature Reserve
In 1975, Zarafshan state reserve was established in the Samarkand region. Its area includes 2518 ha. The Zarafshan Reserve begins from the Chapan-ATA heights and stretches over the right Bank for 46 km along the Zarafshan river. The main goal is to restore and preserve the endangered, beautiful Zeravshan pheasant, valuable medicinal sea buckthorn shrub, tugai vegetation along Zarafshan in their original form and conduct scientific research. Zarafshan reserve and its surrounding areas are the only places in Uzbekistan where sea buckthorn grows on the plain. The reserve is home for a Fox, a Jackal, and a hare-tolai.
Nature Reserve Badaitugai
Badaitugai nature reserve was established in 1971 in the Karakalpak Autonomous Republic. Its area is 6497 ha. It is located in the lower reaches of the Amu Darya, on the territory of the Beruniy and Kegeyli districts, on the Right Bank of the river. The reserve was created to preserve tugai forests and wildlife.
The climate is continental. Winter is characterized by the greatest severity and the lowest temperatures in Uzbekistan. The air temperature is very variable, ranging from +44.4 o to –30o.
The river Amurdarya is home for 15 fish species. The most valuable of them are shovel-nosed, Aral barbel, bream, ASP, carp, catfish, white Cupid, silver carp.
In 1975, two females and a male of Bukhara deer were brought to the reserve in order to re-climatize. In 1976, the offspring appeared. In 1978, there were already 16 Bukhara deer. all of them are kept in enclosures.
Nature Reserve Varnadzani
More than a hundred years ago, the famous Explorer of Central Asia I. V. Musketov visited the Northern part of the Bukhara oasis and was shocked by the Sand dune movements. The sand was swallowing the agricultural lands. He noted that the once populated and rich city of Vardanzi was covered with sand. The reason for the devastation of the environs of Bukhara, according to a number of scientists of the XIX century, was the destruction of saxaul forests. Vardana nature reserve was established in 1975 (area 324 ha, Shafirkan in Bukhara region).
Its purpose is mainly to preserve the ruins of the once-existing city of Vardanzi, now buried in sand, and the landings of saxaul. The reserve is located 50 km East of Bukhara, not far from Shafirkan, in the center of a blooming oasis, among endless cotton fields and vineyards.
The center of the reserve is a high clay hill-the ruins of a fortified castle, founded at the turn of our era by the Persian Prince Skewer, who moved to Bukhara and, after receiving land from the ruler of Bukhara, built a castle and a village of Vardan on it. The city Vardana is considered to be even more ancient than Bukhara.
The village in those days was a great strategic, industrial and commercial importance. It was a border point with the nomads of the Turks. The Arabs, led by Kuteyba, conquered Bukhara in 706, and in 708-709 they finally subdued Vardana.
Nature Reserve Abdusamat
This reserve was established in 1978. Its area is 2158 hectares, 1459 hectares are covered with forest. The reserve is located in the middle reaches of the Syr Darya river, including Islands Kattaaral and Volchiy and the shore more than 40 km. the Reserve is established to preserve the remaining small areas of unique tugai forest in the Fergana valley, Syr Darya pheasant, waterfowl and other fauna peculiar to the tugai.
Summer is hot, the maximum air temperature reaches +44o, the minimum falls to –24o. The amount of precipitation is not more than 108 mm per year.
The forests in the reserve are exclusive of natural origin. Forest includes the Euphrates Turanga, willows with an admixture of narrow-leaved Loch and different types of the comb.
Nature Reserve Karakul
The Nature Reserve was established in 1971 on an area of 21021 hectares, 15932 hectares are covered with forest (Alat village of Karakul district of Bukhara region).
The reserve was created in order to consolidate the saxaul-shrub vegetation of the bulk sand massif of the Amu-Bukhara and Amu-Karakul channels, to protect irrigation systems from sand, to restore the floristic and faunal complex characteristic of southern Kyzylkum, to create conditions for nesting waterfowl in lakes formed between the sand ridges and to the protection of flying birds during rest and feeding.
Nature Reserve Arnasai
Arnasai was established in 1977 on an area of 63,000 hectares in the Jizzakh region. Along the Northern foot of the Nuratinsky ridge is a chain of depressions, called Arnasay. After the flooding of the Chardara reservoir, the excess of water from Sir Darya River was redirected to the Arnasay depression. As a result, two lakes appeared stretching from the shore of the Syr Darya along the Northern foot of the Nuratinsky ridge.
Unfortunately, over the past 17 years, Uzbekistan has not established any nature reserve. One of the two sections of the Surkhan Aral-paigambar reserve has lost its status. In 1992, the island, located on the Amu Darya river between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, was invaded by Afghans who began to destroy the forest, barbarously cutting down the trees and transporting it on pontoons to their side.
The special forces intervened and expelled the "interventionists", and the island was handed over to the border guards. This is not the only reduction of protected areas. The area of the Nuratinsky reserve has also been reduced by about three thousand hectares. And according to some reports, the territory of the Maydantal section of the oldest Chatkal reserve in the Republic has been reduced.
At present days the situation with the forests has to be studied. Forests make only 1 % of the country's territory. According to official data, the area of tugai forests has decreased tenfold over the past forty years.
Those that are still left are subordinate to the Main Forestry Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, which, seems to be, looks at any forest as potential firewood.