The area of forests on the globe is just over 4 billion hectares, which is 40% of the land area. What is a forest? It is clean air; 1 hectare of forest cleans 18 million cubic metres of air per year. The forest is a guardian of clean water, a regulator of moisture in the soil and air. It is wood from which over 20 thousand different substances and objects can be obtained. These are berries, nuts, mushrooms, medicinal plants. A forest is a wonderful place for recreation and many other things. In the last 300 years alone, the forest area on earth has halved. As a result, many species of trees, shrubs and herbaceous forms have disappeared forever from the great diversity of species, and some of them are on the verge of extinction. The situation of wildlife is no better. Throughout all phases of history, man has considered it his duty and even an absolute right to exterminate wild animals. In the almost 2000 years of our era, 106 species of mammals have disappeared, not counting birds and other animal groups. And if the first 33 species of mammals disappeared from the face of the earth over 1800 years, the next 33 – only for 100 years, and the last 40 – only for half a century. Hyena, Turanian tiger, kulan, cheetah and others disappeared from the fauna of Uzbekistan in XX century. To protect all existing species of plant and animal organisms and natural complexes, the nature reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, nature and national parks and natural monuments are established in Uzbekistan.
The Chatkal Nature Reserve
This oldest state nature reserve on the territory of Uzbekistan was established in 1947. Its area is 35.2 thousand ha. It is located on the slopes of the Chatkal Ridge in the western Tien Shan (Tashkent Region, Parkent District). Very picturesque, inaccessible area with rugged rocks, boulders, beautiful mountain peaks rising to more than 4600 m above sea level. The gorges are deep, with crystal clear water streams.
The territory of the nature reserve consists of two separate sections – Bashkizilsay and Maydan Valley section, separated from each other by mountain passes. The Maydan Valley section is quite inaccessible and can only be reached on foot or on horseback. The vegetation of the reserve is represented by more than 40 species of trees and shrubs. Some of them are endemics of the western Tien Shan. A considerable part of the slopes is covered with natural thickets of fir trees. There are two types of these in the reserve, birch forests along the riverbanks. Shrubs include blackcurrant, Turkestan mountain ash, Magaleb cherry and pistachio. Some groves are formed by Afghan poplar, willow, maple, Caucasian maple, walnut, Severtsov apple, cherry plum and common apricot.
The wildlife of the nature reserve is rich and diverse. Siberian mountain goat, roe deer, wild boar, Turkestan lynx, white bear, fox, stone marten, Menzbira marmot, porcupine, ermine, relic ground squirrel, snow leopard live here. Grouse, ptarmigan, black vulture, bearded vulture, golden eagle nest on the territory of the nature reserve. Marinka salmon, Amu-Darya char and small Turkestan catfish are common in the mountain rivers. The sights of the reserve are rock paintings depicting the hunting of wild goats in Bashkizilsay and Tereklisay and other places. Under the administration of the reserve, a museum has been established in the town of Parkent to reflect the beauty and richness of nature as well as the history of the reserve.
The Zomin Nature Reserve
The nature reserve was established in 1960 with the aim of preserving the unique natural spruce forests with their peculiar flora and fauna. Its area is 26.8 thousand hectares, of which 4161 hectares are covered with forest. The nature reserve is located in the Jizzakh oblast of Uzbekistan. The territory is a distinct mountain range sloping gently from east to west, encompassing the mid- and high-mountain areas of the ridge at an altitude of 1760 to 3500 m above sea level. The southern part of the territory consists of steep slopes of the Turkestan ridge cut by deep, narrow gorges. The northern part has a more subdued relief with terraces covered with thick marl and loess-like clay. The soils of the nature reserve are represented by dark grey soils, brown soils, meadow soils and alluvial floodplain soils.
The climate in the Zomin Nature Reserve is strictly continental with an average annual precipitation of 405 mm according to long-term data. The greatest amounts of precipitation fall in October, January and April. The highest temperature is in July and August, when the absolute maximum is +33, in December and January it drops to -34. All mountains are characterised by strong temperature fluctuations during the day and night and the return of cold weather after spring warming. Under such harsh climatic conditions, only drought- and frost-resistant trees and shrubs grow here.
Several hundred plant species grow in the nature reserve, including dozens of the most economically valuable ones: medicinal, resinous, tanning, dyeing, essential oil-bearing, fruit-bearing and forage plants, which constitute a valuable genetic pool: Cornflower thistle, Narrow-leaved knotweed, Olga sedge, Turkestan sedge, Wheatgrass, Tipchak, Gentian, Yarrow, Grassless blackberry, Hedgehog, Tumbleweed, Vetch, Tien-Shan alfalfa, Astragalus, Ferula, Gissar dandelion, common lupus, geranium, onion, tarragon, carnation, eremurus, acantholimon, sainfoin, tragacanthus, hypophyllum, cousin, juniper, Turkestan hawthorn, Fedchenko rosehip, Korolkov honeysuckle, elongated barberry, cotoneaster, etc. The fauna of the nature reserve belongs to the East Bukhara zoogeographical region. In the mountain steppe zone there are Turkestan agama, patterned snake, desert goose, yellow-bellied, juniper tit, Himalayan pika, grey-headed shrike, wolf, Tolai hare, common mole vole.
In the forest belt you can find green toad, lake frog and moccasin. The juniper zone is particularly rich in birds. Sheep finches, curlews, dark thrushes, bitterns, juniper thrushes, pigeons, finches, the Turkestan eagle owl, the grey owl and the Turkestan starling are common in the forests of the nature reserve. In gorges with waterfalls live blue tits and titmice, near rocky shoals – dippers and water striders, sandpipers and wagtails. Large birds of prey such as griffon vultures, black vultures and bearded vultures roost on the cliffs. Beluga bear, Turkestan lynx, dormouse, Caruthers vole, wood mouse and grey hamster live in the forest thicket. The stone marten lives in rocky outcrops and on rocky scree slopes. The subalpine belt is the poorest in animals. Among the birds, the most common are the wheatear, lesser white-fronted goose, lesser black-backed gull, Himalayan lappet and yellow-billed bunting. The mammals that are permanent residents of the nature reserve are the Central Asian ibex, the Eurasian mole mouse and the stone marten.
One of the attractions of the nature reserve are huge, high red rocks in a clearing in Qizilsuv-Ataksay in various fanciful shapes resembling sphinxes. The local people call this place “kyrkkyz”, which means “forty virgins”. The figures are made of conglomerates and sandstones. In some places they are very polished, in others they have large and scarlet cracks in which various shrubs grow. In 1978, the nature reserve was home to about 120 Central Asian ibex, 10 white bears, 6 Turkestan lynx and a pair of black storks.
The Nurata Nature Reserve
In the western part of the Jizzakh region (Forish district, Hayat settlement), on the northern slope of the Nuratau Mountains, the Nurata Nature Reserve was established in 1975 with the aim of preserving the population of rare animal species – Severtsov sheep and valuable nut tree varieties. The area of the protected area is 22537 hectares, of which 2391 hectares are covered with forest. The northern slopes of the ridge are rocky and drop steeply to the adjacent plain. The complex mountain relief has an absolute height above sea level of 400 to 2100 m, the highest point of the nature reserve being the peak of Hayat-Bashi (2169 m). The nature reserve is crossed by ten large and small streams that do not dry up in summer and carry their clear and pure water towards the Aydar Solonchak.
The climate is relatively dry and strongly continental. The average annual precipitation does not exceed 400 mm. The maximum air temperature in the summer period (July) is +43, in January it drops to -29. The average monthly relative humidity varies in the range of 24-72%. The soils of the reserve are represented by brown mountain forest and dark grey soils. The rocky areas have become imaginative under the influence of weathering.
The vegetation of the nature reserve is pristine. There are about 600 species of plants, some of which are endemic: Victor’s tulip, Korolkova, Velikiy, Elena’s carnation, Shchurovskii cousins, Suvorov’s onion, Severtsova ungernia, Nurata jaundice and Nurata strawflower. Among the relict plants are oriental biota and rare forms of juniper of Zeravshan and pear rule. Woody vegetation is found mainly in the floodplains of the Sai. Here the main forest-forming tree species is the walnut. It is usually accompanied by wild common apple, wild common apricot, mulberry, willow, poplar, elm and karagach. True pistachio and Bukhara almond grow on stony rocks. Shrub thickets are formed by honeysuckle, Turkestan hawthorn, cotoneaster, various species of rosehip and wild grape. Ephemeral-ephemeral vegetation dominates in the foothills and rises to the watershed of the ridge. Prangos, ferula, ziziphora, phloemis, eremurus, bitterroot, olga nightshade, various species of astragalus, as well as cereals and other grass-like plants grow on the stony slopes that occupy large areas of the reserve.
The wildlife of the reserve is diverse. The patterned, colourful and red-banded voles inhabit both forests and cliffs. There are also frequent poisonous snakes, such as the adder and the rare northern gyphomonk. In the foothills, the steppe tortoise and steppe dragon are numerous; the yellow-bellied rises almost to the watershed in the foothills. The Turkestan gecko and Turkestan agama find shelter among the rocks. Long-horned Skink and Cross-banded Wolfcrab are found in the mountains. One of the birds’ migration routes passes through the Nuratau Mountains. Indian starlings, partridges, golden eagles, white-headed vultures, black vultures, stone buntings and rock buntings constantly inhabit the area of the reserve. Mammals are also relatively numerous. Typical for the nature reserve are: Red fox, desert wolf, corsak, stone marten, porcupine, Tolai hare, wild boar, forest dormouse, long-legged hedgehog, red-tailed and great gerbil, Severtsov’s marmot, Severtsov’s sheep.
In the Osraf tract there are petroglyphs of mountain sheep hunting and remains of an ancient settlement. The largest tree on the territory of the Biota East Nature Reserve grows in the largest saiga in terms of length – Medzherum. Its trunk reaches a circumference of 8.5 metres. There are folk secrets and legends connected with the tree. In the past, the local population considered this tree sacred and revered it. Near the tree is an abandoned mosque of Archa-ata, which means “Archa-father”. In 1918, a huge coniferous tree up to a thousand years old was reported, belonging to the species Biota orientalis. Two small groves of these trees are found in the Nurata Mountains: one in a deep and wild gorge of Medzherumsay, the other in the village of Ustuk. The growth of these trees on the tombs of saints or near the mosque suggests that they were planted by human hands.
The Qizilsuv Nature Reserve
In 1975, the Qizilsuv State Nature Reserve was created in the Kashkadarya region (Jakkabagh district, Jakkabagh village). Its area is 30094 hectares, of which 4192 hectares are covered with forest. It is located on the north-western slope of the Hissar Range, in Kamashin and Yakkabag districts at an altitude of 1800 to 4000 m above sea level. The reserve includes the Qizilsuv River basin with its tributaries: Dong-Dong-Chokan, Kalasai, Kaltakul, Shilkhazor, Kattakhursan, Karankul, Aksu and Kichikkalasai. Near the reserve, on the right bank of the raging Qizilsuv River, on an ancient river terrace, is the village of Tashkurgan, which is several centuries old. The inhabitants of this village were resettled in the Karshi steppe, in the land of the new irrigation. The village of Tashkurgan was inhabited by about 500 families and is an open-air museum.
The climate here is relatively dry and strongly continental. The air temperature varies from -30 to +30. The average monthly relative humidity varies between 33 and 63 %. The most important forest-forming species in the reserve are juniper and willow. More than 400 plant species grow in the nature reserve. The understory in juniper woodlands consists of ephedra, alay cherry, meadowsweet, honeysuckle, rosehip and barberry. The juniper grass cover consists of small wormwood, thyme, carriage grass, St. John’s wort, couch grass, wormwood, geranium, sedge.
The fauna of the nature reserve is also rich. Representatives of different classes of animals live here. The following classes of animals are protected in the nature reserve: Bear, snow leopard, Iranian otter, Central Asian lynx, wild boar, badger, porcupine, red marmot, Tolai hare, stone marten, Pamir white-toothed marten and Central Asian goat. Birds are the most numerous class. There are 66 species, of which 27 are sedentary. These include bearded vulture, golden eagle, Siberian godwit, Himalayan ptarmigan, pigeon, owl, eagle owl, yellow-breasted curlew, nuthatch, juniper tit, juniper lens, Himalayan pika, warbler and tern. Marinka is located in Qizilsuv. The green toad is widely distributed over the territory of the reserve and is often found at an altitude of 3000 m above sea level.
In the area of Kalla-i-Shiron, 13 km from the village of Tashkurgan, in the middle reaches of the Kalasai, a left tributary of the Qizilsuv, is the 616 m long cave of Amir Temur Kuragon. Apart from the main cave, there is also a passage cave 190 m long. The caves are located at an altitude of 2937 m above sea level. The entrance to the cave from the right side of the valley, at a relative altitude of 170 m. Above the entrance rises a steep rock face about 200 m high. The steepness of the slope below the exit reaches 40-60. It is filled with earth and rubble. There are several grottos in the cave, and in the last one the slickness of the underground lake is frozen. The width of the lake is 30 m; at the end of the lake the water splashes down from the arch and fills the grotto with the rush. The water temperature in the lake is +8.
The Miraki Nature Reserve
In 1976, another nature reserve was established in Kashkadarya province (Shakhrisabz district, Miraki). Its area is 46000 ha. It is located on the northwestern foothills of the Hissar range, Pamir-Alai, in the basins of the Aksu and Tanhazdarya rivers, at an altitude of 1800 to 4300 m above sea level. The relief is mountainous, highly dissected by numerous river valleys with narrow, barely passable, picturesque gorges. The Severtsov glacier – the largest glacier in Uzbekistan – is located in the higher part of the nature reserve. The sight of the nature reserve is the ancient Hazrat Sultan Mosque, located on the top of the mountain of the same name, one of the highest points of the nature reserve. There are caves on the territory of the nature reserve, but they have not been explored yet. A very beautiful waterfall is the Suvtshar waterfall on the Aksuvdarya River.
The Miraki Nature Reserve combines elements of the flora and fauna of the Pamir-Alay and the Indo-Himalayas. There are three main landscape zones in the reserve: low (1800 m), medium (up to 300 m) and high, or subalpine (above 3000 m above sea level). In spring, the low zone is very beautiful, where tulips, poppies, bulbs, eremurus and ephemeroides bloom. In the second half of June they replace crucifers, bentgrass and gentian. The hillsides are covered with various species of rosehip, barberry and honeysuckle. Poplars, cherry plums and walnut trees grow on the floodplain soils. The main forest-forming species of the low mountain range are juniper, maple, almond, hawthorn, honeysuckle, poplar, apple tree, shrubs – meadowsweet, barberry, currant, dog rose. Grass vegetation is well developed along river valleys; umbellifers grow up to 2-2.5 m in such areas. Higher up the slopes, blue grass, fescue, couch grass, sedge, couch grass, wormwood and Eremurus grow. At higher altitudes, the vegetation is represented by acantholimony, mosses and lichens. Juniper grows above 3600 m. A whole range of plants of the flora of the nature reserve is of great food, medicinal and ornamental value. The best known are Maksimovich’s rhubarb, chives, caraway, liquorice, ephedra, ferula, sea buckthorn, ungernia, lemon balm, hypericum, ziziphora, mother oil, tulips, iris, eremurus, cherry plum, barberry and currant. Species of the orchid and aroinid families are of particular interest as medicinal plants.
The fauna of the nature reserve is also diverse. In the highlands, the snow leopard or its tracks can be seen in summer. The lynx lives in the juniper forests. The bear in the nature reserve is quite common and can be found from the lowlands up to an altitude of 3500 metres. The wild boar inhabits all zones. Central Asian ibex live in the southern and south-eastern parts of the nature reserve at altitudes of 3500-4300 m. In winter, with the snow cover, they go down to the altitude of 2000 m. Wolf, fox, porcupine, red marmot, Tolai hare, forest dormouse and red pika are quite common in the reserve. Birds of prey such as bearded vulture, black vulture and griffon vulture are also numerous. One often encounters such birds as goshawk, kestrel, lesser spotted eagle, eagle owl, snipe, hoopoe, garganey, Himalayan ptarmigan, various species of pigeons, thrushes, eider ducks, starlings; sometimes a white stork can be seen. Various species of snakes are common in the low mountain zone.
The Orol Payghambar Nature Reserve
The Orol Payghambar Nature Reserve (Surkhandarya Province) is located on the Amudarya River and has been protected since 1971; its total area is 3043 ha, of which 964 ha is covered with forest. The nature reserve was established to preserve the floodplain forest standard with its wildlife characteristic of the upper part of the Amudarya floodplain. Since the XII-XIII centuries, the island became a pilgrimage site as legend has it that one of the Muslim saints was buried there and the Zulkifl Mosque was built over his grave. Muslims continued to visit the island and the mosque until the 1950s. For this reason, the island was declared an inviolable place. Its name translates as “the island of the Prophet”.
The Surkhandarya area, where the nature reserve is located, is one of the hottest areas in the former Soviet Union. The annual air temperature is +17, its absolute minimum is -21 according to long-term data. The absolute maximum of the air temperature in Termez is +50 and on the ground surface it is +70 to +75. The annual precipitation is only 133 mm. The relative humidity is low both in summer and winter. The southern and southwestern shores of the island are gentle; in the central part of the island there are sandy hills whose height does not exceed 3 metres. The island is characterised by dry channels left over from old canals. These areas contain thickets of reeds. The soil of the reserve is rich in phosphorus and potassium, which is due to the petrographic composition of the Amu-Darya silt. The northern and northwestern shores are steep, but do not exceed 2.5-3 m.
Despite the insularity, the vegetation of the reserve is very diverse. With increasing distance from the shore, large areas of reed belts are more and more frequently visible, with almost no woody vegetation. Then the reed beds are replaced by cattails and erianthus, while oleaster and riparian tugai turn into pure tugai (Tugai (sometimes also tokai, togai, tougai or turau, Russian Тугай, Chinese huyanglin) is the name given to the typical vegetation form of Central Asian river floodplains, consisting of a mosaic of riparian forests (tugai forest), shrubs and reed beds). Cattails and saltmarsh occur. Adzherak and ambergrass grow in the desert-like part of the island. Saxaul bushes predominate in the northwestern part of the desert massif. The most important forest-forming species on the island are narrow-leaved vine, Euphrates turanga and saxaul, which form almost impassable thickets in some places. Elk and vines grow right on the coast of the island and reinforce the banks against erosion with their roots.
The wildlife of the nature reserve is of great interest. The reed cat is one of the representatives of the cat family. Wolves come to the island only occasionally. The Turkestan tiger disappeared here in the mid-1920s. The Bukhara deer, for which the island was protected, lives permanently on the reserved island. Other inhabitants of the nature reserve are the European fallow deer, the wild boar, the jackal, the fox, the sand hare, the Iranian otter, the slate-toothed rat and many others. The bird life is also diverse: Tajik and black and gold pheasant, white and grey heron, Turkestan nightingale, blackbirds and mayna, grey and brown pigeons, vultures, black vulture, white-headed vulture, black kite. Grey crow, steppe eagle and grey goose are the winter residents of the nature reserve. The Amudarya is rich in fish. There are large and small paddlefish, zander, Persian asp, carp, Persian loach and many others. Among the amphibians, there are the lake frog and the green toad. Rather numerous in the nature reserve are poisonous snakes: Adder, Carpet Viper and Central Asian Cobra. In the midday heat of summer, all the wildlife hides from the scorching rays of the sun and only comes to life again at sunset.
The Kysylkum Nature Reserve
This nature reserve was established in 1971 in the coastal part of the Amudarya River. It stretches along its banks for 30 km; it consists of two separate parts: Tugai and Desert. The area is 3985 hectares, of which 1883 hectares are covered with forest. The climate of the desert zone on the territory of the reserve is extremely dry and sharply continental. In summer the temperature reaches +44, while in winter it drops to -20 and lower. Rare cloud cover, long hot summers with strong drying winds are typical. Rainfall averages 120 mm per year.
The wooded areas of the nature reserve are exclusively natural plantations. White saxaul, Euphrates turanga, willows, narrow-leaved oleaster, crested, kandym or medusa-headed jugong and desert grass vegetation grow here. Ambergrass, black saxaul, itsechok and wormwood are found everywhere on takyr soils. Ephemerals are present in very low numbers; reeds are developed on alluvial-marshy soils. Plants play a very important role in fixing sands and river banks in the reserve, as elsewhere in the desert. More than 100 species of plants grow in the reserve; after rains, edible and poisonous cap mushrooms of different species, shapes and colours can be found there. Later they appear in a dry form.
The fauna of the nature reserve is characterised by a diversity typical of river valleys and sandy desert areas. The nature reserve is inhabited by Bukhara deer. Gazelles rarely inhabit the sandy part of the nature reserve; steppe cat, Tolai hare, wild boar, foxes and wolves are also common here. There are many feathered birds, but of particular value and beauty is the Amudarya pheasant. There are many other species of birds in the reserve, such as Marbled Duck, Golden Eagle and Black Kite. Various species of ducks cavort in the bays and canals. Many bird species are only found on their migratory routes or come here to spend the winter. Steppe tortoises, grass snakes and boobies are common in the nature reserve; among the poisonous snakes, the adder lives here and the long-eared hedgehog can often be seen. The waters of the Amu Darya Basin are home to carp, trout, catfish, asp and rudd.
Badaytugai Nature Reserve
The Badaytugai Nature Reserve was established in 1971 in the Karakalpak Autonomous Republic. Its area is 6,497 hectares. It is located in the lower reaches of the Amu Darya, in the territory of Beruni and Kegeyli districts on the right bank of the river. The nature reserve was established to conserve the Tugai forests and wildlife. Its area is a riverine floodplain with alluvial soils. The climate here is strongly continental. Winter is the harshest and coldest in Uzbekistan. The air temperature is very variable, varying from +44.4 to -30. The annual precipitation does not exceed 100 mm.
The presence of water, a variety of places for nesting attract a large number of birds to the reserve. Migratory birds include Grey Flycatcher, Grey Wagtail, Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit, Red-throated Pipit, Rock Sparrow, Mountain Finch, House Siskin and others. Goshawk, East Siberian peregrine falcon, short-eared owl, woodlark, various species of thrushes and Hylidae, etc. come from northern areas to winter in the nature reserve. The sedentary birds include Kestrel, Wood Pigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, Pygmy Owl, Long-eared Owl, Crested Lark, Bukhara Tit, Great Tit, Black Tern, House Sparrow. The most valuable among the birds is the Khiva pheasant, the “firebird” of the nature reserve. The blue kingfisher is often seen along the channels of the Kokdarya River and the plain white-winged woodpecker can be seen in dense riparian forests.
Besides birds, wild boar, jackals, tolai hares, gophers and house mice are common in the reserve. Mukratra, badger, fox, reed cat and hedgehog are rarely seen. In water bodies are common lake frog, water snake, in grassy vegetation – arrow snake, patterned goose. Spotted and banded snakes have been found in the old fortress wall of Dzhampirkala. This fortress wall is a landmark of the nature reserve. About 15 species of fish live in the waters of the Amudarya River, which washes the area of the nature reserve, and in the tributaries of the Kokdarya River. The most valuable of them are spoonbills, Aral snapper, bream, asp, carp, catfish, grass carp and silver carp. In 1975, two female and one male Bukhara deer were brought to the reserve as relimation. In 1976, new offspring appeared. In 1978, 16 Bukhara deer were kept in cages.
The Zarafshan Nature Reserve
In 1975, the Zarafshan State Nature Reserve was established in the Samarkand region. Its area is 2518 hectares. The territory of the nature reserve starts from the Chupon-Ata Heights and extends as a narrow strip on the right bank of 46 km along the Zarafshan River. The nature reserve is valley floodplain and riparian area. The purpose of its establishment is to restore and preserve the endangered and beautiful Zeravshan pheasant, the valuable medicinal shrub buckthorn, the riparian vegetation along the Zarafshan in its original form and to conduct scientific research.
On a comparatively small territory of the nature reserve there are turgai, oleaster, buckthorn, crested or tamarisk, willow, reed, reed canary grass, cattail grass, reed and susak vegetation formations. Apples, pears, apricots and peaches also grow here. Mighty walnut trees entwined with vines can be found here.
Zerafshan pheasants inhabit the Zerafshan floodplain, just as they did thousands of years ago. In 1978 there were more than 2000. Besides pheasants, kingfisher, white-winged woodpecker, turtle dove, raven crow, rook, magpie, Bukhara tit, starling, cockchafer, crested lark, tree sparrow live here permanently, while goldeneye, clapper warbler and black-tailed godwit are found only in summer. Wood Sandpiper and Terek Sandpiper nest, while Golden-cheeked Duck and Ruffed Sandpiper nest only in summer. Grey and Great Egrets, Grey Herons, Gabled Hawks, Hawfinches, Hooded Crows, Wrens, Stonechats and Black Thrushes winter here. The magpie in the nature reserve is a nuisance for the pheasants, but at the same time it is also their protector. When a fox or jackal approaches the pheasants, it makes such a noise that the predator flees and the victim seeks shelter. The Zarafshan Nature Reserve and the adjacent areas are the only places in Uzbekistan where buckthorn grows in the plains. The fox, the jackal and the Tolai hare can be found in the nature reserve.
The Abdusamat Nature Reserve
A mud house in a dehkan field (dehkan → farmer). The Kuramin range of the western Tien Shan can be seen in the distance. A dirt road along one of the Syrdarya channels near the Abdusamat Nature Reserve.
This nature reserve was established in 1978 and has an area of 2158 hectares, of which 1459 hectares are covered with forest. It is located in the middle reaches of the Syrdarya River and on its islands Kattaaral and Volchiy and along the coastline in a narrow (from 150 to 500 m) strip for more than 40 km. The nature reserve was established to preserve the remaining small areas of unique tugai in the Fergana Valley along the Syrdarya, Syrdarya pheasant, water birds and other fauna peculiar to the Tugai. The summer is hot, the maximum temperature reaches +44, the minimum falls to -24. The total amount of precipitation does not exceed 108 mm per year.
The forests in the reserve are of purely natural origin. The forest-forming species are Euphrates turangas, willows with a mixture of narrow-leaved oleaster and various species of Empetrum spp. The tree and shrub vegetation is of sanitary-hygienic and soil-protective, as well as field-protective value. The area of the reserve is rich in reed growth. In autumn, the reserve islands are beautiful. Here you can hear the song of pheasants (200-300 individuals in 1978) and observe their breeding. Natural birds and other birds nest on the islands. In the coastal zone of the Tugai forests one can find fox, tola hare, badger.
The Karakol Nature Reserve
It was established in 1971 on an area of 21021 ha, of which 15932 ha are covered with forest (Alat village, Karakul district, Bukhara region). The nature reserve was established to protect the area of loose sands in the area of Amu-Bukhara and Amu-Karakul channels with saxaul and shrub vegetation, to protect irrigation systems from sand cover, to restore the flora and fauna complex typical of the southern Kyzylkum; to create conditions for waterfowl nesting in the filter lakes formed in the depressions between the sand ridges; to protect migratory birds during resting and foraging.
The area of the reserve is a vast sandy plain with a sharply continental, dry and hot climate. The maximum temperature in July is +47.1, in winter it drops to -22 in January. The average annual rainfall does not exceed 103 mm. The relative humidity varies from 19 to 63 %. There are three main irrigation canals running parallel to each other on the territory of the reserve. There are two small lakes – Lailikul and Hodzha Sayat, the water in them is slightly salty.
Typical tree and shrub species are Black Saxaul, Cherkez or Saltweed of Richter, Karachai or Saltweed of Paletskiy, various species of Dzhuzguns; crested wheatgrass grows everywhere in the inter-Barchan depressions. Party and shara shrubs are found in the area. Perennial herbs are represented by amantac and selin, while annual herbs are represented by bramble grass, cousinia and annual saltweed. In the vegetation cover of the sands there are representatives of legumes, cereals, crucifers, Compositae, Umbelliferae and other families that are forage plants; in total there are more than 200 plant species.
In the forest zone you can find the desert sparrow, the desert cormorant and certainly meet the Bukhara tit, the magpie. Diverse forest, bush and grass vegetation creates safe shelter and attracts gazelles, wolves, foxes, jackals, steppe and bark cats. Tolai hare and long-eared hedgehog are numerous in the nature reserve. Steppe tortoise, sand agama, sand cylinder head, grey ram reside in the sandy zone. In the nature reserve there are poisonous snakes – aphid and gyurza; lakes – lake frogs and green toad; fish species include the amu-darya shoveler, asp, ostronuvka, coregonus, barbel, carp, bream, crucian carp, silver carp and zander. In spring, the lakes are filled with the noise and bustle of migratory birds. Here you can see ducks, geese, cranes and the grey heron. Pheasants also come here. Turkestan Pigeon and Little Pigeon are native to this area. Various species of jerboas, house mice and ground squirrels inhabit the sands. There are wild boars in the nature reserve.
The Vardanzi Nature Reserve
This nature reserve was established in 1975. (324 hectares, Shafirkan town in Bukhara province). It aims mainly to preserve the ruins of Vardanzi (now buried in sand) and Saxaul plantations. The nature reserve is located 50 km east of Bukhara and not far from the town of Shafirkan, in the middle of a flowering oasis, amid boundless cotton fields and vineyards. The centre of the reserve is a high mud hill – ruins of a fortified castle founded at the turn of our era by the Persian prince Shampur, who moved to Bukhara and, having received land from the Bukhara governor, built a castle and the village of Vardana on it. Its owners, who had a title of vardan-houdats, were rivals of Bukhar-houdats until the beginning of the VIII century. Vardana was even considered older than Bukhara.
The settlement had important strategic, industrial and commercial value during this period. It was a frontier point with nomadic Turks. The Arabs, led by Kuteyba, conquered Bukhara in 706, and in 708-709 they finally subdued Romitan and the possessions of the Vardan-Khudats. In the middle of the XIX century, this area was part of Vardanzi Tumen (municipality), a considerable part of which was covered with sand in 1868. Besides the ruins of Vardanzi, a high mud hill visible from several kilometres away, the area is famous for the Shapurkam Canal, the construction of which dates back to pre-Muslim times and is also popularly believed to have been attributed to the Sassanid prince Shapur. This canal was used to irrigate the lands of the Vardan Khudats.
More than a hundred years ago, the famous Central Asian explorer I.V. Mushketov visited the northern part of the Bukhara Oasis and was shocked by the encroachment of sand on the cultivated land. He noticed that sand covered the once inhabited and rich town of Vardanzi. The reason for the devastation of the Bukhara area, according to some 19th century scholars (including I.V.Mushketov), was the destruction of the Saksaul forests and the great canals that once existed in the northern part of the Khanate. The filling of the northern semicircle of the Bukhara oasis has gone down in scientific literature as a classic example of the offensive of sands against cultivated land. The Soviet people had stopped the sands. At first, huge shields of wood and reeds were built in the way. Individual mobile barchans were covered with shields, mats. At the same time as mechanical means of protection, they sowed saxaul. Only trees proved to be a reliable barrier against winds from Kyzylkum. As a result of the afforestation, a green line 120 km long and up to 3 km wide was created around the northern edge of the Bukhara oasis. It reliably protected the irrigated areas from the sand. Major works were carried out in 1947 in the cesspools and roads
Despite its small area, the nature reserve is of great importance as an area reclaimed from the desert through hard work. Of great interest here are the black saxaul tree forms, which are unique in size. Kandym, Richter’s cherkez, crested grass also grow here. Hares, foxes and jackals are often seen in the forest. Inhabitants of the forest include corncrake, Egyptian turtle dove, kestrel, nightingale, barred owl, mute swallow, woodpecker. The Zeravshan pheasant, a very beautiful subspecies, inhabits the area of the nature reserve. Reptiles are represented by the steppe agama, arrow snake, cross-banded snake, sand boa and the steppe tortoise.
The Arnasoy Nature Reserve
It was organised in 1977 on an area of 63000 hectares in the province of Jizzakh. Along the northern foot of the Nurata ridge is a chain of depressions called Arnasoy. After the flooding of the Chardara reservoir on the Syrdarya, natural water filtration began in the Arnasoy depression. In some years, when the Syrdarya had a lot of water, the excess flood water was discharged into the Arnasoy depression through a catastrophic drain. This created the lakes that stretched from the Syrdarya bank along the northern foot of the Nurata Ridge for almost 300 km to the northwest. A nature reserve has been established in part of the Arnasoy Valley, 60 km from Jizzakh. The southern part is a foothill plain crossed in some places by dry channels of temporary watercourses; the right, or northern, bank forms the northwestern end of the Hungarian Steppe – a vast loess-like plain.
The coastline of the Arnasoy spillway within the nature reserve forms bays and peninsulas of varying lengths. The largest peninsula is located along the northern border of the nature reserve: its area is 5660 ha. There are salt marshes and swampy areas in the territory of the nature reserve. Lake Tuzkan is one of the water bodies located in the nature reserve. The climate is strongly continental, with dry hot summers and cold winters. Absolute maximum temperature is +47, minimum -37, mean annual temperature +12.
The vegetation of the reserve is represented by ephemero-juzgun and amber-ephemera associations typical of Kyzylkum. The most important species are dzhuzgun, sedge (oleaster), osprey, astragal, bojalych and amber. The desert is wonderfully beautiful in early spring when the grass begins to green and blossom, shimmering in all kinds of colours and their combinations. It is the wild tulip bloom, so the desert turns scarlet in some places. Spring is also marked by the return of birds to the nature reserve. Various species of ducks, swans, geese, cranes and hornbills fly here. The ruffed pelican, cormorant, herons, geese, terns, snipe, pheasant and sandpiper can be found on the territory of the nature reserve. Spoonbills and herons nest. In a relatively large area belonging to the Arnasoy Nature Reserve, muskrat, wolf, corsac, wild boar, jackal, fox, badger, cane cat live in the coastal scrub and reed belt, in the water area – carp, catfish, asp, bream, rudd, roach. Among the sandy areas one often meets marmot, yellow ground squirrel, steppe tortoise, long-eared hedgehog, boa constrictor, various species of waterfowl, ram, steppe agama.
Modern state of the nature reserves
Due to its extremely poor geographical location, Zarafshan Nature Reserve is under constant pressure from the local population, who perceive its territory exclusively as a place of economic activity. Entire herds of cows and sheep are forced to graze and trample through the nature reserve. Most of the neighbouring villages have no gas and the nature reserve is exposed to deforestation. These problems are the same for all the zapovedniks of Uzbekistan. And unfortunately, the workers themselves are not in a position to change the situation.
In Uzbekistan, Bukhara deer are bred in Badai-Tugai and Kyzylkum reserves, where wild populations of these animals still exist. In Badai-Tugai there are about one and a half hundred individuals and in Kyzylkum reserve – about a hundred. In the latter, there are almost no problems with the local population, as the nearest village is fifteen kilometres from the reserve. And Badai Tugai is slowly drying up – there is not enough water in the Amudarya River. Six Bukhara deer were relocated from these two nature reserves to Zarafshan Nature Reserve in 1996-97. By 2004, there were twenty-three.
In 2004, the general situation regarding the conservation of forest areas in Uzbekistan is as follows: Forests make up only one per cent of the country’s land area. According to official data, the area of floodplain forests has increased tenfold in the last forty years. Those that are left are under the control of the main forestry department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, which, due to their specificity, already considers every forest as potential firewood. Not only has no protected area been established in Uzbekistan in the last 17 years, but one of the two clusters of the Surkhan Protected Area, Aral-Paigambar, has even lost its status. In 1992, this island, which lies on the Amu Darya River between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, was taken over by enterprising Afghans who hacked away at the island as if it were their home, brutally clearing the riparian forest and transporting it to their side on pontoons. The special forces intervened, drove out the “interventionists” and the island was handed over to the Border Guard. This is not the only loss of protected areas. The area of the Nurata Nature Reserve has also been reduced by about three thousand hectares. And according to some reports, the area of the Maidan Valley section of the Chatkal Nature Reserve, the oldest in the republic, has been reduced.