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Kyzylkum National Reserve

The Kyzylkum National Reserve is situated in two provinces of Uzbekistan, Bukhara and Khoresm. The reserve stretches from northwest to southeast for about 30 km along the bank of the Amudarya, in a strip 3 km wide. The total area of the reserve is 10,311 ha, of which 1,467 ha are situated in Romitan district, Bukhara province, and 8,844 in Harazasp district, Khoresm province.

The Kyzylkum reserve is a unique territory, a combination of riparian forest in the middle course of the Amudarya River and a typical sand desert.

The climate is characterised by extremely dry air, greatly fluctuating temperature, low precipitation, high summer temperatures, sufficiently low winter temperatures, high evaporation, low cloudiness and long and hot summers with strong and dry winds.

At the Kyzylkum Reserve the Amudarya branches into numerous small streams forming a large number of islands of various sizes. The Amudarya is the principal watercourse and the main source of water for the whole Turan Plain. The river’s average annual flow is 2,500 m3/sec, with the highest water level in the summer months of July and August. Thus, at Nukus the average water flow in July is 3,400 m3/sec, which is 18.6 % of the annual flow. The Amudarya is snow- and ice-fed, which results in its water flow starting to increase in March. In the high-water season the water often leaves the riverbed and spreads over large areas, forming a great number of new streams and lakes. The water in the Amudarya River is very muddy, with an average quantity of silt 2.55 kg/m3. The main riverbed is 500-600 m wide in the territory of the reserve.

The Kyzylkum Reserve features over 148 species of higher vascular plants, which belong to 46 families and 110 genera. It should be mentioned that 40 of the plant species are endemic to Central Asia. The plants growing in the territory of the reserve are divided into decorative (11 species), medicinal (28), melliferous (25), fodder (39), tanning (2), poisonous (4), food (4) and industrial (3). Two of the species (Eremurus korolkowii and Tulipa sogdiana) are included in the Red Book of Uzbekistan.

The fauna of the reserve is quite diverse, as the combination of river, riparian forest and desert creates favourable living conditions for animals from various natural zones. The reserve features 27 species of fish characteristic of the Amudarya River, with several species included in the Red Book of Uzbekistan and the IUCN Red List. These are the big and little shovelnoses, Aral barbel and Barbus capito conocephalus, the bastard sturgeon and some others. The 29 reptile species inhabiting the area include snakes (blunt-nosed viper, Echis carinatus, mountain racer, Coluber tyria, spotted desert racer, dice snake and Psammophis lineolatus), lizards (desert monitor, Phrynocephalus mystaceus, Phrynocephalus interscapularis, Phrynocephalus helioscopus, spotted toad-headed agama, steppe agama, Eremias scripta, Eremias lineolata, various geckoes and others) and the steppe tortoise.

The avian fauna of the reserve is quite diverse and consists mainly of migratory birds, as non-migratory ones are rather few and inhabit primarily the transitional zone between the sand desert and the riparian forest. In total, 267 bird species have been recorded in the reserve. The non-migratory birds include the white-winged woodpecker, Phasianus colchicus chrysomelas, the Turkestan tit, magpie, saxaul desert jay, collared and laughing doves, brown-necked raven, golden eagle and saker falcon. The nesting birds are represented by numerous subspecies of millerbirds, chiffchaffs, whitethroats, redstarts and nightingales that make their nests in the crowns of the trees. The riparian forests also feature the rare yellow-eyed pigeon, turtle dove, hobby falcon, hawks, the common kestrel, marsh harrier, little ringed plover, desert whitethroat and sandpiper. The desert areas are the homes for such bird species as the houbara bustard, black-bellied and pin-tailed sandgrouses, greater sand plover and accentors. Among the birds passing through the Kyzylkum Reserve the most interesting are pelicans, the black stork, little cormorant, white-tailed eagle, Pallas" sea eagle, steppe eagle and many others.

There are 35 species of mammals in the reserve, among which the Bactrian deer occupies a special place. The animal was successfully acclimatised to the reserve environment, and at present the deer is a common representative of the riparian forest ecosystems. The specimens of the wild boar and jackal have also been restored in number and become quite common for the area. The territory of the reserve is known to be inhabited by 3 wild cats: the sand cat, jungle cat and African wild cat. The caracal is also known to have been recorded in the Kyzylkum reserve. In winter time the territory is often visited by wolves. The desert areas feature Vulpes vulpes karagan, the tolai hare, mottled polecat, badger and steppe polecat. Various gerbils, the long-clawed ground squirrel and eared hedgehog are also quite common there. The ungulates, apart from the Bactrian deer, include goitered gazelles and saigas, the latter visiting the reserve on their winter migrations.

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