© UNESCO/Evgeniy Belousov
Valley of the Maidantal river - Aksou-Jabagly (Kazakhstan)

The Aksu-Zhabagly Biosphere Reserve is located in the north-West of Talasskiy Alatau and the south of Karatau in the West Tien Shan. It is home to 48% of regional bird species, 72.5% of vertebrates, 221 out of 254 fungi species, 63 out of 80 moss species, 15 out of vegetation types, and 114 out of 180 plant formations found in the West Tien Shan. Approximately 2,500 insect species have been recorded on the reserve.

The principal form of land use in the region is agriculture with cereal cultures (e.g. wheat and barley) grown on rain-fed areas and forage cultures (e.g. corn, clover, alfalfa) grown on irrigated arable lands. Local inhabitants breed cattle, sheep (South-Kazakh Merino), goats, horses (trotters and Donskaya breed) and poultry (chicken and turkey).

Designation date: 2015
Administrative authorities: Aksu-Zhabagly State Nature Reserve, Ministry of Environment Protection, Ministry of Agriculture of Kazakhstan – Forestry and Hunting Committee.
Surface area (terrestrial and marine): 357,734 ha
Core area(s): 131,934 ha
Buffer zone(s): 25,800 ha
Transition area(s): 200,000 ha

40°56’N – 42°20’N
Longitude: 70°04’E – 71°03’E
Midpoint: 42°20’N – 70°40’E

Ecological Characteristics

© UNESCO/Evgeniy Belousov
Anthropoides virgo - Aksou-Jabagly (Kazakhstan)

The reserve occupies the north-western edge of Talasskiy Alatau, the northern ridges and adjacent north-eastern slopes of the main Ugam ridge, and the southern part of Karatau in the West Tien Shan. The West Tien Shan mountain range acts as a barrier catching moisture from the western transport of air masses. The reserve’s ecosystems therefore exist in a closer relationship with the natural systems of the Near East and the Mediterranean than with other ecosystems of the Tien Shan.

Almost all landscape types and sub-types of the West Tien Shan are represented throughout the territory, except for deserts and gysophilous subshrub communities, which exist at lower altitudes. The appearance of the West Tien Shan mountains is characterized by standing juniper forests comprising three species of Central Asian junipers: Juniperus turcestanica, Juniperus zeravschanica and Juniperus semiglobosa. The reserve is also home to 221 of 254 fungi species, 63 of 80 moss species, 15 of 17 vegetation types, and 114 of 180 plant formations of West Tien Shan.

The reserve creates a favourable environment for numerous faunal species with 267 bird species recorded including the Eurasian sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), white-throated robin (Irania gutturalis) and booted eagle (Hieraetus pennatus). Species in need of special protection include the saker falcon (Falco cherrug) and demoiselle crane (Anthopoides virgo). There are 52 species of mammals including the brown bear (Ursus arctos), dhole (Cuon alpinus) and marbled polecat (Vormela peregusna), as well as two threatened species on the IUCN Red List – the Menzbier’s marmot (Marmota menzbieri) and snow leopard (Panthera uncia). The snow leopard is the subject of large-scale activities by international conservation organizations across the Aksu-Zhabagly Biosphere Reserve and adjacent territories. 


Socio-Economic Characteristics

© UNESCO/Evgeniy Belousov

The Aksu-Zhabagly Biosphere Reserve is located in four districts of two oblasts in the most densely populated region of Kazakhstan, with a total population of about 3 million people. Approximately 150,000 people live in the transition area of the reserve. The main economic activities are agriculture, plant growing and cattle breeding. In the last 10 years ecological tourism has become highly popular in the reserve, mainly due to ornithological and botanical foreign tourism, and local recreational tourism.

Ancient sites linked to cattle herding and monuments from Bronze and early Iron Age can be found in the proximity of the reserve, while two paleontological sites (Auliye and Karabastau) are located in the reserve itself.

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