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Hazar State Nature Reserve

Date of Submission: 16/03/2009
Criteria: (x)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Nature Protection of Turkmenistan
State, Province or Region:
Turkmenistan, Balkan velayat (Regional administrative unit)
Ref.: 5437
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Description

The proposed site consists of a group of protected areas on the south-east coast of the Caspian Sea and covers Turkmenbashi, Balkhan, North Cheleken and Mikhailov bays, which range from relatively deep to shallow. They are bordered by sandy and shelly spits and there are several islands, which are overgrown with halophytes and have coastal marshes. The largest of them is Dagada, which is 120 ha in area. The climate is continental with wide ranges in daily and seasonal temperatures and low precipitation levels (100-120mm a year). The annual average temperature is 15.8°C, the monthly average for July is 28°C, that for January is -4°C; the recorded maximum is +47°C and the recorded minimum is -21°C. The area is frost-free for 240-270 days a year. The prevailing north-westerly winds bring coolness in summer and frosts in winter. South-easterly winds bring warm air in winter and very hot weather in summer. Five dominant aquatic plant species at the site - eelgrass, tassel-weed, pondweeds and Arabis - occur on the sandy soils and at depths to 4-5 m. There is a high diversity of algae (macrophytes) in the bays consisting of green algae (28 species), red algae (11 species) and kelp or brown algae (one species), which accumulate along the coast and at depths to 6m. Hundreds of species of microscopic algae can be found in the plankton and benthos. These are mainly diatoms, cyanobacteria, dinoflagellates and green algae. The site is situated a little to the south-east of Turkmenbashi, a port town with a population of more than 80 000 people. Oil-refining plays a dominant role in the local economy. Transport infrastructure is also well developed. The Hazar State Nature Reserve was previously (1968-1994) known as Krasnovodskiy State Nature Reserve. In 1994 a large island in the Caspian Sea -Ogurchinskiy Sanctuary as included in the Reserve.

The total area of the Hazar State Nature Reserve is 268 037 ha and consists of:

1. Hazar State Nature Reserve - 261 037 ha featuring the

1.1 Hazar section (191 337 ha)

1.2 Esenguly section (69 700 ha)

2. Ogurchinskiy State Sanctuary - 7 000 ha.

The conservation zone of the Hazar Reserve includes all the area of water of Turkmenbashi and North-Cheleken Bays, a buffer zone of salt marshes around them, North-Cheleken spit, islands in Michailovskiy Bay, and Dag-Ada Island in the North-East corner of Turkmenbashi Bay.

The Hazar State Nature Reserve and its Sanctuaries are under the management of the Ministry of Nature Protection of Turkmenistan.

The condition of the site as a wetland and the dynamics of bird numbers depend on processes linked to changes in the level of the Caspian Sea. Over the last 10-15 years the area of the wetland has increased significantly. Since 2006, a UNDP/GEF project on the "Conservation and sustainable use of globally significant biological diversity in the Hazar State Nature Reserve on the Caspian Sea coast" has been carried out, strengthening the management and protection regime of the site and adjacent areas, improving staff capacity through training and promoting the sustainable use of natural resources in currently unprotected areas around the buffer zone of the site. The development of ecotourism is possible in the near future. The Hazar State Nature Reserve was a Ramsar site under the Soviet Union (from 1978-1991) and is about to be re-nominated after Turkmenistan joins the Ramsar Convention in 2009.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The global value of the reserve lies in the fact that its coastal waters and shores are a feeding and staging point during migration, and an over-wintering site for millions of waterfowl and water birds from a whole number of countries from Eurasia and Africa. The Central-Asian and Eastern-African migratory ways merge in the Turkmen part of the Caspian Sea, as a result of which the Reserve has a rich number of migratory and wintering birds.

The site qualifies as an Important Bird Area (IBA) and is located on one of the most important migratory flyways for waterbirds breeding in western Siberia, Kazakhstan and other regions of Central Asia, and provides a valuable stopover and wintering site. In the 20th Century it was estimated that about 5 000 000-8 000 000 waterbirds passed along the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea on migration, and up to 800 000 birds wintered in the proposed site. Between 1971 and 2005, the numbers of waterfowl (geese, swans, ducks and Common Coot) recorded at the site were: in November from 22 409 to 568 530 (average 171 785); in January from 47 654 to 688 471 (average 215 088). The number of migratory and wintering birds fluctuates from year to year. The dominant species are Common Coot Fulica atra (as many as 48 000), Common Teal Anas crecca (up to 27 000), Mallard A. platyrhynchos (up to 21 000), Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina (up to 50 000), Common Pochard Aythya ferina (up to 33 000), Tufted Duck A. fuligula (up to 20 000) and in some years, also Mute Swan Cygnus olor and Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus. More than 25 000 Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus can occur on migration and in winter. A total of 296 species has been recorded, including 138 waterbird species.

Criterion (x): Biodiversity and threatened species

The site qualifies as an IBA and is located on one of the most important migratory flyways for waterbirds breeding in western Siberia, Kazakhstan and other regions of Central Asia, and provides a valuable stopover and wintering site. In the 20th century it was estimated that about 5 000 000-8 000 000 waterbirds passed along the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea on migration, and up to 800 000 birds wintered in the proposed site. Between 1971 and 2005, the numbers of waterfowl (geese, swans, ducks and Common Coot) recorded at the site were: in November from 22 409 to 568 530 (average 171 785); in January from 47 654 to 688 471 (average 215 088). The number of migratory and wintering birds fluctuates from year to year.

Several endemic and rare (listed in the IUCN Red List, see threat status in brackets) species occur in the proposed site including Caspian Seal Pusa caspica (EN), Caspian Lamprey Caspiomyzon wagneri (NT), Fringebarbel Sturgeon Acipenser nudiventris (EN; TmRDB), Stellate Sturgeon Acipenser stellatus (EN), Russian Sturgeon Acipenser gueldenstaedtii (EN), and European Sturgeon Huso huso (EN). Beloribitsa Stenodus leucichthys (EX in the wild).

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The complex of ecosystems within the reserve, its buffer zone and sanctuary provide sufficient coverage to support the important species and habitats of the site.

Comparison with other similar properties

Hazar can only be compared in size and importance with the Kyzyl-Agach State Nature Reserve in Azerbaijan and the Southern Caspian Meankaleh State Nature Reserve in Iran. The latter has smaller congregations though. The only other natural WH site in Central Asia, Saryarka in Kazakhstan, is situated much further north (over 15 degrees of latitude) than Hazar, has higher numbers of migratory waterbirds (up to 2 Million) but only through migration and not as a wintering sites as Hazar.

The Ural River Delta is of less importance in respect of migratory waterbirds with numbers probably just over 20 000. The Volga River Delta (similar as the Ural River Delta) is important during migration and to a lesser extend as a wintering site with numbers of waterbirds approaching During migration, a total of 7 million waterbirds pass through the area in spring, and 5-10 million in the autumn.