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Badhyz is one of the most spectacular nature reserves in Central Asia. It encompasses three main types of landscape:
1. The north and west consists of the plateau and hilly ridges of the Gezgyadyk range in the foothills of the Eastern Kopetdag mountains, and is deeply dissected especially to the west where there are deep stony gorges.
2. To the east the mountains fall away to a rolling hilly plateau with desert steppe.
3. In the south the Eroylanduz basin and salt lake and the Kyzyljar depression form the limits of the plateau. Soils are sandy with loess-lime loams.
The site holds large populations of extremely rare wild mammals such as the Asiatic Wild Ass or Kulan Equus hemionus kulan, Persian Leopard Panthera pardus saxicolor, Goitered Gazelle Gazella subgutturosa, Turkmen Wild Goat Capra aegagrus turkmenica and Afghan Urial Ovis orientalis cycloceros. Moreover, the landscape is spectacular, with broadly rolling land (up to 200m) giving way to the Duzenkyr and Ellibir heights in the north; in the west it is mountainous (800-1000m above sea level); at the other extreme in the south lies the "lunar landscape" of the closed saline Eroylanduz depression (10 600 ha, lying up to 500m below sea level) in the south. The site is situated between the Tedzhen and Kushka rivers. Other small valleys are located in the south-west. The Gyzylzhar gorge, a deep wide, gully (18km long), has steep, abrupt cliffs, 40-60m high, with ledges and large terraces of rubble/loess. Water sources are very scarce, with only two freshwater springs - Akarcheshme and Nerdevanly - and the Tedzhen, Kushka and Egrigek rivers which flow outside the site. The climate is arid but more humid than in the typical desert, with up to 280 mm annual precipitation. The average temperature in July is 28.9°C, that for January is 2.6°C and the annual average temperature is 16.3°C. It is frequently windy, with prevailing winds from the north and north-east. Soils are "serozyems" with light, typical and dark subtypes. The flora contains about 900 species and is of Iranian-Afghan and montane Central Asian origin. The main vegetation communities are formed by desert sedges and various grasses, wormwood shrubs, saltwort, pistachio trees (including the 76 000-ha Pulikhatum grove), and scattered saxaul Haloxylon groves.
The suggested nomination consists of the following protected areas of various categories:
1. Badhyz State Nature Reserve (87 680 ha)
2. Pulikhatumskiy State Sanctuary (15 000 ha, coordinates: N35 56 30 - 36 09 47, E61 06 36 - 61 18 55)
3. Kyzyljarskiy State Sanctuary (30 000 ha, coordinates: N35 44 40 - 35 53 51, E61 50 39 - 62 09 18)
4. Chemenabitskiy State Sanctuary (12 000 ha, coordinates: N35 28 00 - 35 42 10, E62 23 29 - 62 33 48)
The total area of the nominated site is 144 680 hectares. The Badhyz State Nature Reserve and the adjacent sanctuaries are governmental property and are managed by the Ministry of Nature Protection of Turkmenistan.
The site suggested is characterized by a combination of unique natural features: relict pistachio savannas, ancient extinct volcano, brackish seasonal lake, rocky badlands, sandy and other types of deserts and semi deserts; and as well as high biodiversity, harbours a significant quantity of endemic, rare and endangered species of flora and fauna.
Badhyz State Reserve and the surrounding sanctuaries were established in 1941 for the purpose of the conservation and restoration of the native population of Kulan Equus hemionus and the largest natural pistachio Pistacia badhysi forests in Eurasia covering more then 40 000 hectares. From 250 individuals at that time the Kulan population today has reached 1 000-1 500 heads. The site also holds also 4,500-5,000 individuals of Goitered Gazelle Gazella subgutturosa up to 1 000 Afghan Urial Ovis orientalis cycloceros and Turkmen wild goat Capra aegagrus turkmenica all listed as Vulnerable by IUCN.
The site is an Important Bird Area (IBA) and supports a unique complex of bird species and is especially important for such IUCN threatened species as Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus (NT), Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus (EN), Saker Falcon Falco cherrug (EN), Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni (VU) and Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulate (VU). Other key breeding species are Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus, Short-toed Snake-eagle Circaetus gallicus, Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus, Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos, Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinoides, Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus, Eurasian Thick-knee Burhinus oedicnemus, Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor and Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus. Wintering species include Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis and Eastern Imperial Eagle A. heliaca (VU). Many birds of prey nest in the pistachio groves and on the steep cliffs. The pistachio groves also provide breeding habitat for many warblers (Sylvidae), Black-billed Magpie Pica pica, Eastern Rock-nuthatch Sitta tephronota and four species of shrike (Lanidae), including Bay-backed Shrike Lanius vittatus, for which this is the only site in the countries of Central Asia. In general, the avifauna is formed by 47 resident species, 68 breeding migrants, 43 migratory and wintering species and 97 passage migrants.
In addition there is a unique geological/geomorphological feature: an inland depression basin called "Eroylanduz" (Turkmen for "Land of salt springs") in the Southern part of the Badhyz Reserve. In the Jurassic period the area was a plain with tropical mesophilous conditions. During the Cretaceous period it was flooded by the sea. In the Palaeogene period dry land was formed once again. Therefore marine sediments from the Oligocene period are not known here.
Criteria (vii): Superlative natural phenomena of natural beauty and aesthetic importance
The complex of savannah landscapes and rolling hills is extremely beautiful. The Eroylanduz depression is a spectacular and surreal "moonscape" with jet black volcanic intrusions contrasting starkly with brilliant white salt flats. An ancient rock bridge (Pulikhatum) can be found as well as artificial caverns with multi-story dwellings of ancient man, partly destroyed as a result of erosion. The scenery has been likened to an Asian version of the Serengeti/Ngorongoro ecosystem.
Criterion (ix): Ecological processes / ecosystems
Badhyz is the best-preserved natural arid grassland ecosystem in Central Asia, and is sufficiently large to allow the maintenance of natural ecological processes such as speciation and succession. Biogeographically it is classed as a Cold Winter Desert biome, in which there are currently no other WH sites and is part of the Turanian Biogeographic Province, also currently unrepresented in WH sites.
Criterion (x): Biodiversity and threatened species
Badhyz lies just a few km to the south of the junction of two Global 200 ecoregions, the Caucasus-Anatolian-Hyrcanian Temperate Forest and Central Asian Desert (the latter currently un-represented in the WH network) and thus contains many of the key species associated with them. The Badhyz area hosts globally significant populations of many flagship threatened ungulate species - including kulan (EN), Afghan urial, Goitered gazelle and Turkmen wild goat (all VU) which are unique to the Central Asian region. It also harbours a small population of the North Persian leopard -. It has high numbers of endemic plants, and is located in the Mountains of Middle Asia CPD. It also is a breeding site for a number of globally threatened and near threatened bird species such as Egyptian Vulture and Saker Falcon (both EN), Houbara Bustard (VU - 30-35 breeding pairs) and Cinereous Vulture (NT - at least 14 breeding pairs).
The proposed territory presents an integrated network of sites which is large enough to cover the relevant habitats and species and is sufficient for their conservation and sustainable existence. The site is well management and the three single Protected Areas cover the mammals throughout their live circle: important calving sites, important water bodies and pastures. The site provides comprehensive conservation of the gene pool of nature pistachio savanna, including ancient pistachio trees in Badhyz, lower pistachio forests in the Kushka river valley. The site may need to be extended to protect the kulan's migration to summer grounds along the Kushka river e.g. towards and including the Chemenbit Zakaznik (12 000 ha, established in 1956). Protection and patrolling need to be increased to prevent illegal hunting of larger species.
In terms of globally threatened mammal diversity and size of populations as well as the extensive coverage of pistachio woodlands in such concentrations on one site, Badhyz has no equivalent in Central Asia. Similar sites in Kazakhstan (Altyn Emel National Park or Barsakelmes State Nature Reserve) and Uzbekistan (Ecocentre Dzheiran) have only much smaller, introduced Kulan populations.
The only other natural WH site in Central Asia, Saryarka in Kazakhstan, is situated much further north (over 15 degrees of latitude) than Badkhyz at the steppe/northern boreal forest interface, and has completely different ecological and biological characteristics and therefore very different fauna and flora.