Western Tien-Shan

Date of Submission: 01/02/2010
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Kazakhstan to UNESCO
Ref.: 5519
Word File

The Secretariat of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Heritage Centre do not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other information or documentation provided by the States Parties to the World Heritage Convention to the Secretariat of UNESCO or to the World Heritage Centre.

The publication of any such advice, opinion, statement or other information documentation on the World Heritage Centre’s website and/or on working documents also does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat of UNESCO or of the World Heritage Centre concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Kazakhstan's part of the transboundary serial nomination includes 3 clusters:

1. Karatau State Nature Reserve (KSNR) - Turkestan district of South-Kazakhstan Region (34300 ha);

2. Aksu-Zhabagly State Nature Reserve (AZSNR) - Tulkubas, Tolebi and Baydibek districts of South- Kazakhstan region, Zhualyn district of Zhambyl region (131934 ha);

3. Sayram-Ugam State National Nature Park (SUSNNP) - Kazygurt, Tolebi and Tyulkubas districts of  South-Kazakhstan region (149053 ha).












The "Western Tien-Shan" is a transboundary serial nomination including protected nature areas in this mountainous country in three States: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. It consists of Karatau and Aksu-Zhabagly nature reserves and Sayram-Ugam national nature park (Kazakhstan), Sary-Chelek, Besh-Aral and Padysha-Ata nature reserves (Kyrgyzstan) and Chatkal nature reserve (Uzbekistan). They are the most representative and well-preserved territories of the unique nature complex - Western Tien-Shan. Each of these protected areas has its own specific, but at the same time, they are mutually complementary in regards of biodiversity conservation, distinguished landscapes and paleontological occurrences.

Kazakhstan's part of the nominated property consists of 3 mountainous sites - Specially Protected Nature Areas: 1. Karatau State Nature Reserve (KSNR), situated in the central part of Karatau mountain ridge, which is a branch of north-western bows of Tien-Shan; 2. Aksu-Zhabagly State Nature Reserve (AZSNR), situated in the western part of extremity of Talass Alatau in Western Tien-Shan; 3. Sayram-Ugam State National Nature Park (SUSNNP) borders from the west with AZSNR and includes sites of Talass Alatau ridges (edge western extremities on the joint with Ugam ridge), Ugam Ridge, Karzhantau, Borolday and Kazygurt. AZSNR and SUSNNP merge, forming a single territory, being at the same time separate SPA with in-house administrations.

The territory is situated in the area of harsh continental climate. It is cut in the desert zone, possessing complex geological composition and due to this and evident vertical zonality presents the whole range of mountainous landscapes and ecosystems, as well as transitional, on the attitude of 800-4200 meters above sea level, from xerophytic petrean to low-hill terrain and piedmont steppes to mountainous parkland juniper forest, alpine meadows and nival belt together with rocks, glaciers and moraine lakes. Due to such variety of ecological conditions, the property possesses high biodiversity with high grade of endemism (especially, concerning vegetation).

Karatau relates to the type of arid and subarid mountainous systems in the mid- mountains of Tien-Shan western extremity. Flora of this type is characterized by the presence of foothill deserts, enriched by the mountainous elements. In floristic zoning Karatau is defined as a separate district. There is no forestland here. Flora and plant formation of the territory of AZSNR and SUSNNP present here typical site of "southern" mountains of Central Asia. It is situated within the territory of three phytogeographical districts (Karatau, Ugam-Chatkal and Kyrgyz) of Mountainous-Central-Asian province. 34-35% of the territory is occupied by forest lands with savannah-like forest vegetation. There are 15 main vegetation formation types. Wildlife of the territory is specific for Western Tien-Shan and presents a typical mixture of elements of different faunas.

In the past geological time the territory experienced range of transformations and changes. The witnesses of these processes are so-called Karatau "fish slates" that can be found in big amounts on 2 paleontological sites of AZSNR, situated in the adjacent ridge of Karatau in 100 km from the main territory.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Western Tien-Shan is characterized by a unique variety, mosaic structure and beauty of landscapes, which states about massive geological and evolutionary processes; a unique combination of various ecosystem types; rich in flora and fauna, big part of which is represented by endemic species and communities, as well as a lot of rare and globally threatened species.

Nominated Nature Reserves Aksu-Zhabagly, Karatau and Sayram-Ugam State National Nature Park are the most representative and well-preserved territories of Kazakhstan part of this unique nature complex - Western Tien-Shan. Each of these protected areas has its own specific, but at the same time, they are mutually complementary in regards of biodiversity conservation, distinguished landscapes and paleontological occurrences.

3 specially protected areas, included into Kazakhstan's part of the nomination "Western Tien-Shan" altogether embrace the unique mountainous landscapes and ecosystems of Karatau, Talass Alatau and Ugam ridges, which representatively reflect bio- and landscape diversity of the Western Tien-Shan with it's luxuriant flora and fauna. At the altitude of 700 meters up to 4000 meters above the sea level there are upland steppes, picturesque ravines with park-land long-boled juniper, wild nard, almond, wild apple and apricot. Deep canyons of fast-flowing rivers and colossal rocks, alpine meadows and glaciers - have an outstanding aesthetic value. They are all  wonderful examples of different types of mountain sustainable ecosystems, from xerophytic rocky lowlands up to nival belt.

Vertical zonality, complex terrain and diversity of lithological composition of soil-forming measures define here a high biodiversity. There are16 plant types, including almost 2000 species of vascular plants. The percentage of endemism is very high here - up to 9 % on the species level. On the territory of property in Talass Alatau and Ugam ridge there are 42 mammals species, 238 bird species, 9 reptile, 2 amphibian and 2 fish species. More over, there were found the unique localities of upper Jurassic flora and fauna; Karatau paleontological deposit is considered to be one of the most interesting in the world.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Already at the stage of the establishment of the Specially Protected Areas (State Reserves and National Nature Park), which are the sites of the nominated property Western Tien-Shan, all the integrity approaches were met. The property includes holistic natural ecosystems and natural landscapes that didn't undergone in the observable history appreciable anthropogenic transformations, including almost full absence of introduced species, apart from planted fruit trees on small plots. The total area of nominated property is 315287 ha without considering buffer zones - that  matches well the objectives of protected areas and is enough for the sustainable functioning of biogeocenose. The territory of Aksu-Zhabagly was excluded from agricultural use from the year 1926, the territory of Karatau reserve - from the year 2004, Sayram-Ugam State National Nature Park - in it's biggest part is excluded from the use from 2006. The only type of use of separate sites of the territory were and remain in some places is cattle grazing and regulated tourism. With the exception of fires none from the properties is subjected to any threats that can destroy the landscape.

Status of State reserves (corresponds to Ia criterion of IUCN) and National Park (II IUCN) that the proposed sites of serial nomination have and 2-3 km protected (buffer) zone ensure conservation and further natural development of the unique ecosystem complex of the Western Tien-Shan. All SPA - sites of the nominated property have available sufficient governmental financial and administrative resources for the long-term conservation of this globally important value. There is ongoing process of establishment of the integrated harmonized system of management of serial transboundary property.

Comparison with other similar properties

The unique features of the Western Tien-Shan proves that the nominated territory has no analogues among the World Nature Heritage properties. In the mountainous areas of Central Asia there are 3 WNH properties - "Golden Mountains of Altai", "Lake Baikal"(Russian Federation), "Uvs Nuur Basin" (Mongolia and Russian Federation); one of the properties is also in the mountains of Northern India - "Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks". But Western Tien-Shan significantly differs from all of them in orography, climate and history of development, vegetation and wildlife. Other WNH recently being nominated property is «Tajik National park» (Tajikistan), differs from the Western Tien-Shan in landscapes and arid of highlands, which also causes large differences in vegetation as well as in other features.

Western Tien-Shan represents different types of sustainable mountainous ecosystems, as well as great biodiversity with high level of endemism and presents one of the center of originate of cultivated plants growing from the range of wild progenitors, as well as demonstrates unique sites of upper Jurassic flora and fauna.