Taklimakan Desert

Country/Territory China (mainland)
Area 60,000 km2
Altitude 900 - 1300m
Priority high
Habitat loss unquantified
Knowledge poor

General characteristics

The area covered by this EBA forms a narrow band around the edge of the Taklimakan desert in Xinjiang autonomous region of western China. This large desert basin is bordered by high mountains: the Kunlun Shan and Altun Shan ranges to the south, the Kok Shaal Tau range to the north-west and the Tien Shan to the north.

At the foot of the mountain slopes around the edge of the basin is a mixture of stone and sand, inside of which lies a band of stone desert with scattered oases. The interior of the basin is made up of mobile sand dunes, largely devoid of vegetation, which cover 85% of the total desert area. The remaining 15% or so of the desert comprises dunes stabilized or semi-stabilized by bushes of tamarisk Tamarix and poplar Populus which are scattered mainly at the edge of the sandy desert and along the banks of the few rivers which flow into it from the mountains (Zhao Ji et al. 1990).

Restricted-range species

The records of Podoces biddulphi have been used to define the extent of this EBA, as Caprimulgus centralasicus is known only from the type-specimen collected in 1929 in sandy desert scrub at Guma (Ludlow and Kinnear 1933-1934), a locality where P. biddulphi has also been recorded. P. biddulphi is a bird of sandy desert with poplar and tamarisk bushes (Grimmett 1991), and the only records of it are from scattered sites close to the edge of the Taklimakan basin; it is assumed here to be restricted to the areas of stabilized dunes which lie around the edge of the sandy desert, but this is a region poorly explored ornithologically and it is possible that the species also occurs along rivers within the basin's interior.

Species IUCN Category
Vaurie's Nightjar (Caprimulgus centralasicus) DD
Xinjiang Ground-jay (Podoces biddulphi) NT

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
CN107 Lower reaches of Tarim River China (mainland)
CN108 Qiemo Oasis and Qarqan River China (mainland)
CN115 Tarim Euphrates Poplar Forest Nature Reserve China (mainland)
CN120 Xayar forest and wetland China (mainland)
CN122 Aksu River basin China (mainland)
CN123 Bachu Oasis China (mainland)
CN124 Xekar Reservoir China (mainland)
CN127 Markit-Yarkant Oasis China (mainland)
CN128 Pishan Oasis China (mainland)
CN129 Hotan Oasis China (mainland)

Threat and conservation

Both the restricted-range species are threatened, principally because evidence exists for the widespread degradation of the region's desert habitats through the intensive grazing of goats and camels, extraction of fuelwood, and the conversion of huge areas to irrigated farmland (Grimmett 1991, Grimmett and Taylor 1992). A survey at Guma in 1990 failed to locate Caprimulgus centralasicus, and found that the desert habitats there have been converted to cultivation since the time when the single specimen was collected (Dissing et al. 1990).

There are three large protected areas in the north-eastern part of the EBA-Bayanbulak, Huocheng and Tarim Nature Reserves (IUCN 1993)-but it is not known whether they include significant areas of habitat suitable for the area's restricted-range bird species.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Taklimakan Desert. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/09/2022.