The IBA occupies the southwest slope of the Koytendag (Kugitang) ridge - the southwest termination of the Hissar range of the Pamir-Alay mountain system. Administratively the IBA is located in the southeast of Turkmenistan, and occupies the middle and high mountain zone at heights of 900 to 3,139m above sea level (Ayribaba mountain).
The avifauna of the southwest Koytendag slope consists of three ornithological complexes: Turanian deserts, Kopetdag-Khorosanian and Pamiro-Alay mountain system, with biome CA04, CA06 and CA07 species represented.
The avifauna includes 144 species (15 orders, 38 families, 89 genus). Nesting birds – 122 species, non-migratory – 55 species, passage-nesting – 67 species, migratory – 18 species and passage – 14 species. Passeriformes (18 families, 53 genus, 91 species) and Falconiformes (2 families, 12 genus, 22 species) are most representative in terms of the number of species. 13 species are listed in the Red Data Book of Turkmenistan.
Species of the Sino-Himalayan temperate forest (Biome CA07) are: Parus rufonuchalis and Parus flavipectus and Certhia himalayana. Those of Biome CA06 are: Ammoperdix griseogularis, Irania gutturalis, Oenanthe finschii, Oenanthe picata capistrata, Sitta tephronota tephronota, Emberiza stewarti and Emberiza buchanani.
Biome CA05 is represented by: Rhodopechys sanguinea, Montifringilla nivalis, Сalandrella acutirostris, Anthus spinoletta and Tichodroma muraria and Biome CA04 by: Scotocerca inquieta and Emberiza bruniceps. On migration: Aquila nipalensis and Aquila heliaca occur.
Criterion А1 applies for: Aegypius monachus and Falco cherrug. Falco naumanni also occurs but numbers are insufficient to justify inclusion under this criterion.
Non-bird biodiversity: The flora of the IBA is represented by 982 species (430 genus and 86 families). The main plants are angiosperms (99.0%), which include a few ancient representatives: gymnosperms, ferns and Equisetaceae (10 species from 9 genus). Ten main families make up 64.8% of the composition of the flora – a typical feature of ancient-Mediterranean flora. Superpolymorphic genera are: Astragalus (69 species), Allium (32) and Cousinia (25).
The list of vertebrate animals includes 10 species of fish, 2 amphibians, 28 reptiles, 144 birds and 51 mammals. In total 226 vertebrate taxa.
30 species of amphibians and reptiles have been recorded, with 2 species of amphibians, 1 - turtle, 15 - lizards and 14 — snakes (Shukurov, 1975, 1976 ; Ataev, 1985; Мakeev, 1987; Habibulov, 1990).
51 species of mammal have been recorded including: insectivores – 4, Chiroptera – 13, lagomorphs – 1, rodents – 10, predators - 11, ungulates – 5. In the Red List of IUCN and the Red Data Book of Turkmenistan are listed 18 rare species, including endemics: Lynx, Cervus elaphus, Capra falconeri and Ovis vignei. The most threatened are Cаpra falconeri, Ursus arctor, Hyaena hyaena, Lynx lynx, and Cervus elaphus bactrianus. The population of leopard (Panthera pardus) in Koytendag has possibly disappeared. (Mammals of Turkmenistan, 1995; Lukarevsky, etc., 2001).
Habitat and land use
The area of the IBA includes that of the Kopetdag reserve. Anthropogenic pressures include overgrazing, illegal hunting and firewood collection.
In the IBA the predominant land use is agriculture, especially grazing of livestock. However in recent years the amount of land under cultivation for cotton, rice (500 hectares) and 'dry' wheat has increased. There has been agricultural intensification in the form of irrigation for cotton, rice and livestock related activities. As a result of this intensive development and environmental pollution there has been a degradation and disappearance of habitats of rare species.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Analysis of the threats and their importance for the IBA show that the main issues are illegal hunting, overgrazing, cutting trees and shrubs, preparation of hay, gathering of pistachio nuts etc, which are leading to an appreciable loss of habitats for birds. Climate change and severe weather.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Two recent projects have been concerned with the problems of this region:
- 2003-2006 - Project GEF-UNEP-WWF « Projecting ECONET for long-term biodiversity protection » (WWF - the executive organization, the partner - the Ministry of Nature Protection)
- 2003-2005 - Project UNDP « Improvement of protected areas system in Turkmenistan (ECONET) » (the executive organization - the Ministry of Nature Protection).
The territory of the Koytendag reserve together with its zakazniks is represented by a single block which extends along the border of Turkmenistan with Uzbekistan, and is adjacent to Surhandarinskiy reserve (UZ). Koytendag reserve is located on the right bank of the river Amu Darya and situated on the middle and upper zone of the southwest ridge of Koytendag mountain, making up 49% of the area the IBA. Part of the habitats of rare species of animals and plants (15-20%) is outside of the reserve.