The site is a low lying stretch of coast, 1-2 km wide, ranging in altitude from -10m at the frontier post at Gamyshly to 26m and consisting of a sandy strip 50 to 100m wide with ridge-hilly fixed sands inland alternating with areas of saltmarsh.
Inland from the sea are several strips of vegetation, differing with substrate: wet saltmarshs which flood with the tide; saltmarshes which are not flooded by the tide; salted shelly sands; semi-salted and shelly sands; semi-fixed ridge-hilly dunes; fixed dunes. Changes in microrelief as a result of sea level fluctuations are affecting the dynamics of the substrata and vegetative cover in each area.
The IBA situated in a zone of dry subtropics with hot dry summers and warm winters. The overall average annual temperature is +17.1C, with a maximum of +48C and a minimum of -16С. The average temperature in January is +4.30С. The annual rainfall is approximately 200 mm, the majority falling from November to April. Cloudy days are frequent (up to 74 days per year), the number of days with precipitation is about 30-60. The maximum number of days without frost is 296.
The avifauna includes not less than 280 species, of which 240 (86%) are passage-wintering birds, including 120 (43%) which are waterbirds, representing 46 and 23% respectively of the avifauna of Central Asia.
Passeriformes are the most numerous (96 species), Haematopodidae (45), Anseriformes (28), Falconiformes (27) and Laridae (16). Most typical on migration are coots and ducks (Netta rufina, Aythya ferina, Anas platyrhynchos, Aythya fuligula, Aythya marila, Anas penelope, etc.), plus waders, gulls and terns.
There is a major distinct north-south waterbird migration through the IBA. In the autumn 70.9% of all migrants recorded pass in a southerly direction. In February-March an average of 1,500 to 2,800 birds are recorded daily. In both spring and autumn the most numerous species are waders (67.5% and 38% respectively), gulls (16.9% and 7.7%), ducks (6.7% and 21.4%) and terns (4.9% and 23.3%) (Karavaev, 1988).
The following species listed in the Red Data Book of Turkmenistan (1999) have been recorded at the site: Platalea leucorodia, Phoenicopterus roseus, Grus virgo, Buteo buteo, Pandion haliaetus, Haliaeetus leucoryphus, Falco peregrinus, Circaetus gallicus, Burhinus oedicnemus, and also the non-migratory - Aquila chrysaetos, Falco cherrug and Bubo bubo. There are also records of the globally threatened Vanellus gregarius and Aquila heliaca.
The site qualifies under criterion A4iii for the large number of waterbirds (15-20 species) that winter.
The following A1 criteria species also occur but curent data is not available to justify designation of the site under this criterion: Oxyura leucocephala, Anser erythropus, Marmaronetta angustirostris and Aythya nyroca.
Non-bird biodiversity: The fauna includes 40 species of mammals, half from which are rodents (21 species), the others are predators (8), chiropterans (5), insectivores (4), ungulates (2). Reptiles are represented by 30 species, the most significant are water (Natrix natrix) and grass (Natrix tessellata) snakes and the Central Asian agama (Agama sanguinolenta).
The flora contains more than 370 species of higher plants. The vegetation of the coast is represented by halophytic and salsolas communities. Sandy sites are fixed by vegetation but it is sparse: ephedra, a few species of Calligonum, Salsola richteri, and saxaul (Haloxylon persicum) which is very rare. Carex physodes covers some areas with sparse ephemerals.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
At present, the ecosystem of the IBA is considered to be in a safe condition. The greatest threats are pollution of the coast by household rubbish, illegal hunting and illegal fishing. Climate change and severe weather.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
In the second half of the last century ornithological works were carried out by employees of the Khazar reserve, but in spite of this the IBA has not been designated and is not listed in the protected areas of Turkmenistan. Counts of passage-wintering waterfowl were carried out almost annually from 1971-2003 under the direction of Vasilev V.I. On desert areas adjoining the IBA employees of the Turkmenbashy antiplague stations carried out
regular (especially from 1960-1990) studies of the distribution and number of mammals of region, in particular rodents and predators.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Ekerem - Esenguly. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 17/05/2022.