The site covers the ridge-like uplands of the northern edge of the Aktau Plateau. The northern part consists of precipitous and extremely rugged terrain, while the southern part is gently sloping. To the north-west the site extends to the coastal zone of Mangyshlak Bay with its variety of coves and inlets. The area belongs to the exceptionally arid zone, but does contain several natural freshwater springs and artificial wells. The northern desert has the typical zonal phytocomplexes interspersed with the patches of semi-desert floral associations. The vegetation is mainly Artemisia-Salsola associations.
A typical assembly of desert-related species. A high population density of several species of raptor occurs, including the globally endangered Falco cherrug and Falco naumanni, and a few species in the National Red Data Book: Aquila chrysaetos, Neophron percnopterus, Circaetus gallicus and Bubo bubo.
Non-bird biodiversity: Within the area of the adjacent Zakaznik, of which the IBA forms but a small part, there occur several mammal species listed in the National Red Data Book (Ovis vignei arcal and Felis manul), plus the IUCN Red Data Book – Lynx caracal.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Modest intensity cattle gazing is practiced on a small part of the site and is considered to have minimal impact.
The two main threats are:
Illegal trapping of Falco cherrug.
The rapid growth of oil industry infrastructure.
Information obtained during prolonged research of the status of Falco cherrug in Kazakhstan clearly shows the rates of the species' decline in different parts of the country. In many mountain ranges Saker populations have been reduced to a critical level. The most severe declines have been in the Southern and Central Units of the overall Kazakhstan population, while the population of Eastern Kazakhstan has experienced only insignificant impact of poaching. In 2003, in the west of the country, an impressively large population of Saker has been discovered which, according to assessment, may number 1,500 nesting pairs.
The proposed IBA overlaps with the Aktau-Buzachinsky Zakaznik and with the territory of State Reservtion "Northern Part of Caspian Sea".
Habitat and land use
Owing to the harsh climatic conditions and unfavourable relief, the region has only attracted a few parties of nomads and, occasionally, naturalists. Nowadays though, the fast and relentless expansion of the oil extraction industry in the Northern Caspian off-shore zone threatens this largely pristine area with a new range of technological impacts.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Aktau cliff faces. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 22/06/2021.