The IBA is situated 120 km from the provincial centre, Horog, and 52 km from the district centre, Ishkashim. It is located in the south part of the Shohdara range and is a rather wide part of the Vahan valley and a large proportion of the south mountainside of the Shohdara range. The lowlands of the IBA are represented by flood-lands of the Pyandj river which were formed as a result of the Pamir and Vahandara rivers confluence, situated 10 km to the east of the eastern border of the IBA.
The most interesting part of the IBA are the flood-lands of the Pyandj river in the Vakhan valley. This is the widest part of the Pyandj valley in Badahshan. The river forms several branches and as a result many islands, some of which are covered with tugay thickets, were formed. There are many pebbly shoals and sandy islands with rare plants. The mountain part of the IBA, located on the south mountainside of the Shohdara range, is divided by more than 14 gorges of a primary level and more than 22 gorges of a secondary level. There are rivers in all gorges. These are the Pyandj river's side tributaries, more than 40% of which flow throughout the year. The total area of waterbodies in the IBA is 1.1%. The maximum depth of the Pyandj river is 12m. There are tugay thickets and watermeadows in the floodlands of the Pyandj river and the low parts of the side gorges. The density and variety of vegetation decreases as altitude increases.
There are about 100 species recorded.
Residents include: Anas platyrhynchos, Mergus merganser, Gypaetus barbatus, Aegypius monachus, Gyps himalayensis, Aquila chrysaetos, Pyrrhocorax graculus, Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, Corvus corax and Montifringilla nivalis.
Breeding species include: Tadorna ferruginea, Tringa totanus, Columba rupestris, Caprimulgus europaeus, Calandrella acutirostris, Riparia rupestris, Motacilla citreola, Motacilla alba, Prunella himalayana, Phoenicurus erythrogaster, Oenanthe isabellina and Carduelis flavirostris.
Migrants include: Ardea cinerea, Anas strepera, Anas crecca, Fulica atra and Upupa epops during the spring and autumn migrations.
Rare species: resident species included in the National Red Book are Gypaetus barbatus, Gyps himalayensis, Aquila chrysaetos, Falco cherrug, Ibidorhyncha struthersii and Chaimarrornis leucocephala.
IUCN Red Listed species are Aythya nyroca, Haliaeetus leucoryphus, Aegypius monachus, Aquila clanga, Aquila heliaca, Circus macrourus, Falco cherrug and Coracias garrulus.
Non-bird biodiversity: Fish: there are 2 species in the Pyandj river and its tributaries - Schizopygopsis stoliczcai and Schizothorax intermedius.
Amphibia: Rana ridibunda and Bufo viridis.
Reptilia: Vipera lebetina, Coluber ravergieri and Agama himalayana.
Mammals: these are diverse with many endemic species. Common Rodents include Marmota caudata, Mus musculus and Alticola argentatus. From Leporidae: Lepus tolai and Ochotona roylei. Capra sibirica occurs in the mountains. Carnivores include Uncia uncia, Canis lupus, Vulpes vulpes, Mustela nivalis and Mustela erminea.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The IBA's ecosystems are in a satisfactory condition at present. Heavy rain presents the main threat for habitats because of soil erosion.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Data about the geology can be found in works by V.D. Nalivkin (1968). O.E. Agahanyanc (1965) studied the physical geography. I.A. Abdusalyamov (1977) and R.L. Potapov (1966) made a large contribution to the study of the Pamir's zoogeography.
Data about the biology and ecology of plants and animals in Badakhshan are found in works by Severtzov N.A. and M.A. Menzbier (1888-1893), Sharpe (1891), R.N. Meklenburtsev (1936, 1949), A.I. Ivanov (1940, 1969), G.P. Dementyev (1935) and I.A. Abdusalyamov (1961, 1964, 1971, 1973, 1977).
There is no protected area.
Habitat and land use
The vegetation of the IBA includes: mountain desert, mountain-xerophite, cryophilic vegetation, alpine steppes, forests and meadows. Rocks and screes cover more than 44% of the site.
A large part of the IBA is used as pasture with the lower parts used as hayfields. There is also cultivation there.
There are 16 settlements within the IBA, with a total population of more than 9,000 people. There are many geothermal springs which form the basis around which clinics and recreation zones are planned to be built. The majority of the IBA is state property.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Ishkashim. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 10/08/2022.