Aksuat Lake

Year of compilation: 2007

Site description
Aksuat lake lies in the centre of a group of scattered waterbodies located on the left bank of the upper middle section of the Ishym river valley. Administratively, the site is located in the western corner of the Northern Kazakhstan region, very close to the inter-regional border. The lake is situated 260 km to the south-west of the regional centre of Petropavlovsk and 5 km to the south-east of the district centre Timiryazevo. Aksuat lake is a rather shallow, brackish, elongated waterbody, 7.3 km in length and 3.8 km in width. It is largely open water bordered by a narrow belt of reeds. The lake is dependent on the intake of seasonal melt water floods and, together with several associated waterbodies in the area, undergoes cyclic filling up. The shores are gently sloping, with areas of marsh along many parts of the western and eastern shoreline. In all areas fragments of variably transformed steppe vegetation abut the lake with, along the shore itself, a narrow lush belt of vegetation dominated by Salsola.

Key biodiversity
The lake supports almost the entire spectrum of avian species attributed to either steppe-or forest-related avifaunas. Aksuat lake supports large concentrations of waterbirds for the following reasons: the large size of the waterbody provides safe roosting areas for waterfowl and shorebirds; the eutrophic water, together with the nearby grain fields, provides ample feeding for many species of ducks, geese and cranes; and, in comparison with many other sites in the area, is little disturbed. In years of heavy waterbird passage, up to 100,000 birds can use the site.

Non-bird biodiversity: Of mammals the most numerous in the wetland is Ondatra zibethica. A slowly declining population of Marmota bobak occurs in scattered parts of the adjacent steppe. Arvicola terrestris is commonly encountered. Occasional mustelids are represented by Mustela nivalis, Mustela erminea, Mustela eversmanni, Meles meles and Mustela sibirica. Larger predators consist of Canis lupus, Vulpes vulpes, Vulpes corsac and Nyctereutes procyonoides. The dominant component of the shore vegetation is Phragmites australis. It occurs together with Typha angustifolia and Scirpus lacustris. In the muddy shallows many areas are dominated by Carex interspersed with Butomus umbellatus. On the outskirts of the lake a few plots of intact steppe still remain with an assortment of rich herbage-motley-turf-grass associations.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
1. Deterioration of the natural complexes of vegetation in the environs of the lake and increasing disturbance. This is the result of economic and demographic growth in the region in recent years. 2. A decrease in waterfowl and shorebird breeding success due to intensive grazing. 3. Disturbance and direct mortality by fishery activities. This situation could deteriorate further as the local administration is considering establishing commercial fish farming at the lake. 4. Illegal hunting is frequent. 5. Increasing recreational pressure due to increasing numbers of holiday-makers and tourists. 6. Increased access to the lake due to an improved road system. 7. Frequent seasonal fires ravaging the steppe and stubble fields.

Protected areas
The lake is designated as wildlife sanctuary of local importance and hunting is now prohibited, but the site's conservation status could still be improved

Habitat and land use
Until recently the extensive carrying capacity of the lake’s and its environs’ ecosystems were capable of coping with all major negative effects imposed on them by local economic activities. Now, though, the lake’s habitats are coming under increasing pressure from many sources. The main impacts are considered to be: a gradual increase in commercial fishing; an increase in crop-raising on the neighboring plain; and a steadily increasing demand for pasture by growing numbers of livestock. During the spring and summer the residents of Timiryazevo and Moskvretskoye use the lake’s shore as their favoured pasture rendering it unsuitable for breeding birds. Popular spots, both in the steppe and by the shore, are visited daily by herds of 200-250 cattle, resulting in a rapid degradation of the indigenous vegetation cover. Water quality is also deteriorating due to manure-laden run-off from the banks. Except in winter, fishing is carried out over the whole lake by 5 to 6 fishermen, often using motorboats, which undoubtably causes disturbance to nesting or resting birds. The total length of fishing nets set at one time may reach 1-1.5 km. Personal observations and talking to local fishermen indicates that up to 200 individuals of nesting and migrating waterfowl can be caught and drowned in fishing nets at any one time.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Aksuat Lake. Downloaded from on 29/03/2023.