Malyi Kak lake lies on the eastern edge of a group of scattered waterbodies on the left bank of the upper middle reaches of the Ishym river. Administratively the site is located in the western corner of the Northern Kazakhstan region, 40 km from the interregional border, 250 km to the south-west of the regional centre of Petropavlovsk and 30 km south-east of the district centre of Timiryazevo. A railway runs north-south 20 kilometres from the western boundary of the site. 10 km to the north-west of the lake lies the small village of Akzhan.
The site is a small part of the southern outer range of the West-Siberian Lowlands. The major type of land form and vegetation is forest-steppe, though in this zone isolated forest stands are absent. About half a century ago, much of the mesophylic steppe of the region was transformed to agricultural land, and today many of the areas in the vicinity of the lake are either existing crop fields or abandoned land. However, due to high salinity and frequent erosion, the land lying within 2-3 km of the lake's shore has remained intact. The vegetation of this area is comprised of motley herbage associations with a high proportion of tall weeds alternating with patches of straggling ruderal growth. Malyi Kak Lake is slightly elongated in shape and is dependent on the intake of seasonal melt-water floods. Together with several nearby waterbodies, it is subject to cyclic filling-up. When water levels are very low, the saltiness of the water increases threefold. The banks are gently sloping and in many places form large muddy shoals. In the northern and north-eastern parts there is a narrow zone of reed, 5-10 metres wide.
Approximately 70 species have been recorded and high concentrations of waterfowl and shorebirds occur in autumn and spring. In the late 1990s the number of Branta ruficollis passing annually was estimated to be 8-10,000 birds. In 2005, 23,280 ducks were recorded.
Non-bird biodiversity: The fauna and flora is typical of the forest-steppe biotopes. Common mammals include several species of mustelids (Mustela nivalis, Mustela erminea and Mustela eversmanni). A small colony of Marmota bobak can be found in the adjacent steppe. Larger predators include Vulpes vulpes and, more rarely encountered, Vulpes corsac. Capreolus capreolus occurs infrequently.
A few plots of modified steppe surround the lake and still support an assortment of rich-herbage-motley-turf-grass associations. The main areas of dry mesophylic steppe and meadows, though, are restricted to the southern and south-eastern parts of the region. The main plant species of the former are Stipa pinnata, Poa sp. and Achillea millfolium; and of the latter Festuca sp., Calamagrostis epigeios and Alopecurus sp. The dominant emergent species is Phragmites australis and on the heavily mineralized land along the shore, Salsola species are abundant.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
a. Deterioration and disturbance of the natural vegetation of the lake and its environs due to increasing economic use of the area and population growth.
b. Occasional loss of waterfowl and shorebird clutches due to intensive grazing.
c. Illegal hunting.
d. Increasing recreational pressure from holiday-makers and tourists.
e. Easy access to the lake by a well-developed network of country roads.
f. Frequent seasonal fires on the steppe and stubble fields.
It is proposed that Malyi Kak Lake is incorporated into the Akzhan Regional Nature Preserve which was designated for the control and sustainable management of the steppe and wetland faunal complexes of the general Malyi Kak Lake area in 1998. However, protection of the area is almost non-existent as the responsible administrative body has insufficient resources and personnel to manage the site.
Habitat and land use
Agricultural intensification is beginning to impact on the area. In Timiryazevo district the proportion of land under cultivation is reaching 70-80%. Whilst this is providing increasing feeding opportunities of geese and ducks, cultivation is causing disruption to the hydrology of the area. Ploughed areas are subject to erosion under some weather conditions leading to increased siltation of the lake. Grazing of the vegetation bordering the lake is also increasing and may be affecting bird numbers.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Maliy Kak Lake. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 13/08/2022.