Garachop is the most southern IBA in Turkmenistan and Central Asia. It is situated to the east of Serhetabat and includes the southern border of the Kashan-Gushgy confluence. The small Kashan and Gushgy rivers are the left inflows of the river Murgab. Administratively the site is in Mary region.
The typical landscape of the IBA is hilly bajirs, divided by large and small ravines. The main feature of the site is the presence of open pistachio forests in the western section where the natural forest cover has remained, but in the north these have been replaced by artificial plantings of pistachio. Soils are sandy-loam to grey-desert (sierozems) with light, typical and dark subtypes. Water sources are practically non-existent, with very few springs and wells. The climate is dry, with an average annual rainfall of about 280 mm, maximum 420 mm and minimum 130 mm. The average annual temperature is +16.3°C, with an average July monthly temperature of +28.9°C., and January average of +2.6°C. Winds are frequent and often powerful, mainly from the north and north-east.
The IBA’s avifauna includes more 135 species, of these 28 are non-migratory, 78 are breeding visitors, 73 are passage migrants, and 22 winter.
Galliformes - 3 species, non-migratory: Alectoris chukar and Ammoperdix griseogularis occur in moderate numbers and Coturnix coturnix is a regular migrant breeder.
Columbiformes - Columba livia is usual and nests in the walls of wells.
Burhinus oedicnemus also nests and Tringa glareola, Tringa ochropus, Charadrius alexandrinus and others Charadrii occur on passage.
Chlamydotis undulata is now a very rare nesting and wintering species.
Falconiformes - 22 species, Strigiformes 7 species. Falco cherrug is rare and nests on the steep banks of dry streams. Aegypius monachus, Gypaetus barbatus, Aquila chrysaetos, Circaetus gallicus, Falco naumanni and Falco tinnunculus also breed. Some species of eagles, harriers and hawks winter. Bubo bubo and Athene noctua often nest, and in winter Asio otus and Asio flammeus can also be found. Passeriformes: starlings, finches, sparrows, buntings, larks, wagtails, pipits, nuthatch, tit, shrikes, flycatchers, warblers, wheatears, swallows. Galerida cristata and Melanocorypha calandra are numerous. In the pistachio forest, in addition to birds of prey, magpies, Lanius excubitor, Lanius minor, Lanius phoenicuroides and Lanius vittatus and various warblers breed. Lanius vittatus only nests here and in the Badhyz IBA. Sitta tephronota sometimes breeds on pistachio trees. Emberiza bruniceps arrives in the middle of April and occurs on passage in small flocks or alone.
Several rare and threatened species are listed in the Red Data Book of Turkmenistan (1999): Ciconia nigra, Buteo buteo, Circaetus gallicus, Hieraaetus fasciatus, Aquila heliaca, Aquila chrysaetos, Gypaetus barbatus, Aegypius monachus, Falco cherrug, Falco pelegrinoides, Falco naumanni, Chlamydotis undulata, Tetrax tetrax, Burhinus oedicnemus, Bubo bubo etc.
Non-bird biodiversity: Many endemic species occur, with representatives of Iranian-Afghan and Indian origin, and species typical of the mountains and deserts of Central Asia.
Amphibians – Bufo viridis laurenti, breeds near springs and pools, the rest of the time is found far from water. Reptiles include more than 40 species: one turtle (Agrionemys horsfieldi), 18 species of snakes, and many lizards. Various species of geckoes, racerunners, agamas, skink, and also Pseudopus apodus, Mabuya aurata and desert monitor - Varanus griseus. Snakes include the venomous Naja oxiana, Vipera lebetina and Echis carinatus and many non-poisonous species, including lots of racers. Coluber rhodorachis and Coluber nummifer are common and Spalerosophis diadema and Coluber karelini are rare. The smallest snake is Typhlops vermicuaris Merrem. Psammophis lineolatum lives in the desert-steppe.
Mammal total 46 species. Capra aegagrus and Siberian Ibex formerly occurred. Remaining ungulates are Gazella subgutturosa (though has also probably disappeared), Ovis vignei and Sus scrofa. Predators include wolf, jackal, fox, corsac, weasel, marbled polecat and steppe cat. 16 species of rodents occur: jird, souslik, voles and mice. Rhombomys opimus and Blanfordimys afghanus are common and sometimes numerous. Spermophilopsis Leptodactylus lives alone. Large rodents are porcupine and Lepus capensis tolai, both in small numbers. Insectivores include Hemiechinus auritus and Hemiechinus hypomelas, some shrews and three species of bat. The Red Data Book of Turkmenistan (1999) lists 2 species of reptiles (Cyrtopodion turcmenicus and Naja oxiana) and 8 species of mammals: Myotis emarginatus, Tadarida teniotis, Mellivora capensis, Hyaena hyaena, Felis caracal, Ovis vignei, Hystrix indica and Meriones zarudnyi.
The flora consists of Iranian-Afghan and Central Asian species, about 900 vascular plants. The basic groupings of vegetation are Carex-Poa-herbs, Artemisia-shrub, saltwort, pistachio, saxaul. The pistachio forests are of special interest. The Pulihatum pistachio grove is a natural stand, and is protected by a state zakaznik of 15,000 hectares. Rare and endangered species of plants listed in the Red Data Book of Turkmenistan (1999): Ficus afghanistanica, Astragalus kuschkensis, Pistachio badghysi and Tulipa kuschkensis.