The IBA is located in the north-eastern part of Turkmenistan in the Birata district of the Lebap region.
The site includes lakes, a system of water reservoirs (Duyeboyun, Soltansanjar and Koshbulak), part of the Amudarya river (68 km in length), the Duyeboyun reservoir floods and lakes, and adjoining parts of the Pitnyakskaya uplands with patches of sandy and stony-clayey desert and saline depressions. Young tugai forests are present along the Amudarya at Syuduktugay, Saduar and Hanyan and appeared after filling of the Duyeboyun reservoir. Meadows, alluvial soils and saline depressions occur in the Amudarya river valley. The average monthly air temperature in June is +32C, in January -2C. The absolute maximum is +47C and minimum is -31C. Less than 100 mm of precipitation falls per year. Northern and north-eastern winds dominate (Orlovsky, 1984). The reservoirs and floods freeze if winters are unusually cold. There are no settlements in the site, but there are huts for fishmen and shepherds.
Biratinsky district is a border zone and the river Amudarya is the border between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. As a result part of site is under military control.
The proportions of land and water change due to water level fluctuations.
180 species of birds have been recorded in the IBA, but this number is not definitive. The most diverse are Passeriformes, Falconiformes, Anseriformes and Chardriidae. There are many waterbirds.
The cliffs and outlying parts of the Pitnyakskaya upland is a nesting place for raptors and Tadorna ferruginea (23 pairs in 2007).
The variety of waterbodies (large and mainly deep, without or with sparse vegetation on the shore and low islands, shallow filtration lakes, the floodplain of the river Amudarya with flood areas) provide favourable conditions for the stopover of many species, with more than 20,000 individual waterbirds during migration and in winter. Landscape diversity supports species typical of sandy and stony-clayey deserts, saline areas, cliffs and shore.
Eleven species are included in the National Red Data Book. Bubo bubo, Chlamydotis undulata, Burhinus oedicnemus, Aquila chrysaetos, Falco cherrug and Circaetus gallicus breed or possibly breed. Pelicanus onocrotalus, P. crispus, Platalea leucorodia, Phoenicopterus roseus, Haliaeetus leucoryphus and Aegypius monachus are migrants and winter visitors. Pelicans were recorded during the breeding season, but nests were not found. Flocks of Grus grus (up to 200 individuals) make stopovers in the desert part of the site.
Non-bird biodiversity: Two species of Amphibia (Bufo viridis and Rana ridibunda), 17 species of Reptilia, among which Varanus griseus and Phrynocephalus rossikowi are included in the National Red Data book, occur. Mammals total 30 species: Insectivora - 3, Chiroptera – 4, Lagomorpha – 1, Rodentia – 16, Carnivora – 5, Ungulata – 1. Hystrix indica, Allactaga bobrinskii and Jaculus turcmenicus are included in the National Red Data book.
Psammophytes and miscellaneous ephemeral herbs are the dominant species of which is Carex physodes is the most widespread. Bushes include Haloxylon, Calligonum, Salsola richteri, and Epherda. In some places there is Artemisia and Salsola. Forest/bush tugai vegetation consists of Populus, Elaeagnus, Tamarix, Halimodendron and Halostachys caspica. On the unflooded or occasionally flooded parts of the tugai thickets of reed, Glycyrrhiza, Calamagrostis, Trachomitum scabrum and Aeluropus grow.
Habitat and land use
Cattle-breeding dominates here: in the desert, on the shores of lakes and reservoirs cattle, calves and camels graze and forage for livestock is collected. There is intensive fishing in the lakes and hunting in the desert. There are two sources of medicinal water, Kaynar and Ajiguyy, which are used by local people from time to time. The water level in Duyeboyun and Soltasanjar reservoirs is not stable. The water level has decreased lately and the eastern part of Duyeboyun reservoir now follows the prior riverbed of the Amudarya river.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Disturbance from people and livestock, water transport. Grazing around lakes and cutting of vegetation destroys some nesting habitats. Fluctuation of water levels can cause the loss of eggs and nestlings.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Supporting information for the creation of the Pitnyakskiy zakaznik of the Amudarinskiy zapovednik (area = 48,000 hectares) has been prepared and passed to the Ministry of Nature Protection of Turkmenistan.