This group of lakes lies in the Kostanai Plain at the northern point of the Ubagan-Ishym Interfluve. The majority of the group is in the frontier area of Uzynkol district of Kostanai Region. Only the southern quarter of Zhamankol lake lies in the adjacent Sarykol district. The lakes are situated 7 km to the south-east of Korolyovka and 37 km to the north-west of the district centre of Uzynkol. The regional centre of Kostanai lies 200 km to the north-east.
The lakes are the permanent standing freshwater bodies with two major sources of refilling: seasonal floods and freshets, and the groundwater upwelling. A perennial variation in the volume of meltwaters results in an unstable hydrological regime though there is a pattern of rather regular cycles. The wetlands have vigorous reed growth, both mosaics and solid patches. The surrounding landscape which formerly consisted of herb-rich feather-grass steppe with small stands of Aspen-Birch forest, has almost completely be transformed to agriculture and nowadays consists of an assortment of crop-fields. As the lakes appear to receive a regular supply of groundwater, compared to the majority of waterbodies of the dry-steppe sub-zone they remain largely unaffected by the drastic fluctuations of precipitation. A few parts of the plain around the lakes have retained patches of the original grass-herb vegetation consisting of Stipa zalesskii, Festuca valesiaсa, Salvia stepposa, Phlomis agrarian and Galatella divaricata. During the second half of the 1990s a substantial portion of the arable land was neglected and has turned, with time, into 'wasteland' with an exuberant growth of ruderal weeds (Artemisia absinthium, Sonchus arvensis, Taraxacum officinale, Convolvulus arvensis, Turritis glabra and Nonnea pulla). However, since 2000 there has been a tendency towards agricultural reclamation of these abandoned plots.
The lakes are set in distinct hollows and have stable margins that often form low cliffs 1.5-2 m in height. The waters of Kamyshovoye (Lebyazh’ye) Lake cover an area of 4.7 km2 with a fringing belt of reed and cat-tail 100-150 m in width. Nearer the shore, this solid growth gives way to patches of reed interspersed with Scolochloa festucacea, Sonchus arvensis and Saussurea amara. Marshy areas have Carex disticha, C. acutiformis and C. omskiana. Further away from the water there is a narrow belt of moist meadows with a patchwork of grasses including Juncus gerardii, Alopecurus pratensis, Phalaroides arundinaceae, Calamagrostis epigeios and Elytrigia repens. The pattern of aquatic vegetation is directly linked to the particular state of the lakes flooding: when water levels are low there is additional reed growth dividing the waters into a series of vast open stretches that support seasonal concentrations of waterbirds. In addition to stands of Typha angustifolia and Scirpus lacustris in the shallows, the open water often has a rich growth of carpet-forming water-plants (Alisma plantago-aquatica, Butomus umbellatus, Myriophyllum verticilatum, Potamogeton lucens, P. perfoliatus and Ceratophyllum demersum). Sampling has established the presence of 53 species of algae. The gently sloping banks of the littoral form muddy margins that attract considerable numbers of gulls and waders. Along the edge of the bank terraces there is low scrub (Rosa cinnamomea) with patches of steppe vegetation (Salvia stepposa, Serratula cardunculus). In a very few spots there are patches of the almost extinct grassland type - Stipa korshinskyi dominated steppe-grass associations historically growing on rich calcareous soils.
Lake Zhamankol is 2.6 x 2.2 km, and its shoreline stretches for 11.4 km. The waters are half covered with extensive reedbeds forming quagmires in several places. In general, the banks have reeds interspersed with patches of Scirpus lacustris and Juncus gerardii, with reed mixed with Carex disticha and C. acutiformes in some places. Beyond the shore there are meadows with a predominance of Alopecurus pratensis and Phalaroides arundinaceae, and further away dry meadows comprised mostly of Poa pratensis and Leymus ramosus. Along the margin of the top terrace there are fragments of the well-preserved original Festuca-Artemisia Steppe. Beyond this the area has been almost entirely converted to agriculture with many fields which following harvest are feeding areas for migrating waterfowl. Part of the abandoned arable land has developed a dense scrub of bushy Artemisia which is perfect habitat for the local population of Roe deer. Within a short distance of the shores there are a few groves of deciduous forest (Aspen and Birch). A characteristic feature of the regional climate are frequent and strong winds.
The site provides plentiful opportunities for large numbers of waterbirds to breed, moult and concentrate when on passage. More than 50 species of waterbirds have been recorded, including Gaviiformes – 1, Podicipediformes – 4, Pelecaniformes – 1, Ciconiformes – 3, Anseriformes – 19, Rallidae – 2, Charadriformes – 12, Laridae – 8 and Gruiformes – 2. Based on observations from May 1998 and 1999 and June 2004, the majority of the breeding fauna consists of dabbling ducks (69.6%), diving ducks (13.4%), gulls (4%), waders (2.8%), swans (2.5%) and grebes (1.4%). Greylag Goose also nests. The dominant species was Anas penelope (57.5 %), plus Aythya ferina (12.7 %), Anas acuta (5.4 %), Anas strepera (3.4 %), Cygnus cygnus (2.5 %), Anas querquedula (2.2 %), Larus ridibundus (1.7%), Vanellus vanellus (1.0 %), Limosa limosa (1.2 %)and Podiceps cristatus (1.0 %). Species occurring infrequently include Podiceps griseigena, Egretta alba, Ardea cinerea, Botaurus stellaris, Fulica atra, Grus grus, Grus virgo, Anser anser, Anas platyrhynchos, Anas crecca, Anas clypeata, Aythya ferina, Aythya fuligula, Larus cachinnans, L. ridibundus, L. canus, L. minutus, Sterna hirundo, Chlidonias niger, Chl. leucoptera and Glareola nordmanni.
On passage there are remarkable concentrations of Greylag and White-fronted Geese; at the peak of the migration period flocks of 50,000 birds are common. The site also often has good numbers of Branta ruficollis and Anser erythropus. In recent years there have been occasional autumn records of Chen hyperboreus. Other species in autumn concentrations of birds include Anas platyrhynchos (50%), A. acuta (23%), Fulica atra (7.1%), A. strepera, A. penelope, Podiceps cristatus, P.nigricollis, Larus cachinnans, L. ridibundus, L. canus and Cygnus cygnus. Species occurring in smaller numbers include Pluvialis squatarola, Calidris alpina, Phalocrocorax carbo, Anas crecca and Casmerodius albus. Kamyshonoye lake is well known for its regular moulting concentrations of Cygnus cygnus, C. olor (150-200 birds) and Anser anser (200-300 individuals). The avifauna of the adjacent land also exhibits significant diversity, including woodland species because of the presence of small forest stands.
Ten species included in the Red Data Book of Kazakhstan occur: breeding - Cygnus cygnus and Grus grus; passage - Grus grus, Anser erythropus, Branta ruficollis and Aythya nyroca. Rare raptors include Haliaeetus albicilla, Aquila heliaca and Falco peregrinus. Falco vespertinus nests in the neighboring field-protecting forest belts, Circus macrourus and Glareola nordmannii in the lakes’ hollows. Aquila clanga and Cygnus columbianus occur occasionally.
Non-bird biodiversity: The fish population of Kamyshovoye lake contains only 2 species - Carassius carassius and Carassius auratus - and Zhamankol also has Perca fluviatilis. Amphibians and reptiles are represented by Bufo viridis, Rana arvalis and Lacerta agilis. Mammals include 25 species: Capreolus pygargus, Alces alces (passage), Meles meles, Mustela eversmanni, Mustela erminea, Mustela nivalis, Vulpes corsac, Vulpes vulpes, Canis lupus, Lepus timidus and Lepus europaeus. The most numerous are rodents. Damp areas are occupied by Microtus arvalis, Microtus oeconomus, Arvicola terrestris and Ondatra zibetica; while the steppe biotopes hold large numbers of Cricetus cricetus, Lagurus lagurus, Ellobius talpinus and Spermophilus erythrogenus. A few groups of Marmota bobac remain in the region around Kamyshovoye lake.
In former times the steppe area adjacent to the lakes consisted of widespread patches of motley herbs and turf-grasses within the extensive swathes of Stipa korshinskyi. Now all areas have been transformed into arable land and the fragments of these unique steppe associations can only be seen along the margins of Kamyshovoye lake.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Presently, apart from the fluctuating water supply, the most serious pressures on the ecosystems of the lakes are the small-scale fishery, hunting and agro-industrial activities. The site is situated in an area that has been subject to an almost continuous agricultural boom for many years and cultivation is closing in on the lakes on all sides, halting its encroachment just short of the lush fringing vegetation belt. The relative intensification of agriculture in recent years threatens the purity of the water through accidental drainage of fertilizers and pesticides. There is also considerable disturbance from the intensive use of harvesting or cultivating machinery and a nearby network of country roads. Intensive goose hunting also causes disturbance.
Thus the major negative factors affecting the site are: the impact on the lush vegetation zone by mowing or cattle-grazing activities; the threat of water pollution by pesticide run-off; disturbance from large-scale fishing and hunting (with frequent poaching). Trampling of the shore vegetation, essential bird breeding habitat (including that of Glareola nordmanni), has been alleviated to a certain extent on account of a sharp decline in the number of local livestock in the mid 1990s. However, this pressure is beginning to return.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
In October 1996, as part of a programme investigating the flyways of Anser erythropus, a joint Finn-Kazakhstani ornithological expedition carried out regular autumn observations of geese migrating through the vast lake systems of the Region, including the Kamyshovoye-Zhamankol lakes. In the springs of 1997 and 1998 waterfowl counts on Kamyshovoye lake were carried out by a senior researcher of the Zoology Institute, Yerokhov S.N. In 1999 and 2001 representatives of a WWF Project working group looked at the state of the system’s ecological conditions and cursorily investigated the biological aspects of waterbird populations present in early summer. In June 2004 the site was visited with the aim of sampling waders' feathers. Since 2005, monitoring of migrating waterfowl in the region is being conducted within the UNEP/GEF Project “Development of Migratory Routes and Wetland Habitats with regard to Conservation of Grus leucogeranus and other Waterbirds in Asia”.
No special conservation projects have been carried out. On the proposal of the GEF/UNEP/WWF Project “Econet – Central Asia” working group, the Regional Agency of Forestry and Bio-resources Management issued an order (#12 of 14.3.2001) for the inclusion of the site into the List of Especially Important Wetlands of the Region.
Habitat and land use
The lakes are used as a traditional fishery: the waters of Zhamankol have 1-2 teams of fishermen using stationary nets, a technique which is potentially dangerous as birds frequently get trapped by such devices. As practically all of the area around the lakes is cultivated, the only places remaining acceptable for grazing are the narrow belts of meadows lying within the inner margin of lakes’ hollows. This, and the gradually reviving cattle-raising industry, means that the lush vegetation of the meadows is being severely affected. In the early 1990s the local agrarian industry suffered a recession and fell into a bad state which has begun to recover since 1999. From 2000 to 2005 the majority of cultivated land has been reclaimed. As this region provides almost perfect natural conditions for wheat growing, it is likely that there will be continuing agricultural intensification. The lakes are reckoned to be one of the best game areas of the region for waterfowl hunting.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Kamyshovoe-Zhamankol Lakes. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 26/01/2022.