Aksay Lake and surrounding desert

Year of compilation: 2006

Site description
A brackish lake artificially created by artesian wells situated in the lowest part of the Minbulak hollow in the Central Kyzylkum. Water levels are affected by atmospheric precipitation and show a small amount of seasonal fluctuation. However, in general, there appears to be a steady increase, both in water levels and the general area of the lake. Throughout the observation period the area of reedbeds has increased. As the lake is up to 15-20 m. deep, the borders of the reedbeds are well defined. On the shore water-tolerant shrubby and grassy vegetation is well developed. The lake is surrounded by barkhan sands. Aksay lake is located in the central part of the Kyzylkum desert, 50 km to the west of Uchkuduk city and 25 km to south-east of Minbulak settlement.

Key biodiversity
Aksay lake has a typical community of wetland birds of the arid region reservoirs of Central Asia. Common breeding species are Podiceps cristatus, Tachybaptus ruficollis, Fulica atra, Gallinula chloropus, Netta rufina, Anas platyrhynchos, Ardea cinerea, Vanellus leucurus and Recurvirostra avosetta. Typical passerines are Acrocephalus scirpaceus, Acrocephalus agricola, Cettia cetti, Acrocephalus melanopogon and Locustella luscinioides. Panurus biarmicus and Remiz macronix are very common. Many desert species visit the lake to drink including Pterocles orientalis and Pterocles alchata (the latter is a popular target for poachers throughout the year). During migration, a very wide variety of species occur, and it is the only site with Central Kyzylkum records of Crex crex, Pluvialis squatarola and Pluvialis fulva. On autumn migration there are numerous species of waterbird. The lake, which is rich in fish, is a key oasis in the extensive desert, and so of immense importance for migrants. During observations which cover the period 1970-2005, approximately 300 species have been recorded including almost all desert-biome and migrants listed in the national Red Data Book.

Non-bird biodiversity: Sus scrofa was formerly numerous in the reedbeds being met in hundreds, but is now practically exterminated. Gazella subgutturosa subgutturosa regularly drink from the lake. In the coastal dunes Varanus griseus is typical. They concentrate here especially during droughts and hunt mainly on birds. In the vicinity of the lake are rare species of jerboas – Jaculus turcmenicus, Allactaga bobrinskii and Eremodipus lichtensteini. Red Data Book species are: mammals - Gazella subgutturosa; reptiles – Varanus griseus.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Mapping and counts of rare breeding species: Oxyura leucocephala, Aythya nyroca, Phalacrocorax pygmaeus and others. Definition of natural and anthropogenic limiting factors for Oxyura leucocephala and Aythya nyroca and development of proposals for the preservation of these species and increasing their number. Development of concrete proposals for the designation of Aksay Lake as a protected area. The most practical would be to create a State natural hunting sanctuary with all year round protection.

Habitat and land use
Aksay is a deep-water lake, rich with fish. There are extensive reedbeds and the shore is mainly sandy. In parts of the lake there are well developed thickets of almost treelike tamarisk, and on the sandy shores of barkhan sands saxaul. On the southern shore of the lake is a privately-owned livestock farm. It is enclosed by a fence constructed of local materials. The artesian pore with hot water functions. Between 1970 and 1990 the lake was a summer pleasure resort for people from Uchkuduk city, in autumn and winter for fishermen and hunters. Due to the deterioration of the earth roads, the lake is now little visited by tourists, though fishermen (many fish have been introduced into the lake) and hunters still come.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Aksay Lake and surrounding desert. Downloaded from on 22/01/2021.