Bulunkul and Yashilkul lakes and mountains

Country/territory: Tajikistan

IBA Criteria met: A1, A3, A4i (2006)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 149,590 ha

Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2006 very high not assessed low
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
The IBA is 220 km from Khorog town. The area has a very complicated topography and its mountain belts are defined by altitude. There are mainly gently slopes and vast highland valleys with sparse vegetation. To the north of the water basins there are mountain ranges with large areas of scree. The largest gorges in the north of the IBA are Kichik, Marjanay and Okjilga. Rivers of the same name flow into lake Yashilkul. The central part of the IBA is two freshwater lakes, Yashilkul and Bulunkul, with a surrounding plain which contains marshes, wet meadows, peatbogs and medium-sized pebble and sand plains. The open water area of lake Yashilkul is 3,600 hectares with a maximum depth of 52 m. The area of lake Bulunkul is 3,900 ha with a maximum depth of 6 m. This lake has dense vegetation cover over its surface but Yashilkul, as a result of its significant depth, only has vegetation on part of its surface. The boundary between Pamir and Badakhshan is situated near lake Yashilkul.

Key biodiversity
In accordance with the ornithogeographical map of Tajikistan (Abdusalyamov, 1977) the IBA is included in the Bokhara ornithogeographical district. So, except for representatives of the avifauna of Pamir in the western part of the IBA, the majority of species are of the Bokhara ornithogeographical district. 124 bird species have been recorded, including 14 species as residents, 23 as breeding, and more than 87 as migrants and passage species. Residents: Mergus merganser, Anas platyrhynchos, Gypaetus barbatus, Aegypius monachus, Gyps himalayensis, Aquila chrysaetos, Tetraogallus himalayensis, Athene noctua, Pyrrhocorax graculus, Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, Corvus corax, Montifringilla nivalis and others. In snowy winters many of these species migrate to lower mountain zones and to the valleys of Badakhshan. Breeding species: Anser indicus, Tadorna ferruginea, Falco tinnunculus, Falco cherrug, Charadrius mongolus, Tringa totanus, Tringa hypoleucos, Larus ichthyaetus, Larus brunnicephalus, Sterna hirundo, Columba rupestris, Caprimulgus europaeus, Calandrella acutirostris, Riparia rupestris, Motacilla citreola, Motacilla alba, Prunella himalayana, Phoenicurus erythrogaster, Oenanthe isabellina, Oenanthe deserti, Carduelis flavirostris, Carpodacus (Erythrina) rubicilla and others. Spring and autumn migrants: Phalacrocorax carbo, Ardea cinerea, Anas strepera, Anas crecca, Anas acuta, Haliaeetus leucoryphus, Aquila clanga, Aquila heliaca, Porzana pusilla, Gallinula chloropus, Fulica atra, Burhinus oedicnemus, Charadrius dubius, Calidris minuta, Calidris temminckii, Calidris alpina, Philomachus pugnax, Gallinago [Capella] solitaria, Limosa limosa, Tringa erythropus, Tringa nebularia, Tringa glareola, Tringa cinereus, Larus ridibundus, Coracias garrulus, Upupa epops, Sturnus vulgaris and others. Bulunkul and Yashilkul lakes are the best places for birds in the Pamir region. The habitats are the key places for resting and feeding on the flyway. This is confirmed by the existence of large aggregations of birds during the migration season. Some habitats in the IBA are: rivers and lakes, meadows with adjacent marshes, arid semi-deserts, rocks and stone fields, nival zone (Abdusalyamov, 1977). Every habitat has its own avifauna. There are 10 species included in the National Red Data Book - Gypaetus barbatus, Gyps himmalayensis, Aquila chrysaetos, Syrrhaptes tibetana are residents; Anser indicus, Falco peregrinus, Falco cherrug, Charadrius mongolus, Larus brunnicephalus are breeding; and Burhinus oedicnemus is migrating.

Non-bird biodiversity: Fish: 6 species recorded - Schizopygopsis stoliczkai, Schizothorax intermedius and Nemachilus stoliczcai are native species. In the 1970-80s young fish and larvae of Salmo ischchan, Carassius auratus and Coregonus peled were introduced to Yashilkul and Bulunkul lakes. Of these only Salmo ischchan became established. Amphibia and reptilia: as a result of the inclement climate of Pamir there is only one species Bufo viridis and reptiles are completely absent. Mammals: Rodents are represented by Marmota caudata, Microtus juldaschi and Alticola argentatus. Leporidae are Lepus tolai and Ochotona roylei [macrotis]. Wide valleys and gentle slopes are habitats of Ovis ammon polii, and rocky slopes of Capra sibirica. Carnivora are Ursus arctos, Uncia uncia, Felis manul, Canis lupus, Vulpes vulpes, Mustela nivalis, Mustela erminea and Lutra lutra. Ovis ammon polii, Ursus arctos, Uncia uncia, Felis manul and Lutra lutra are included in the National Red Data Book. The vegetation of the IBA consists of desert associations. As in Pamir there are 4 main mountain belts. A small nival belt on the southern Alychur Ridge at an altitude of more than 4,800 m above sea level, with very sparse vegetation. Melandrium apetalum, Cerastium cerastoides, Ajania tibetica, Oxitropis immersa, Sibbaldia tetranda and other species are resistant to intensely cold weather. High-alpine and low-alpine belts are situated between 4,200 and 4,800 m above sea level and in most dry habitats the dominant sub-shrub is Ajania tibetica. In the more wet areas typical species are the frost resistant Oxitropis immersa, Oxitropis poncinsii and Smelovskia calycina. In the lower alpine belt desert formations are typical, with dominant species being Krascheninnikovia ceratoides, Artemisia skorniakowii and Ajania tibetica (Stanyukovich, 1949). Almost the same type of vegetation is in the subalpine belt. In the marshes perennial wild gramineous plants grow. Dominant among them are Stipa orientalis, Alopecurus mucronatus, Trisetum spicatum, Poa calliopsis, Poa pamirica, Poa relaxa, Poa tremuloides, Poa litwinowiana, Puccinellia hackeliana, Puccinellia humilis, Puccinellia pamirica and others.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bulunkul and Yashilkul lakes and mountains. Downloaded from on 02/02/2023.