Dengizkul lake is situated 75 km south-south west from Buhara town near the border with Turkmenistan. It is surrounded by mainly sandy desert with large sand dunes and bushes of saxaul and acacia – the northern part of the Sundukli sands. Hilly sands are most typical for the boundary region with Turkmenistan. The lake is situated in a natural low-lying landscape. The water is strongly salty and supplied by a collector-drainage channel. In former times it was the final reservoir of the Zarafshan river. The IBA consists of the open water area and coastal strip 500 metres wide.
The list of birds of Dengizkul Lake was compiled from personal records and the literature and includes 133 species. 53 species breed, 9 are resident, 14 wintering and 57 migrants Lanovenko, 2001).
In August 2001 a brief survey of the coastal northern and northeastern part of the lake was carried out (Lanovenko, 2001) and this provided the information on the biome-restricted species used for this account.
Winter counts in 2000 and 2003-2005 recorded 44 species, with the number of wintering birds ranging from 19,277 to 286,634 birds. The dominant species also changed between counts. These figures are comparable to those of winter aerial counts 1987, 1986 and 1990-91 when numbers ranged from 21,297 to 504,000 birds (Shernazarov, Nazarov, 1991; Asian Waterfowl Census 1990, Asian Waterfowl Census 1991). Nevertheless the total number of birds always exceeded 20,000. Important wintering species are Pelecanus crispus, Marmaronetta angustirostris, Aythya nyroca and Oxyura leucocephala.
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals include badger and jackal and there are colonies of gerbils and jerboas. Reptiles include Teratoscincus scincus, Varanus griseus (IUCN Red List species) and Phrynocephalus interscapularis. Amphibians include Bufo viridis. There are many different spiders here including karakurt and phalanx. Fish include Stizostedion lucioperca and Cyprinus carpio. There are numerous small sandhoppers which provide plentiful food for fish and birds.
Vegetative associations consist of coastal thickets of reed and reed mace. On the shore there are several associations of desert vegetation and a poorly developed tugai association.
Habitat and land use
The site consists of the deep water area of the reservoir, open shallow floods in the northwest part, coastal shallows with reedbeds, sandy areas of desert with shrubby vegetation - tamarisk in low lying areas, saxaul on dry sites. The adjacent territory is used for grazing domestic animals. Illegal fishing occurs and causes mortalities among diving birds which get caught in nets. This threat is especially significant during winter when the concentration of waterfowl on the lake is high.
Near the southern extremity of the lake natural gas is extracted, both on-shore and in the lake itself.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The Lukoil company is carrying out an increasing amount of gas extraction. Construction of new wells and laying of a gas pipeline on the bottom of lake are planned. These works also will demand construction of a new communications networks and could lead to a partial loss of coastal habitats and increased problems for birds.
Because of the proximity of the State border on the southwest coast, the construction of special buildings and new roads resulted in significant destruction of coastal habitats. For example - partial loss of habitats (about 15% of coastal sandy desert with good bushes of saxaul and no grazing) and a reduction in the number of biome’s CA04b species.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Short-term summer research was carried out in 1998 as part of a NABU project on IBAs.
In January and February 2000 two winter aircraft counts were carried out as part of the "Protection of Uzbekistan's Wetlands and their Waterfowl" project".
In 2001-2003, with support of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fishery of the Kingdom of the Netherlands through its embassy in Moscow, expeditions searching for wintering areas of Anser erythropus were carried out.
In 2003-2004 within the framework of the WWF-Russia and Wetlands International "Development of strategy for protection of waterfowl and wetlands on the Central - Asian flyway" project international winter counts of waterfowl were made.
Dengizkul Ornithological Reserve was created by a Decision of the Council of Ministers of the USSR №530 in 1973. Validity of this was prolonged by a decision of the Buhara Regional Executive Committee №157/11 from 26.06.90. In October 2001 Dengizkul lake was included in the list of wetlands of international importance (Ramsar site No.1108).