The Gissar State Nature Reserve is situated on the western mountainsides of the Gissar range between 1,750 and 4,349m and was established in 1985 when two independent nature reserves were merged. The first of these was the Kizilsuyskiy Nature Reserve, founded in 1975 for the protection of one of the best extensive juniper forests in the Western Pamoro-Alay, together with its fauna typical for this part of the Gissar range. The second was the Mirakinskiy Nature Reserve, founded in 1976 for the protection of the upper reaches and source of the Kashkadarya river and the Severtzov glacier (about 3.5 km long). The Gissar State Nature Reserve includes all of the natural complex of the upper belts of the western Gissar.
The reserve’s relief is quite complicated. The Gissar range terminates at its eastern end in the impressive Fan mountains (average altitude 4,000-4,200m). The massif is deeply cut by large watercourses. In the south-west it divides into the fan-shaped ridges of the Baysuntau system.
A combination of a complicated geological construction and peculiar climate has resulted in the development of a variety of landscapes. The upper reaches of the Kashkadarya are one of the warmest regions of Central Asia, often considered to be part of the dry subtropics.
There are many rivers and streams flowing into the Kashkadarya, the largest being the Aksu, Hanaksu, Tanhasdarya and Kizildarya. They are fed by glaciers and levels peak in the second part of the summer.
The nature reserve is rich in natural features, including one of the largest caves in Central Asia – the Cave of Amir Temur – kuragoni in the southern part of the reserve, which is situated at more than 2,900 m. There are also cave systems in the Kyrtau range, 50 km to the north of the nature reserve, which are amongst the largest in Central Asia. The upper reaches of the Aksu are famous for the beautiful Suut-Shar waterfall and there are smaller waterfalls in other parts of the reserve.
Mature juniper forests cover less than 10% of the site, while open juniper forests and elfin woods cover approximately 20%. Open herbaceous associations, stony slopes, screes and rock dominate.
Large birds of prey include Gypaetus barbatus, Gyps fulvus, Aegypius monachus, Gyps himalayensis, Neophron percnopterus, Haliaeetus leucoryphus and Buteo rufinus, while owls include Otus scops, Asio otus and Athene noctua. Waterfowl and waders are rare. Galliformes include Alectoris chukar (frequent) and Tetraogallus himalayensis (common in the alpine zone). Cuculus canorus is common everywhere. Typical species of the upper reaches of the Aksu are Alcedo atthis, Terpsiphone paradise and Myophonus caeruleus. Upupa epops, Merops apiaster, Coracias garrulus, Caprimulgus europaeus and Riparia rupestris are common and typical of the low mountain areas. Corvus corax, Pica pica, Corvus corone, Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, Pyrrhocorax graculus, Columba livia, Columba rupestris and Streptopelia turtur inhabit the alpine zone. There are many rock-loving species such as Sitta tephronota, Tichodroma muraria, Oenanthe hispanica and Oenanthe picata. Lanius minor, Lanius schaсh, Motacilla cinerea, Motacilla personata and Passer hispaniolensis occur in low mountain areas, with Cinclus cinclus, Cinclus pallasi, Remiz pendulinus, Luscinia megarhynchos, Acridotheres tristis, Emberiza bruniceps and Oriolus oriolus in the valleys. Dendrocopos leucopterus, Columba palumbus, Mycerobas carnipes, Carpodaсus erythrinus, Parus bokharensis, Phoenicurus caeruleocephalus, Phoenicurus ochruros, Phoenicurus erythrograstrus, Anthus spinoletta, Emberiza stewarti, Phylloscopus trochiloides and others are common in the juniper forests. Nine species are included in the Red Data Book of Uzbekistan: Ciconia nigra, Hieraaetus pennatus, Aquila nipalensis, Aquila chrysaetos, Gypaёtus barbatus, Aegypius monachus, Gyps fulvus, Gyps himalayensis and Falco cherrug. Two species - Aegypius monachus and Falco cherrug - are globally threatened.
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Ursus arctos, Uncia uncia.
The flora of the Western Gissar is typical of the mountains of Central Asia. It is rather rich in species composition and there is a considerable number of endemics. At least 1,500 species of vascular plant have been recorded in the Western Gissar within the Kashkadaryinskaya region of which at least 40 to 50 are strict endemics of the Western Gissar. The Western Gissar is poor in arboreal and shrubby plants - only about 60 species.
Habitat and land use
The ecosystems of the IBA are in a good condition now, but haymaking, logging and grazing are still takes place in surrounding areas.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Haymaking, tree felling and grazing occur on adjacent areas and have an influence on the nature reserve’s ecosystems, especially the forests.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
N. Meklenburtsev carried out research in the Kashkadarya river valley and the western part of the nature reserve along the Tanhazdarya and Kizilsu rivers (1958).
H. S. Salihbaev and M.M. Ostapenko worked in the south-western branches of the Gissar range(Baysuntau) (1964). Research in the nature reserve has been carried out by staff members (Aromov, 1982, 2001), Moscow State University expeditions, and other institutes of higher education and research. The Institute of Zoology and Parasitology of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences (Abdunazarov, 1990; Abdunazarov et all 1990, 1995, Abdunazarov, Lanovenko, 1996; Vashetko et all, 1996) made special research on some groups of vertebrates.
International status of this site could strengthen the importance of the nature reserve for biodiversity protection and, specifically, rare species. This will increase the responsibility of the national executive structures.
The effectiveness of the nature reserve would be increased by including those areas within the nature reserve's boundary which are currently excluded, marking the protection zone, introducing usage conditions, marking areas requiring special protection or management to support biotopes of important species in optimal condition.
The Gissar Nature Reserve protects the juniper forest complex and alpine zone of the Western Gissar – the large mountain region which is the source of the Surkhandarya.
The nature reserve has been under anthropogenic influence for many years. It has a high significance for the monitoring of the natural environment and studying the dynamics of vegetation and animal populations. Many areas were ploughed and arboreal-bushy vegetation was collected for fuel. Today the natural vegetation is largely reinstated. All of the nature reserve has been subject to intensive grazing for a long time. Now grazing is stopped and regeneration is taking place. It is important to include within the nature reserve examples of the of middle-mountain zone, especially areas with abandoned gardens of Circassian walnut and the luxuriant vegetation found on speckled sandstone.