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Iskanderkul Lake is situated in the north-eastern part of the Gissar mountain range 60 km to the south-west of Ayni, the district centre. The lake is formed by damming and is freshwater. There are three rivers flowing into the lake: Sarytag, Karakul and Serima. There is one river flowing out - Iskanderkul. This river is a tributary of the Fandarya river which is a main tributary of the Zerafshan river. Dijik, Langar and Saraton villages lie to the north of the lake and Kannoj, Saryrag and Saraton to the south. The IBA is a part of a nature reserve which has an area of 30,000 hectares. This reserve was founded with the purpose of saving the ecological balance of natural complexes and future development of ecological tourism. Good nature conservation work and weak anthropogenic influences promote conservation of this natural complex.
169 species of birds have been recorded, 20 of them are residents, 65 are breeding, 78 are migrants, 4 are vagrants and 1 wintering. Iskanderkul lake and surrounding area supports many birds both breeding and on spring (April to June) and autumn (August to November) migration. Biotopes include rivers, riverside meadows with water-logged ground, broad-leaved and Juniperus forests, mountain slopes with bushes and sub-alpine meadows. Each has a distinctive community. Rare species: globally threatened species - Aythya nyroca, Haliaeetus leucoryphus, Aegypius monachus, Aquila heliaca, Circus macrourus, Falco vespertinus, Falco cherrug, Otis tarda and Coracias garrulus. Species included in the National Red Book: Ciconia nigra, Aquila chrysaetos, Burhinus oedicnemus, Columba palumbus, Myophonus caeruleus, Enicurus scouleri, Leptopoecile sophiae and Garrulax lineatus.
Non-bird biodiversity: Fish: the lake is very deep and cold so has a poor benthic community. There are only Nemachilus sp. of fish present. There was an attempt to acclimatize Salmo ischchan but it failed. Amphibia: Rana ridibunda and Bufo viridis occur. Reptiles: Stellio lehmanni, Coluber ravergieri, Elaphe dione and Agkistrodon halys. Mammals: Rodents include Marmota cаudata, Dryomys nitedula, Cricetulus migratorius, Microtus carruthersi, Ochotona rutila, Apodemus sylvaticus, Rattus rattoides and Lepus tolai. Predators include: Mustela nivalis, Mustela erminea, Martes foina, Vulpes vulpes, Canis lupus, Ursus arctos, Meles meles, Uncia uncia and Felis lynx. In the upper parts of rocky mountains Capra sibirica may be found. Snow leopard (Uncia uncia) is included on the IUCN Red List, and Lynx lynx isabellina and Mustela nivalis in the National Red Book(1988, 1997). Vegetation: geobotanists ascribe Iskanderkul lake to the Zeravshan province of the Middle East Asia geographic natural zone (Stanukovich, 1982). The IBA is situated in desertified steppe and Juniper forests, which are formed mainly by Juniperus zeravshanica and occasionally by J. semibulbosa with differing crown densities. Grass associations have steppe, ephemeral, desert or meadow characters. Artemisia tenuisecta, Artemisia korshinskyi, Stipa caucasica and Stipa kirgisorum dominate. There are many Cousinia, Astragalus sp., Acantholimon tataricum, Acantholimon komarovii, Prangos sp. and Ferula sp. Shrubs include: Rosa ecae, Cerasus verrucosa and Clematis songarica. There are also formations of Aser turkestanicus and Amygdalus bucharicus at lower altitudes. Salix sp., Betula sp. and Populus sp. occur in river valleys. Subalpine steppes and Juniperus bushes occur at higher altitudes.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Iskanderkul lake and mountains. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 09/02/2023.