Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve

Country/territory: Kazakhstan

IBA criteria met: A1, A3, A4i, A4iii (2006)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 258,963 ha

Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
2012 favourable medium high
For more information about IBA monitoring, please click here

Site description (2006 baseline)
Akmola Region, Korgalzhyn district, nearest town Korgalzhyno (straight distance 25 km east, 5,350 inhabitants), capital Astana 145 km North East (about 600,000 inhabitants). The IBA includes the Tengiz-Korgalzhyn system of lakes which are representative examples of a shallow lake system with a mix of fresh, salty and brackish waterbodies characteristic of the north of Kazakhstan. The largest lakes are Tengiz, Isei, Sultankeldy and Asaubalyk. The Tengiz-Korgalzhyn Lake system is situated in the strong continental climate zone, still influenced by the Atlantic. Very cold winters and hot summers, with an average precipitation of only 267 mm falling mainly in summer, are typical. The average temperature in January is –17°C (winter min. -45°C) and in June it is +20°C (summer max. 41.5°C). The number of days with an average temperature below zero is 150 per year. The Korgalzhyn lakes are basically the vast delta areas of the Nura and Kulanuptes rivers forming a series of fresh and brackish water lakes. They have an average depth of only 1.6 meters (range 0.5 to 2.5m) and an area of 47,100 ha. The water level is stabilized due to dams in the reserve. Tengiz Lake is the largest lake in the Kazakh steppe zone and its size varies between 113,600 to 159,000 hectares depending on water supply. It has a maximum depth of 6.7 metres and a salt content between 22 and 127 g/litre. Two overlapping cycles of high and low water levels have been observed in the last century, being 7 and 40 years long. Once every 100 years Lake Tengiz dries out almost completely for one or two years. The Rivers Nura and Kulanuptes, plus precipitation falling on the surrounding 200,000 ha of land and waterbodies, contribute water to the lake system. It has no outflow but due to its vast surface area and shallowness evaporation is very high. The River Nura is the main contributor (approximately 50%). Even though some water is used for irrigation and industrial use, water from the Irtysh-Karaganda channel bringing drinking water to Karaganda compensates for losses from the River Nura and the lake system remains in a near natural state. Most of the lakes have extensive reedbeds but the great salt Lake Tengiz has mostly open shores without tall vegetation. The relief of the area varies little with a minimum at Lake Tengiz (304 m a.s.l) and a maximum of 329 m a.s.l in the east of the reserve. It is situated in the zone of immature chestnut soils formed from alluvial-deluvial loams. Solonez and Solontshak soils are dominant in the depressions of the Tengiz-Korgalzhyn lake system. In the west and south of the protected area the so called Kazak Rolling Hills are found - the typical steppe formations of flat plains. The site is proposed following the borders of the nature reserve with a 2 kilometre wide buffer zone. This consists of a 258,920 ha Core Zone (current area of the Nature Reserve), plus 94,421 ha of the Buffer Zone (2 km around the site), giving a total of 353,341 ha. The reserve border generally follows the shoreline of the Tengiz-Korgalzhin Lake system but in the north-east follows the recently added steppe area so that the peninsula between the Tengiz and Korgalzhin Lake system is included in the nature reserve.

Key biodiversity
The 335 bird species recorded at the site contain 112 species of waterfowl and waders breeding, moulting or resting (87% recorded of the whole of Kazakhstan).

Non-bird biodiversity: Lake Tengiz is situated in the Kazakh Steppe in the so called short grass steppe. The short grass steppe is characterized by the Sheep Fescue species (Festuca sulcata) and the aster species Galatella tatarica and villosa. Also characteristic of these steppes are small shrubs of Spirea hypericifolia and species of ephemeral bulb species such as Adonis wolgensis, Potentilla species and the rare Tulipa geseriana (Red Book of Kazakhstan). Characteristic also are salt communities with Halocnemium strobilaceum, Artemisia paucifora, Atriplex cana and Salicornia europaea. The vegetation at and around Lake Korgalzhyn comprises reedbeds with Phragmites australis, Typha angustifolia and Schoenoplectus lacustris. Lake Tengiz is lacking taller vegetation and is dominated by algae communities i.e. blue-green algae (Cyanophyceae) etc. Threatened animal species are Saiga tatarica (VU) with only single observations nowadays; Marmota bobak is common on unused steppe; Pond Bat (Myotis dasycneme, VU); Corsac Fox (Vulpes corsac; VU) etc.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve. Downloaded from on 04/12/2023.