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The Rangkul valley IBA is situated in the eastern part of the Pamir upland 60 km from the district centre of Murgab. It is a inter-mountain trough. The central part of the IBA is occupied by Rangkul and Shorkul lakes connected to each other by the Izyuk channel. Rangkul is a freshwater lake with an area of 8 km² and a depth of 6 m. Shorkul's area is 7 km² and the lake is brackish. These are closed lakes which are located at an altitude of 3,600-4,000m. Because both lakes freeze in winter there are no fish in them but there are lots of Gammarus, beetles, mosquito (Culex) larvae and other invertebrates. Vast areas of the valley, except the littoral zone of Rangkul and Shorkul lakes, are typically alpine semi-desert with strong winds and scattered vegetation of absinth and eurotia bushes. For the last 15 years in a radius of 30-40 km from settlements and summering areas all eurotia has been uprooted. This intensifies desertification, makes wind erosion more active and could lead to an ecological catastrophe in Pamir.
The most favourable conditions for birds are in the rivers and lake valleys of the south and north shores of Rangkul and Shorkul lakes, along the isthmus between the lakes and along the Akbaytal river valley. Meadows and water-logged ground occupy about 1,000-1,500 hectares in Rangkul valley. During migration Phalacrocorax carbo, Anser indicus, Tadorna ferruginea, Mergus merganser, Haliaeetus leucoryphus, Tringa totanus, Tringa hypoleucos and Sterna hirundo can be found. Sometimes Charadrius mongolus breeds in riverside meadows. An abundance of food attracts Anser indicus, Anas crecca, Anas platyrhynchos, Anas acuta, Haliaeetus albicilla, Porzana pusilla, Gallinula chloropus, Fulica atra, Himantopus himantopus, Charadrius dubius, Vanellus vanellus, Calidris minuta, Philomachus pugnax, Gallinago gallinago, Tringa ochropus, Tringa glareola, Larus canus and Sterna nilotica. Fulica atra is the most numerous nesting bird. 2,000-2,500 individuals concentrate on the lake in autumn when moulting. Many birds arrive at the end of August and stay until the middle of October – beginning of November. They feed and young birds finish moulting. By this time the lakes begin to freeze and food becomes inaccessible. Calandrella acutirostris, Eremophila alpestris, Motacilla citreola, Motacilla alba and others nest in the meadows and water-logged areas. Ardea cinerea, Circus aeruginosus, Accipiter nisus, Coturnix coturnix, Anthus trivialis, Motacilla alba, Luscinia svecica, Sylvia nisoria, Sylvia curruca, Sylvia communis, Oriolus oriolus, Montifringilla nivalis, Carduelis cannabina, Carduelis flavirostris, Leucosticte brandti, Emberiza pusilla and others use the meadows and water-logged areas during migration. Waterless valleys are typical of the IBA and occupy more than 90% of the area. They are covered with macadam and pebble. There are sand dunes in the west of the valley. Vegetation is natural, herbage is low. For the last 50 years heavy rains in Pamir were only recorded in 2005, a situation also noted in the Rangkul valley. Charadrius mongolus, Syrrhaptes tibetana, Calandrella acutirostris, Eremophila alpestris, Oenanthe isabellina, Phoenicurus erythrogaster and Oenanthe deserti breed. Neophron percnopterus, Circus cyaneus, Accipiter nisus, Aquila chrysaetos, Falco tinnunculus, Coturnix coturnix, Columba rupestris, Columba eversmanni, Columba leuconota, Streptopelia turtur, Streptopelia orientalis, Otus brucei, Apus apus, Coracias garrulus, Anthus trivialis, Phoenicurus ochruros, Monticola saxatilis, Turdus atrogularis, Turdus torquatus, Sylvia nisoria, Sylvia curruca, Sylvia communis, Phylloscopus trochiloides, Oriolus oriolus, Lanius cristatus, Lanius schach, Pyrrhocorax graculus, Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, Corvus corax, Sturnus vulgaris, Sturnus roseus, Montifringilla nivalis, Leucosticte brandti and Caprodacus rubicilla visit the area for a short time during migration and on post-breeding movements. Rocks and rubbly screes occupy 3-4% of the site and are located to the south of the lakes. Tadorna ferruginea, Gypaetus barbatus, Gyps himalayensis, Falco cherrug, Tetraogallus himalayensis, Tetraogallus tibetanus, Columba rupestris, Bubo bubo, Athene noсtua, Riparia rupestris, Delichon urbica, Prunella fulvescens, Phoenicurus ochruros, Phoenicurus erythrogaster, Oenanthe deserti, Tichodroma muraria, Pyrrhocorax graculus, Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, Corvus corax, Montifringilla nivalis, Carduelis flavirostris, Leucosticte brandti and Caprodacus rubicilla are nesting species in this habitat. Migrants are: Neophron percnopterus, Falco tinnunculus, Syrrhaptes tibetana, Streptopelia turtur, Otus brucei, Upupa epops, Hirundo rustica, Luscinia svecica tianschanica, Monticola soxatilis, Sylvia nisoria, Sylvia communis, Phylloscopus trochiloides, Lanius cristatus and Lanius schach. Breeding species in the nival zone include Gypaetus barbatus, Gyps himalayensis, Aquila chrysaetos, Falco cherrug (milvipes), Tetraogallus tibetanus, Prunella himalayana, Pyrrhocorax graculus, Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, Carpodacus puniceus. Gypaetus barbatus, Streptopelia orientalis, Phoenicurus ochruros, Phoenirus erythrogaster, Corvus corax and Carduelis flavirostris occur during migration. There are 115 species of birds in the IBA - 46 are nesting and 10 of them are resident with seasonal vertical migrations. 69 species are migrants or vagrants.
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals are most varied. 3 species of Rodent are present: Marmota caudata, Microtus juldaschi and Alticola argentatus. Lagomorphs are Lepus tolai and Ochotona roylei [macrotis]. Wide valleys are the typical biotope for Ovis ammon. Rocky slopes are inhabited by Capra sibirica. Predators are Ursus arctos isabellinus, Uncia uncia, Canis lupus, Vulpes vulpes, Mustela nivalis and Mustela erminea. Ursus arctos isabellinus, Uncia uncia and Ovis ammon polii are globally threatened species and are included in the Red Data Book of Tajikistan (1988) and "Kitobi surkhi Tochikiston" (1997). Vegetation: the vegetation of the IBA has a xerophilous character and the common vegetative cover is considered to be desert. Subalpine zone 3,500(3,600) – 4,100(4,200)m is characterized by a dominance of the sub-shrub Ajania tibetica. In wetter places, the cryophilic Oxitropis immersa, Oxitropis poncinsii and Smelovskia calycina are typical. Alpine zone 4,100(4,200)- 4,700(4,800)m has similar vegetation but with small differences. A desert association with Krascheninnikovia ceratoides, Artemisia skorniakowii and Ajania tibetica dominant is typical of the low alpine zone. Perennial grasses compose the basic vegetation of water-logged ground. Stipa orientalis, Alopecurus mucronatus, Trisetum spicatum, Poa calliopsis, Poa pamirica, Poa relaxa, Poa tremuloides, Poa litvinoviana, Puccinellia hackeliana, Puccinellia humilis and Puccinellia pamirica dominate (Ikonnikov, 1963; Stanyukovich, 1949).
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Rangkul valley (Rangkul & Shorkul Lakes). Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/01/2020.