Ten kilometres of valley north from Salang Kotal, the highest pass (3,658 m) on the main road from Kabul to the north of Afghanistan, down to the town of Khinjan (1,500 m). These north-facing slopes are part of the watershed of the Amu Darya (Oxus) river of Turkestan, and are penetrated by a long road-tunnel at 3,200 m. The areas around the tunnel are alpine, boulder-strewn slopes with scant plant growth and grassy areas around patches of snow-melt. Barren crags surround the pass itself. The road drops north down the valley through Juniperus-covered slopes, with extensive patches of Salix by the fast-flowing Kunduz river; towards Khinjan the valley widens out onto the plains of the Amu Darya valley and there are a few, scattered villages with extensive mulberry Morus orchards. The alpine zone is quite heavily grazed by nomads, who cut Juniperus and Salix bushes for fuel.
An easily accessible area with an excellent diversity of Himalayan breeding birds (at least 33 species), including all Afghan species characteristic of the Turkestan region (Dendrocopos leucopterus, Phylloscopus neglectus, P. griseolus, Parus flavipectus, P. bokharensis, Mycerobas carnipes, Carpodacus rhodochlamys grandis, C. rubicilla and Emberiza stewarti). Phylloscopus trochiloides nitidus is a summer visitor to the valley bottom. The area has a marked passage of Grus grus but no counts have been made. This account is based on information collected in July 1970.
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
No formal conservation measures are known to have been taken. It is not known whether there are any current problems, but if any, they are likely to be overgrazing and excessive cutting of bushes for fuel. However, extensive areas of shrubby mountainside remained in 1970 and population pressure did not seem great. The woodland on the slopes may have suffered from military activities during the war, due to the site's strategic importance.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Salang Kotal. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 15/07/2020.