The IBA is situated on the left bank of the Zeravshan river, which rises in the mountains and joins with a large tributary of the Magiyan river, joining at Duoba. Upon leaving the mountains the Zeravshan river divides into many branches, with a variety of permanet and temporary islands between them. 80% of the area is covered with flood-plain forest consisting of thickets of Elaeagnus orientalis, Hippophae rhamnoides, Tamarix arceuthoides, some species of Rosa, Populus bachofenii, Populus tadahikistanica, Salix capusii and others. The soil is loamy-sandy overgrown in wet areas with herbs forming dense meadows in some places.
This area of tugay are the only flood-plain forests in Northern Tajikistan. They form dense thickets, impassable in places. The tugay ecosystem of the Zeravshan river valley differs from the ones of Vahsh, Syrdarya and Kafirnigan rivers in several features. The IBA overlaps with the Zaravshan zakaznik which is near Sarazm.
IBA creation and maintenance of regulations will help in the conservation and reconstruction of tugay and the fauna of the region. It will be the determinative factor for the stabilization of breeding, migrating and wintering species of birds.
The rich herb, bushy and tree vegetation and nearness of springs create favourable conditions for 124 species of bird including residents – 41, nesting – 61, migrant – 11, wintering – 2, vagrant – 2.
The composition of the avifauna of the IBA changes seasonally. 9 species are included in the Red Data Book of Tajikistan (1988, 1997).
Nesting birds: Ardea cinerca, Ibidorynchos struthersi, Mergus merganser, Anas platyrhynchos, Anas crecca, Falco cherrug, Falco subbuteo, Falco tinnunculus, Aegypius monachus, Gyps fulvus, Neophron percnopterus, Gypaetus barbatus, Aquila chrysaetos, Aquila clanga, Hieraaetus pennatus, Buteo rufinus, Circus aureginosus, Phasianus colchicus, Burhinus oedicnemus, Tringa hypoleucos, Tringa ochruros, Sterna hirundo, Columba livia, Streptopelia turtur, Streptopelia orientalis, Streptopelia senegalensis, Streptopelia decaocto, Merops apiaster, Coracias garrulus, Alcedo atthis, Apus melba, Upupa epops, Caprimulgus europaeus, Athene noctua, Bubo bubo, Asio otus, Otus scops, Dendrocopos leucopterus, Corvus corax, Corvus corone, Corvus manedula, Pica pica, Sturnus vulgaris, Sturnus roseus, Acridotheres tristis, Oriolus oriolus, Galerida cristata, Riparia riparia, Hirundo rustica, Hirundo daurica, Delichon urbica, Motacilla cinerea, Motacilla alba, Luscinia megarhynchos, Saxicola torquata, Oenanthe pleschanka, Oenanthe isabellina, Turdus merula, Acrocephalus dumetorum, Hippolais rama, Sylvia nisoria, Sylvia althea, Phylloscopus trochiloides, Scotocerca inquieta, Parus bokharensis, Tichodroma muraria, Remis coronatus, Passer domesticus, Passer montanus, Passer hispaniolensis, Emberiza bruniceps, Emberiza cia and others.
Wintering birds: Phasianus colchicus zerafschanicus, species of Turdus, also Falco vespertinus, Accipiter nisus, Buteo buteo and others.
More than 60 species migrate through Sarazm in spring (from the end of February until the middle of May) and autumn (September/October). There are many Passer domesticus and Passer hispaniolensis. Charadriiformes, Anseriformes, Pelicaniformes, Falconiformes and Passeriformes are common along the Zeravshan river.
Bubo bubo, Otus brucei, Asio otus, small Passeriformes and waterbirds inhabit the tugay.
Sarazm is the only place in Tajikistan where Phasianus colchicus zerafschanicus has survived and the main wintering site of Ibidorhinchos struthersi.
Non-bird biodiversity: Fish: Leuciscus leuciscus, Rutilus rutilus, Gobio gobio, Varicorhinus capoeta, Barbus brachycephalus, Schizothorax intermedius, Alburnoides bipunctatus, Capetobrama kuschakewitschi, Cyprinus carpio, Carassius auratus, Nemachilus stoliczkai, Cobitis taenia, Silurus glanis, Gambusia affinis occur in the Zeravshan river and its large tributaries.
Amphibia are Bufo viridis and Rana ridibunda.
Reptiles include Testudo horsfieldi, Gymmodactylus russowi, Gymmodactylus fedtschenkoi, Agama sanguinolenta, Agama lehmanni, Varanus griseus, Ophisaurus apodus, Lacerta agilis, Eremias velox, Eremias nikolskii, Ablefarus brandti, Eryx tataricus, Natrix tesselata , Vipera lebitina, species of genus Coluber and others.
Mammals: Lepus tolai, Mus musculus, Nesokia indica, Ellobius talpinus, Rattus rattoides. Carnivores are Canis lupus, Canis aureus and Vulpes vulpes. Artiodactyla are Sus scrofa and Cervus elaphus bactrianus.
80% of the IBA is covered with well conserved flood-plain forest formed by thickets of Elaeagnus orientalis, Hippophae rhamnoides, Tamarix arceuthoides and some species of Rosa. Populus bachofenii, Populus tadahikistanica, Salix capusii and others can also be found.
Habitat and land use
According to the agreement with Pendjikent forestry there is cattle grazing on the margins of the tugay.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Intensive use of margins of the tugay has a negative influence on their condition, fauna and birds.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Nature conservation activities are carried out by officers of Pendjikent forestry all year round.
Study of the Sarazm tugay and analysis of the flora and fauna need more serious attention. It is necessary to prepare and submit to the Ministry of Agriculture and Nature Protection of the Republic of Tajikistan the scientific justification for changing the status of Zeravshan game-reserve to state zapovednik, and to increase its area to 50,000 hectares.
The issue regarding the creation of the Sarazm IBA, including the Zeravshan game-reserve, was discussed with the Ministry of Agriculture and Nature Protection of the Republic of Tajikistan in 2006.