The IBA is situated in the west of Turkmenistan, in an area corresponding to the middle section of the Western Uzboy – the valley of an ancient river that was once draining from the Sarykamysh Depression south-west towards the Caspian Sea. Administratively, the IBA is situated in Balkan region.
The IBA represents the middle section of the ancient Uzboy river valley, 170 km long, with vestiges of the old river-bed lying up to 50 m below sea level. The valley contains an abundance of lake-like waterbodies (stretches, branches) separated by rather narrow strips of sand. The width of the valley varies from 300 m to 3-4 km. The tortuous bed meanders along the flat floor of the depression and contains regular stretches of saltwater alternating with dry sections filled with large deposits of salt. The majority of the valley is covered by clay with occasional patches of moderately undulated sands and, in places, dunes or gravel strips. Besides the numerous saltwater stretches and ponds there are also four freshwater lakes: Yashan (the largest), Topyatan, Togolok and Garatelek (the most fresh). The valley’s terrace features rather steep banks (built of clay and compressed sand) that often turn into foothills with cliffs 20-30 m high. Typical clayey cliffs are usually vertical and heavily eroded. The soils of the terrace contain residual humus, thought to be a derivative of ancient tugai growth. There are also several takyr (mud pan) plots. The soils of the sandy slopes support ephemeral vegetation consisting mainly of grasses with some common desert bushes such as Salsola richteri, Calligonum, Ephedra alata and Ammodendron conollyi. Tamarix growth usually occupies the edge of the flood-table zone. Pharagmites australis and, more seldom, Typha angustifolia occur by the side of various bends in the watercourse. Haloxylon aphyllum is found on the upper terraces. The remnants of once mighty and numerous Populus diversifolia groves can be found on the banks of the freshwater lakes. These woody patches are in a poor condition due to unremitting grazing by cattle and, sometimes, logging. The average annual temperature is +15C, the absolute maximum is +43C, the minimum –30C. The annual rainfall is approximately 110 mm.
The avifauna consists of 218 species - 31 species are resident, 59 are breeding and migrating, 178 are migrating, and 33 are wintering species. This relatively high diversity can be explained by the mosiac of habitats in the Uzboy valley. As the majority of waterbodies in the area are comparatively small, the site does not support large seasonal concentrations of waterbirds. However, the site is a narrow migration corridor (bottle-neck) for many birds migrating through the Karakum desert from east to west, with frequent temporary concentrations, especially of passerines and waders. The varied hydrological conditions of the waterbodies and marked changes in seasonal vegetation development directly affect bird numbers and distribution. The local avifauna reflects the combination of the two distinct complexes of desert: typical eremophyl species such as Burhinus oedicnemus, Pterocles orientalis and P. alchata, Charadrius leschenaultii, Caprimulgus aegyptius, Galerida cristata, Podoces panderi, Corvus ruficollis, Parus bokharesis, Scotocerca inquieta, Sylvia mystacea and S. nana; and species typical of oases such as surface-feeding ducks and other Anseriformes, Coot, gulls, waders, herons, Circus aeruginosus, Passer montanus, P. indicus, P. domesticus, Emberiza bruniceps, E. schoeniclus, Acrocephalus melanopogon and Cercotrichas galactotes. Owing to an abundance of cliffs and banks the site is attractive for breeding species such as Merops apiaster,d M. persicus, Athene noctua, Bubo bubo, Falco tinnunculus, F. cherrug, Alectoris chukar, Upupa epops, Riparia riparia and Apus apus.
Of the 41 species included in the Red Data Book of Turkmenistan, 24 occur at the IBA.
Non-bird biodiversity: Terrestrial vertebrates are represented by 2 species of Amphibians, 26 species of Reptile and 31 species of Mammal. The distribution of the fauna is clearly linked to that of the desert biotopes. The Amphibians, Reptiles and Mammals also demonstrate the combination of two distinct complexes of desert species: typical eremophyl species such as Thaumatorhyncus sanguinolentus, Agrionemys horsfieldi, Phrynocephalus interscapularis, P. mystaceus, Eryx miliaris, Felis margarita, Spermophilopsis leptodactylus, Rhobomys opimus, Meriones meridianus and jerboas); and species typical for oases such as green toad (Bufo viridis), lake frog (Rana ridibunda), fresh-water turtle (Emys orbicularis), Felis chaus, Canis aureus and Sus scrofa.
The most common plants are Salsola richteri, Calligonum spp., Ephedra alata, Ammodendron conollyi, Aristida pennata, Eremosparton flaccidum, Astragalus confirmans, Kochia prostrata, Ferula karelini, Tamarix ssp., Alchagi camelorum, Lycium ruthenicum and L. turcomanicum.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
In 2000, the Ministry of Nature Protection proposed the establishment of the Balkan Reserve, together with the Uzboy Preserve (Zakaznik), but unfortunately this has not yet been brought into effect.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Uzboy. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 10/07/2020.