Zharsor-Urkash Salt Lakes

Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
The IBA is situated in the central part of the Sypsynagash depression. The territory is a system of salt lakes, salt marshes, small fresh-water lakes and marshes (about 20 in total) and small rivers, situated in hilly herb-feather grass steppe, with solonchak complexes. Of the numerous salt lakes, the biggest are Urkash (5.5 x 3.5 km) and Jarsor (4 x 1.5 km). Both are in deep kettles with steep slopes and precipices up to 12-15 m deep. The maximum depth of water is 0.5 m even in spring. Along the shore-lines, there are some fresh-water springs with sparse reed and banks. The main source of water for this system is snow melt, so the water level changes during the summer and from year to year. The area between and around the lakes is natural grass steppe with patches of bushes (Spirea, Rosa etc.). There are small groves of aspen and birch near Jarsor lake. The region is little populated. There are only two villages within a radius of 20 km of the IBA, totalling about 1500 people.

Key biodiversity
More than 100 species have been recorded. Breeding species of the steppe are: Anthus campestris, Alauda arvensis, Melanocorypha leucoptera, M. yeltoniensis, Oenanthe oenanthe, Perdix perdix, Coturnix coturnix, Tetrax tetrax, Grus virgo, Circus macrourus, C. pygargus, Emberiza bruniceps, Hippolais caligata. Breeding species of the wetlands are: Fulica atra, Anser anser, Cygnus olor, ducks, grebes, waders - H. himantopus, Recurvirostra avocetta, Vanellus vanellus, Tringa stagnatilis, Limosa limosa, Numenius arquata, Larus ridibundus, Larus minutus, Sterna hirundo, Chlidonias leucopterus, Ch. niger, Porzana parva, P. pusilla etc. Most common during migration are: Calidris minuta, C. ferruginea, C.alpina, Philomachus pugnax (up to 7,000), Phalaropus lobatus, Calidris alba etc. The area is most important for cranes - G.grus and G. virgo. In autumn, the first flocks arrive in the middle of August, the last in early October. The total number of cranes recorded roosting is 8-10,000 birds.

Non-bird biodiversity: About 25 species of mammals, including Spermophilus major, Sicista subtilis, Microtus arvalis, Allactaga major, Lagurus lagurus, Marmota bobak, Meles meles, Cricetus cricetus, Arvicola terrestris, Ochotona pusilla, Ellobius talpinus, Erinaceus auritus, Lepus europaeus, Mustela nivalis, Mustela erminea, M. eversmanni, Vulpes corsac, Vulpes vulpes, Canis lupus. Reptiles: Vipera ursini, Lacerta agilis. Amphibia: Bufo viridis, Rana arvalis.Fishes: Carassius carassius, Carassius auratus, Phoxinus percnurus.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The state of the wetlands is dependent on natural fluctuations of water levels. Other, less important, threats include burning of vegetation and intensification of agriculture.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Creation of a regional "zakaznik" (protected area) for cranes.

Habitat and land use
Some parts of the IBA, nearest to Druzba village, are used for grazing (with a low density of cows). Around 5% of terrestrial landscapes are used during 3 months of the year for the production of water-melons, after this the area is left fallow with weed growth.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Zharsor-Urkash Salt Lakes. Downloaded from on 05/08/2020.