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Location Tajikistan
Central coordinates 73o 0.59' East  37o 50.07' North
IBA criteria A1, A3, A4i
Area 149,590 ha
Altitude 3,239 - 5,679m
Year of IBA assessment 2006

Site description The IBA is 220 km from Khorog town. The area has a very complicated topography and its mountain belts are defined by altitude. There are mainly gently slopes and vast highland valleys with sparse vegetation. To the north of the water basins there are mountain ranges with large areas of scree. The largest gorges in the north of the IBA are Kichik, Marjanay and Okjilga. Rivers of the same name flow into lake Yashilkul. The central part of the IBA is two freshwater lakes, Yashilkul and Bulunkul, with a surrounding plain which contains marshes, wet meadows, peatbogs and medium-sized pebble and sand plains. The open water area of lake Yashilkul is 3,600 hectares with a maximum depth of 52 m. The area of lake Bulunkul is 3,900 ha with a maximum depth of 6 m. This lake has dense vegetation cover over its surface but Yashilkul, as a result of its significant depth, only has vegetation on part of its surface. The boundary between Pamir and Badakhshan is situated near lake Yashilkul.

Key Biodiversity In accordance with the ornithogeographical map of Tajikistan (Abdusalyamov, 1977) the IBA is included in the Bokhara ornithogeographical district. So, except for representatives of the avifauna of Pamir in the western part of the IBA, the majority of species are of the Bokhara ornithogeographical district. 124 bird species have been recorded, including 14 species as residents, 23 as breeding, and more than 87 as migrants and passage species. Residents: Mergus merganser, Anas platyrhynchos, Gypaetus barbatus, Aegypius monachus, Gyps himalayensis, Aquila chrysaetos, Tetraogallus himalayensis, Athene noctua, Pyrrhocorax graculus, Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, Corvus corax, Montifringilla nivalis and others. In snowy winters many of these species migrate to lower mountain zones and to the valleys of Badakhshan. Breeding species: Anser indicus, Tadorna ferruginea, Falco tinnunculus, Falco cherrug, Charadrius mongolus, Tringa totanus, Tringa hypoleucos, Larus ichthyaetus, Larus brunnicephalus, Sterna hirundo, Columba rupestris, Caprimulgus europaeus, Calandrella acutirostris, Riparia rupestris, Motacilla citreola, Motacilla alba, Prunella himalayana, Phoenicurus erythrogaster, Oenanthe isabellina, Oenanthe deserti, Carduelis flavirostris, Carpodacus (Erythrina) rubicilla and others. Spring and autumn migrants: Phalacrocorax carbo, Ardea cinerea, Anas strepera, Anas crecca, Anas acuta, Haliaeetus leucoryphus, Aquila clanga, Aquila heliaca, Porzana pusilla, Gallinula chloropus, Fulica atra, Burhinus oedicnemus, Charadrius dubius, Calidris minuta, Calidris temminckii, Calidris alpina, Philomachus pugnax, Gallinago [Capella] solitaria, Limosa limosa, Tringa erythropus, Tringa nebularia, Tringa glareola, Tringa cinereus, Larus ridibundus, Coracias garrulus, Upupa epops, Sturnus vulgaris and others. Bulunkul and Yashilkul lakes are the best places for birds in the Pamir region. The habitats are the key places for resting and feeding on the flyway. This is confirmed by the existence of large aggregations of birds during the migration season. Some habitats in the IBA are: rivers and lakes, meadows with adjacent marshes, arid semi-deserts, rocks and stone fields, nival zone (Abdusalyamov, 1977). Every habitat has its own avifauna. There are 10 species included in the National Red Data Book - Gypaetus barbatus, Gyps himmalayensis, Aquila chrysaetos, Syrrhaptes tibetana are residents; Anser indicus, Falco peregrinus, Falco cherrug, Charadrius mongolus, Larus brunnicephalus are breeding; and Burhinus oedicnemus is migrating.

Non-bird biodiversity: Fish: 6 species recorded - Schizopygopsis stoliczkai, Schizothorax intermedius and Nemachilus stoliczcai are native species. In the 1970-80s young fish and larvae of Salmo ischchan, Carassius auratus and Coregonus peled were introduced to Yashilkul and Bulunkul lakes. Of these only Salmo ischchan became established. Amphibia and reptilia: as a result of the inclement climate of Pamir there is only one species Bufo viridis and reptiles are completely absent. Mammals: Rodents are represented by Marmota caudata, Microtus juldaschi and Alticola argentatus. Leporidae are Lepus tolai and Ochotona roylei [macrotis]. Wide valleys and gentle slopes are habitats of Ovis ammon polii, and rocky slopes of Capra sibirica. Carnivora are Ursus arctos, Uncia uncia, Felis manul, Canis lupus, Vulpes vulpes, Mustela nivalis, Mustela erminea and Lutra lutra. Ovis ammon polii, Ursus arctos, Uncia uncia, Felis manul and Lutra lutra are included in the National Red Data Book. The vegetation of the IBA consists of desert associations. As in Pamir there are 4 main mountain belts. A small nival belt on the southern Alychur Ridge at an altitude of more than 4,800 m above sea level, with very sparse vegetation. Melandrium apetalum, Cerastium cerastoides, Ajania tibetica, Oxitropis immersa, Sibbaldia tetranda and other species are resistant to intensely cold weather. High-alpine and low-alpine belts are situated between 4,200 and 4,800 m above sea level and in most dry habitats the dominant sub-shrub is Ajania tibetica. In the more wet areas typical species are the frost resistant Oxitropis immersa, Oxitropis poncinsii and Smelovskia calycina. In the lower alpine belt desert formations are typical, with dominant species being Krascheninnikovia ceratoides, Artemisia skorniakowii and Ajania tibetica (Stanyukovich, 1949). Almost the same type of vegetation is in the subalpine belt. In the marshes perennial wild gramineous plants grow. Dominant among them are Stipa orientalis, Alopecurus mucronatus, Trisetum spicatum, Poa calliopsis, Poa pamirica, Poa relaxa, Poa tremuloides, Poa litwinowiana, Puccinellia hackeliana, Puccinellia humilis, Puccinellia pamirica and others.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Himalayan Snowcock Tetraogallus himalayensis resident  2000-2006  100-150 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus breeding  2000-2006  6-20 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea passage  2000-2006  2,000-2,500 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Goosander Mergus merganser passage  2000-2006  350-700 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Saker Falcon Falco cherrug breeding  2000-2006  2 individuals  medium  A1  Endangered 
Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis resident  2000-2006  4-5 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Near Threatened 
Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca passage  2000-2006  7 individuals  medium  A1  Vulnerable 
Lesser Sandplover Charadrius mongolus breeding  2000-2006  20-30 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Brown-headed Gull Larus brunnicephalus breeding  2000-2006  25-50 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus resident  2000-2006  50-60 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Hume's Lark Calandrella acutirostris breeding  2000-2006  50-70 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Sulphur-bellied Warbler Phylloscopus griseolus breeding  2000-2006  10-15 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria resident  2000-2006  3 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
White-winged Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus resident  2000-2006  15-20 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
White-winged Snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis resident  2000-2006  60-90 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta breeding  2000-2006  100-150 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Black-headed Mountain-finch Leucosticte brandti resident  2000-2006  1,000-1,500 individuals  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Great Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilla resident  2000-2006  45-120 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Red-fronted Rosefinch Carpodacus puniceus resident  2000-2006  20-25 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2006 very high not assessed low
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Biological resource use fishing & harvesting aquatic resources - unintentional effects: large scale happening now some of area/population (10-49%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Climate change and severe weather storms and floods happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high
Climate change and severe weather temperature extremes happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities likely in long term (beyond 4 years) majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration medium
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - unspecified species happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Natural system modifications other ecosystem modifications happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  Unknown  Unknown  low 


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland   30%
Desert   30%
Wetlands (inland)   12%
Rocky areas   28%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
nature conservation and research 50%
water management -

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Bulunkul and Yashilkul lakes and mountains. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife