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Location Tajikistan
Central coordinates 73o 20.15' East  39o 1.76' North
IBA criteria A1, A3, A4i
Area 144,054 ha
Altitude 3,923 - 5,470m
Year of IBA assessment 2006

Site description The IBA is located 450 km from the provincial centre of Horog and 140 km from the district centre of Murgab. Almost all of the IBA, except Karakul lake, is situated at more than 4,000 m above sea level. Relief is varied. Plains alternate with hills and rocks in the north-eastern and southern parts of the territory. The Zulumtar range, 40 km in length and 30 km wide, runs from south to west in the southern part of the site. The highest peak of this range is 5,470 m. Karakul lake is tectonic in origin. The glaciers of the nearest ranges are the water sources for the lake. The Akdjilga, Karadgilga and Muzkol rivers and more than 20 permanent and seasonal springs, flow into the lake. The IBA includes Karakul lake, islands, marshes, wet meadows, peatbogs, and pebbly and sandy plains. Karakul is a closed, brackish lake. Its level is determined by the quantity of incoming water and evaporation. The area of water surface of the lake is 380 square km, the maximum depth is 238 m. Overgrowing of the surface of the lake is low. Pondweeds dominate in the littoral zone. This lake isn't important for fishing. The IBA lies within the Tajik National Park. It is included in the recreation and partial economic development zones and used as pasture. The only settlement is the small village of Karakul. The lake's islands are the main places where waterbirds rest and nest.

Key Biodiversity There are many representatives of the Tibetan avifauna. More than 90 species have been recorded in the IBA - 10 are resident, 17 are nesting, the others are migrants and vagrants. Residents: Anas platyrhynchos, Mergus merganser, Gypaetus barbatus, Aegypius monachus, Gyps himalayensis, Aquila chrysaetos, Pyrrhocorax graculus, Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, Corvus corax, Montifringilla nivalis, Leucosticte brandti, Carpodacus rubicilla and others. Nesting species: Anser indicus, Tadorna ferruginea, 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, Carduelis flavirostris and others. Migrants: Ardea cinerea, Anas strepera, Anas crecca, Haliaeetus leucoryphus, Porzana pusilla, Gallinula chloropus, Fulica atra, Charadrius dubius, Gallinago solitaria, Larus ridibundus, Upupa epops, Sturnus vulgaris, Sturnus roseus and others. The Karakul basin is a very favourable resting and feeding place for birds crossing the Alay mountains during autumn migraton. Neighbouring areas have inclement natural and climatic conditions. There are giant glaciers in the IBA. Biotopes include: rivers and lakes, meadows with water-logged ground, arid semi-deserts with sub-shrubs and Acantholimon, rocks and screes, snow zone (Abdusalyamov 1961, 1977). Each biotope has its own bird community. Eleven rare species occur that are included in the National Red Book - Gypaetus barbatus, Aegypius monachus, Gyps himalayensis, Aquila chrysaetos, Tetraogallus tibetana and Syrrhaptes tibetana are resident; Anser indicus, Charadrius mongolus and Larus brunnicephalus nest; and Neophron percnopterus and Burhinus oedicnemus are migrants.

Non-bird biodiversity: Fish: there is only species (Nemachilus) in Karakul lake and the Karadjilga river which is a autochthonous species and doesn't have any value for fishing. Mammals: have a high level of diversity and endemism. Rodents are represented by 3 species - Marmota caudata, Microtus juldaschi and Alticola argentatus. Leporidae include Lepus tolai and Ochonota roylei (macrotis) (Abdusalyamov, 1961,1962; Odinashoev, 1987). Ovis ammon polii and Capra sibirica are to be found in the western and northern parts of the IBA. Predators include Uncia uncia, Canis lupus, Vulpes vulpes, Mustela nivalis and Mustela erminea. The vegetation of Karakul as in other parts of Pamir has a desert character and can be divided into 4 belts. Nival belt, situated above 4,800 m above sea level. Here the frost-resistant plants Ajania tibetica, Melandrium apetalum, Cerastium cerastoides, Oxitropis immersa, Sibbaldia tetrandra and others occur. Upper alpine and lower alpine belts are located between 4,200 and 4,800 m above sea level. The sub-shrub Ajania tibetica dominates in more dry sites. The cryophytes Oxitropis immersa, Oxitropis poncinsii and Smelovskia calycina prevail in the wet places (Stanyukovich,1949). Desert formations are typical in the lower alpine belt with the dominants being Krascheninnikovia (Eurotia) ceratoides, Artemisia skorniakowii and Ajania tibetica. Almost the same type of vegetation is found in the subalpine belt. Permanent grasses are dominant in the marshes. Among them are Puccinelia pamirica, Trisetum spicatum, Stipa orientalis, Alopecurus mucronatus, Poa calliopsis, Poa pamirica, Poa relaxa, Poa tremuloides, Poa litvinoviana, Puccinellia humilis and others.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus breeding  2002-2006  25-50 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea passage  2002-2006  900-3,000 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Goosander Mergus merganser resident  2002-2006  400-600 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Saker Falcon Falco cherrug winter  2002-2006  4 individuals  medium  A1  Endangered 
Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis resident  2002-2006  2-4 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Near Threatened 
Lesser Sandplover Charadrius mongolus breeding  2002-2006  40-50 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Brown-headed Gull Larus brunnicephalus breeding  2002-2006  25-50 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Tibetan Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes tibetanus resident  2002-2006  30-50 individuals  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus resident  2002-2006  100-150 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
White-tailed Rubythroat Luscinia pectoralis breeding  2002-2006  5-8 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
White-winged Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus breeding  2002-2006  10-15 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
White-winged Snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis 2002-2006  100-200 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Rufous-streaked Accentor Prunella himalayana breeding  2002-2006  15-20 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens breeding  2002-2006  20-25 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Black-headed Mountain-finch Leucosticte brandti resident  2002-2006  150-200 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Great Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilla resident  2002-2006  80-100 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2006 high not assessed medium
Medium - based upon reliable but incomplete / partially representative data

Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Climate change and severe weather storms and floods happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Climate change and severe weather temperature extremes happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - unspecified species happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Residential and commercial development tourism and recreation areas likely in short term (within 4 years) small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A management plan exists but it is out of date or not comprehensive  Substantive conservation measures are being implemented but these are not comprehensive and are limited by resources and capacity  medium 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Karakul Lake Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 36,400 protected area contained by site 36,400  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland   25%
Desert   -
Wetlands (inland)   40%
Rocky areas   20%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
nature conservation and research 60%
tourism/recreation 20%

Protection status The IBA is located in the Tajik National Park. It is included in the zones of recreation and tourism.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Karakul lake and mountains. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016

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