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Location Uzbekistan, Samarkand
Central coordinates 67o 14.24' East  39o 35.85' North
IBA criteria A1, A3, A4i
Area 2,712 ha
Altitude 620 - 900m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Uzbekistan Society for the Protection of Birds (Affiliate)

Site description The Zarafshan State Nature Reserve is situated in the south-eastern part of Samarkand region. Its extends from the Chapan-Ata mountain upstream along the right bank of the Zarafshan river to the Pervomayskaya dam. The nature reserve consists of two separate parts, the distance between them being 300 m. The width of each part is 100-140m and the average length is 47 km. The site is located 4 km from the Djambay railway station, 3 km from the most major road in Uzbekistan running from Tashkent to Termez, and 15 km from Samarkand. The nature reserve is located in the eastern part of the Zarafshanskaya depression (the middle part of the Zarafshan river basin) and belongs to the Zarafshan climate area of the subtropical belt. The climate is typical of the continental subtropics with large variations in daily and annual air temperatures and a pronounced periodicity in atmospheric precipitation. The site consists of a plain sloping to the riverbed. The plain is crossed by a mixture of old and active riverbeds, levees and dams. The most widespread soils are alluvial- flood lands and inundated-alluvial. The hydrological network of the nature reserve is formed by the Zarafshan river and its channels. There is a irrigation canal on the right bank in the protected zone. Water levels in the Zarafshan are highest in summer (June-July) and lowest in winter (January-February). During floods excess water from the right bank channel drains though canals into the river. At this time approximately 30% of the nature reserve is flooded. When water levels are low, about 70% of the site has very little water. Soils on all of the area are well drained, and only in a few small depressions is there underground water and swamps. Tugai forest vegetation is well developed. The richest and most vegetated area is located in the north-western part of the nature reserve where underground waters are not more than 2 m below the surface. In spite of its small size, the landscape of the nature reserve is very varied. 868 ha of the lower area are covered with tugai forest. There are widespread tree-shrub biotopes, meadows and marshy-meadows, and wetland habitats are represented by brooks, old canals and fire-prevention ponds, overgrown by hygrophilous vegetation, scattered throughout the forest zone. The Zarafhan river, cliffs on the left bank, pebble beaches and arid areas are also of interest.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Black-crowned Night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax breeding  1976-2006  50-1,000 individuals  good  A4i  Least Concern 
Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga passage  2004  15 individuals  medium  A1  Vulnerable 
Pallid Scops-owl Otus brucei breeding  2006-2007  20 individuals  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Egyptian Nightjar Caprimulgus aegyptius breeding  2007  1 individuals  medium  A3  Least Concern 
European Roller Coracias garrulus breeding  2002-2007  60 individuals  medium  A1  Near Threatened 
White-winged Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucopterus resident  2002-2007  10 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Great Tit Parus major resident  2002-2009  20-27 breeding pairs  medium  A3  Least Concern 
Red-headed Bunting Emberiza bruniceps breeding  2007  1 individuals  medium  A3  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Zeravshanskiy State Nature Reserve 4,704 is identical to site 2,352  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Flood-plain  34%
Shrubland Low bushes; Scrub  7%
Grassland Dry grassland on sandy soils; Humid; Mesophile grassland & tall grass steppe  7%
Desert Desert & semi-desert - stony  9%
Artificial - terrestrial Arable land; Forestry plantations; Perennial crops, orchards & groves  14%
Wetlands (inland) Rivers & streams; Standing fresh water; Water-fringe vegetation  25%
Introduced vegetation   4%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research 100%
water management major

Other biodiversity Zarafshan nature reserve is the only place in the Zarafshan river valley where tugai forest has been preserved. In spite of its small size the nature reserve has a high diversity of biotopes, vegetation and animals. The fauna includes 2 species of Amphibian, 18 species of Fish, 10 species of Reptile and 24 species of Mammal. Agrionemys horsfieldi (RL) can be found here. Lutra lutra seistanica (RDBUz) was recorded in thickets of dense tugai vegetation along the irrgation canal. Two groups of 10 Cervus elaphus (RDBUz, RL) were reintroduced into the tugai forest in August 2005 and October 2007, as part of the Bokhara Deer conservation progamme. The vegetation includes a special complex, peculiar to this region, formed in the tugai. The flora includes about 300 species and is very varied because of the very heterogeneous soils. There is tree tugai, shrub tugai, grassy tugai, floodlands, land above the flood plain and desert habitats. Salix songarica, S. wilhelmsiana, Hippophae rhamnoides, Elaeagnus angustifolia and Tamarix sp prevail among trees. Populus prunosa, Populus diversifolia and Crataegus turkestanica are more rare. Because of the site's proximity to mountain ranges about 100 ha of Hippophae rhamnoides thickets is preserved here - a habitat which is not found in such amount in other tugai forests. When forestry was carried out on the area now covered by the nature reserve, several species were introduced and these are now well established. These species are Platanus orientalis, Ailanthus sp., Gleditschia sp., Morus nigra, Morus alba, Populus alba, Juglans regia, Cydonia oblonga, Malus domestica, Armeniaca vulgaris, Cerasus mahaleb, Robinia pseudacacia, Vitis vinifera and Fraxinus sp. Crocus korolkovii (RDBUz) and Colchicum kesselringii (RDBUz) are included in the National Red Data Book.

Protection status The IBA covers the Zeravshan Nature Reserve.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Zarafshan State Nature Reserve. Downloaded from on 23/10/2014

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