|Central coordinates||62o 0.00' East 35o 10.00' North|
|IBA criteria||A1, A3|
|Altitude||500 - 1,000m|
|Year of IBA assessment||2008|
Ornithological information The region is little explored but could perhaps produce species which are associated with the deserts of adjacent Turkmenistan. See box for key species; other known or possible breeding species include Accipiter badius, Merops superciliosus, Melanocorypha bimaculata, Calandrella acutirostris, Saxicola caprata and Scotocerca inquieta. Just south of the region around Sabzak Kotal, Certhia himalayana and Parus rufonuchalis breed in Juniperus scrub.
Site description Barren, hot, desert-steppe plains lying west of the town of Qala-i-Nau in north-west Afghanistan, rising to rounded barren foothills of the Paropamissus (Safed Koh) range to the south, and bordered by Turkmenistan to the north and Iran to the west. The area is between 500 and 1,000 m above sea-level, and fingers of hills project into the plains from the south. Artemisia steppe predominates on the plains, with Pistacia woodland in the hills; patches of Juniperus occur on hills nearer the Paropamissus. Land is mainly used for grazing; Pistacia woodland provides seasonal income to local people.
|Species||Season||Period||Population estimate||Quality of estimate||IBA Criteria||IUCN Category|
|Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni||breeding||1972||25 breeding pairs||poor||A1||Least Concern|
|Saker Falcon Falco cherrug||breeding||1972||unknown [units unknown]||-||A1||Endangered|
|Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus||breeding||1972||unknown [units unknown]||-||A1||Endangered|
|Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata||resident||1949||1 individuals||poor||A1, A3||Vulnerable|
|Pale-backed Pigeon Columba eversmanni||breeding||1949||present [units unknown]||-||A1, A3||Vulnerable|
|Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis||resident||1975||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Streaked Scrub-warbler Scotocerca inquieta||resident||1975||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|IUCN habitat||Habitat detail||Extent (% of site)|
|Land-use||Extent (% of site)|
|Notes: collection of pistachio nuts|
Other biodiversity Mammals: Equus hemionus onager (V) may wander from reserves over the Turkmen border, and likewise Gazella subgutturosa (rare); even Acinonyx jubatus (V) could still survive.
Management considerations No conservation measures have been taken. Overgrazing by livestock, leading to excessive erosion and degradation of soil locally, and uncontrolled hunting are likely to be serious problems. The lack of more detailed information on the state of habitats and on wildlife inventories will inhibit any attempts at protecting areas in the future. The area was proposed as a potential reserve region in 1981.
Acknowledgements A total of 16 IBAs have been identified in Afghanistan. Responsibility for maintenance and update of the IBA information in WBDB is held by BirdLife Secretariat. The baseline survey of IBAs took place during 1991-1993 and was published in Evans (1994). The site accounts and introduction were compiled from information supplied by S. C. Madge, who acknowledges the impressive series of detailed reports compiled principally by Dr R. G. Petocz and Dr J. A. Sayer, team leaders of the National Parks and Wildlife Management Project, which was initiated at the request of the Government of Afghanistan and administered by the Food and Agriculture Organization under the United Nations Development Programme, and which ran from 1972 to 1980, although most ornithological data were collected in the latter years. Waterfowl counts are based mostly on data collected for the International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau, chiefly by F. J. Koning, during brief winter and early spring visits in 1970–1972. A. Jamil carried out a survey of Ab-i-Istada for this project, with invaluable assistance from A. Fitzherbert and J. Harris (International Crane Foundation). E. Smith supplied valuable information for the site accounts, and Dr K. Habibi reviewed the first draft of the inventory.
References Paludan (1959), Sayer and van der Zon (1981), Smith (1974).
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Recommended citation BirdLife International (2013) Important Bird Areas factsheet: North-western steppe. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 24/05/2013
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