Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve's 90-anniversary
Authors: Kovshar A.F.
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The Aksu-Zhabagly nature reserve is located in West Tien Shan in Kazakhstan, on the border of three countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan (70°18'-57' E and 42°08'-30' N), with an area of 1281 km2; its length is 53 km from the most western to the most eastern point and 41 km from the most southern to the most northern point. It occupies the western limit of the Talasskiy Alatau ridge and its north-western spurs: Zhabaglytau mountains, Alatau, Bugultor, Aksutau and Ugam ridges. In the neighbouring Karatau ridge there is a palaeontological site with an area of 2.2 km2 with deposits of flora and fauna of the Jurassic period. The absolute heights above sea level are 1300–4200 m. The relief is alpine – deep canyons with steep slopes. The middle mountain zone (1300–2000 m) is occupied by meadow-steppe formations with juniper sparse forests (Juniperus semiglobosa, J. seravschanica); subalpine meadows (2000–3000 m) are alternated by creeping juniper thickets (Juniperus turkestanica) and rocky outcrops; the alpine zone (higher than 3000 m) is dominated by rocks and snowfields, and glaciers above 3500 m. The nature reserve's flora constitutes almost half of all West Tien Shan's flora and counts 1737 species, including: 235 species of fungi, 64 lichens, 63 species each of algae and mosses, as well as 1312 species of higher plants. Among those, 200 species are medicinal and 57 species are listed in the Red Data Books of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The vertebrates fauna includes 320 species: mammals – 52 species, birds – 247 (130 of them are nesting), reptiles and amphibians – 14, fishes – 7 species. Animals inhabiting the territory include argali (Ovis ammon karelini), mountain goat (Capra sibirica), bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus), snow leopart (Uncia uncia), Turkestan lynx (Lynx lynx isabellinus); birds – bearded vulture (Gypaёtus barbatus), Himalayan snowcock (Tetraogallus himalayensis), chukar (Alectoris chukar), blue whistling thrush (Myophonus caeruleus turcestanicus), paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi leucogaster) and several species of highland finches, including Eurasian crimson-winged finch (Rhodopechys sanguinea), white-winged snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis alpicola) and Brandt's mountain finch (Leucosticte brandti); reptiles – Ophisaurus apodus, Elape dione and Coluber rhodorhachis. 18 Vertebrate and 26 invertebrate species are listed in the Red Data Book of Kazakhstan. In the 90 years of its existence a huge research was carried out and the scientific staff of field biologists, botanists and zoologists were prepared (N.K. Karmysheva, V.V. Shevchenko, F.D. Shaposhnikov, V.D. Utekhin, A.F. Kovshar, A.A. Ivaschenko, B.M. Gubin, Yu.A. Grachyov, etc.). At the same time dozens of expeditions were working on this territory from several scientific institutions – institutes of botany and zoology (Alma-Ata, Tashkent, Leningrad, Kiev), botanical gardens (Moscow, Tashkent, Alma-Ata), All-Union Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (Moscow), All-Union Institute of Pharmacology (Moscow), Institute of Plant Protection (Alma-Ata), Zoological Museum of Moscow State University (Moscow), Palaeontological Institute of the Academy of Sciences of USSR and many others. As a result from the material collected on the territory of the nature reserve, more than 900 scientific works were published, including 11 issues of Proceedings of the nature reserve, published since 1948 till 2016.