Aksu-Zhabagly Biosphere Reserve

Total area of the territory of Aksu-Zhabagly Biosphere Reserve is 357,734 ha. The main core zone (territory of Aksu-Zhabagly State Nature Reserve) is 131,934 ha, buffer zone is 25,800 ha ( 2-3 km border along the perimeter of nature reserve), development zone – about 200,000 ha.

The main zone of biosphere reserve is strictly protected zone of nature reserve regime of Aksu-Zhabagly State Nature Reserve, which represents natural mountain complex of West Tien Shan.

In accordance with Article 39 Chapter 7 of the Law of RK “About specially protected natural territories”: State Nature Reserve shall be a Protected area registered as nature conservation and scientific institution created in order to ensure conservation and research on its territory of natural processes and events, flora and fauna, and separate species of plants and animals, typical and unique ecological systems and restoration thereof. On specially assigned areas, which do not include especially valuable ecological systems and object, it is permitted, in the order stipulated by the authority, to create excursion paths and routes for conducting regulated ecological tourism (Article 42). Aksu-Zhabagly State Nature Reserve corresponds with the highest category (A1) of IUCN natural territories. Total area of core zone is 131,934 ha.

The core zone represents one area of Northen-West part of Talasskiy Alatau with its long Western and partly Northern ranges and adjacent to the main ridge North-Eastern slopes of Ugam ridge.  There are two paleontological sites “Aulie” and “Karabastau” near the biosphere reserve (120 km) on the territory of Algabas District South-Kazakhstan oblast with total area of 225 ha.

Altitudinal limits of biosphere reserve in the main part vary from 1300 to 4200 m above sea level. Ranges of the main ridge represent separate water-dividing ridges of considerable altitude. From the East nature reserve is limited by side ridge, dividing Arabiik and Koksay river basins. A little Western from that, the tops of the main Sarytau ridge (3,657.2 m) and Aksuat (4,027.4 m) are origin for the ridges which are water-divides of Koksay, Aksay and Zhabagly rivers. The highest altitudes along side water-divide ridges change form 3,401.1 m to 3,977.1 m. Canyons of Koksay and Aksay rivers have meridianal stretch (South-North) and are steeply slopes V-shaped valleys. Koksay and Aksay rivers are the only in nature reserve which belong to Talas river basin. Mountain center in the area of Aksuat top gives origin to a whole range of ridges: Alatau (Kaskabulak top, 3,831.9 m), Bugulutor (3,926.3 m) and Aksu (3,795.8 m). All of them have mostly latitudinal direction and serve as water-divide ridges of Arys river basin, large right-side inflow of Syrdarya river. Zhabaglytau ridge, limiting nature reserve from the North, is considerably not high (highest point 2,913.1 m), it is adjacent to plateau-like Topshak area of Aksay-Zhabagly water-divide. From the Southern slope of Talasskiy Alatau in South-Western direction goes a large ridge – Ugam – limiting Maidantal river valley (Pskem river inflow) from the North. Highest point of Ugam ridge is Sairamskiy top (4,238.6 m), which is South-Westernmost point of the reserve.

Buffer zone of Aksu-Zhabagly biosphere reserve comprises the lands of the buffer and protected territories of state reserve. According to Article 43 of the Law of RK «About SPNA»: «buffer zone — the area used for ecologically oriented economic activity and stable reproduction of biological resources». This zone is created to protect specially protected natural territories from unfavourable influences from the outside, with prohibition of any activity that may negatively influence the condition and restoration of the given territory's ecosystems. Lands of the buffer zone are not withdrawn from the main land users, they consist of the lands of agricultural purpose and are administered by agricultural organizations and private bodies. Within the buffer zone of biosphere reserve economic activity in some parts of the protection zone (haymaking, cattle pasture) is carried out by agreement with state authority (Forestry and Hunting Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture of RK) and under the control of the administration of state nature reserve. Eco-educational, tourist, and recreational activities are conducted on the territory of biosphere reserve’s buffer zone, as well as scientific research. The area of the buffer zone is 25,800 ha. In the present time one more km along the border of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan completely matches with state border of RK, according to the Law RK “On the state border” this territory is under the management of the border control service of RK. According to the Chapter 3, Article 12 (State border regime) paragraphs 4-5 “the regime includes: … 4) the entry, temporary stay, residence, movement in the border strip and implementation fly over the border strip;5) conducting business, fishing and other activities of the socio-political, cultural or other events”.

According to national nature protected legislation, the Aksu-Zhabagly State Nature Reserve belongs to the highest category of protected areas with the strict nature protection regime; it corresponds with the highest category (A1) of IUCN natural territories. The total area of buffer zone were determined by the two resolutions of regional authorities: 1) Resolution № 289 of South Kazakhstan Oblast administration (Akimat) «On establishing the buffer zone around the territory of Aksu-Zhabagly State Nature Reserve” as of August 04, 2006 with area of 2 km wide belt around Nature Reserve; 2) Resolution № 286 of Zhambyl oblast administration (Akimat)  «On establishing the buffer zone around the territory of Aksu-Zhabagly State Nature Reserve» as of October 26, 2006  with area of 2 km wide belt around Nature Reserve. So, in correspondence with the legislation base, the buffer zone is a two-kilometer stripe of the land embracing the perimeter of the core area of biosphere reserve. It includes the lands of nature reserve's protection zone and consists of the lands of agricultural use and reserved lands. Part of agricultural lands is used for pastures and haymaking in accordance with governmental authorized body and under the control of administration of Aksu-Zhabagly State Nature Reserve. Buffer zone lands are national (state) property and consist of agriculture and reserve lands. According to legislation, it is administered by authorized state body – Forestry and Hunting Committee of Ministry of Environmental Protection and Water Resources of Kazakhstan. As a whole, the territory of buffer zone is controlled by Aksu-Zhabagly State Nature Reserve. In this case in Kazakhstan there is no current legislation base for enlarging the existing buffer zone for this highest category of protected area.

Transition zone (collaboration zone) of Aksu-Zhabagly biosphere reserve is located on the territory of Tulkibas, Tole Bi, Baydibek districts of South-Kazakhstan oblast and Zhualy district of Zhambyl oblast. Total approximate area is 200,000 ha.

The most favorable conditions for local people are in the foothill areas with altitudes of 1,500 m above sea level due to climatic conditions. As a result, most of settlements are concentrated in the foothill areas near the main rivers and streams. Thus, the entire Northern and Western parts of buffer zone are full of villages and small settlements. The territory near the buffer and transition zones of reserve is the most densely populated region of South Kazakhstan (from 20 to 40 people per sq.km). In the nearest proximity (up to 75 km) there are settlements near oblast centers: Shymkent and Taraz cities, with population density of 50-60 and more people in 1 square km. Most of the lands, adjacent to nature reserve, are in state possession and are given on the right of constant or temporary land use. They may be divided into the following categories: -lands of specially protected natural territories (reserves); - lands of forest funds; - lands of agricultural use; - reserve lands; - lands for industry, transport, communication, defense and other non-agricultural use. Lands of forest fund are administered by Shymkent, Tyulkibas and Zhualy state institutions for forest and animal world protection, and hunt for large mammals is permitted there. The lands are registered and used by numerous local farmers and production agricultural cooperatives and units, with intensive use of the lands for growing plant cultures, cattle pasture and haymaking. Reserve lands are not used due to their distance from the settlements, very rugged terrain and hard access in the conditions of highlands.

All three zones are connected and complement each other. The core zone is closed for visits and represents reference areas of regional natural complexes, as well as important genetic reserve of wild flora and fauna species; this zone is a control in long-term monitoring. The buffer zone is also under protective regime, but limited human activity is allowed here (such as tourism, scientific research, educational programs, partial use of natural renewable resources, etc.). Both zones serve for conservation of natural complexes and partially for sustainable development. The transition zone is used for living of local people, development of economy, culture and education. Here there is no strict protection regime of natural complexes, but there are some restrictions on the nature use (ecologically dirty production is prohibited). As a whole, this zoning provides conditions for elimination of the conflict between social-economic development and protection of wild natural complexes and gives an opportunity for stable development of economy and culture.

For organization of partner relations a special Coordinational Council of Aksu-Zhabagly Biosphere Reserve was created; its participants include representatives of state nature reserve, nature users, local authorities and public organizations.

Local communities are involved in the development of biosphere reserve's Management Plan and by participating in the Coordinational Council in the integrated reserve's management. Complete management of the core and buffer zone is conducted by the administration of Aksu-Zhabagly state nature reserve, but local NGOs, local communities receive full information on natural complexes of the zones that will be used for education, as well as for tourist routes in the buffer and transition zones, development of scientifically based sustainable nature use, etc.

During GEF project “Conservation of biodiversity in the West Tien Shan” in 2000 – 2004 complex research of the region was carried out. In the limits of this work the influence of the environment and economical situation on cultural and social life of local people was assessed, nature reserve’s management plan was developed, etc. Social-economic conditions and historic-cultural peculiarities of the region are given in the first part of Management Plan of 2008.

According to Kazakhstan's legislation, management of economic activity on some parts of biosphere reserve's buffer zone (haymaking, cattle pasture) is carried out by agreement with state authority (Forestry and Hunting Committee under the Ministry of Agriculture of RK) and under control of state nature reserve's administration, all questions and arising problems are settled at the meetings of Coordinational Council of biosphere reserve. During the zonation of buffer zone a consultation with all land users were held.

"(b) a management policy or plan for the area as a biosphere reserve"?

If yes, describe. If not, state how such a plan or policy will be developed, and the timeframe. (If the proposed area coincides with one or more existing protected natural area(s), describe how the management plan of the proposed biosphere reserve will be complementary   to the management plan of the protected area(s)).

At the present time there is a Management Plan for core and buffer zones of Aksu-Zhabagly Biosphere Reserve, which describes management of the main protected areas of Biosphere Reserve. In the transition zone the land users have their own management plans, which are in accordance with Management Plan of core and buffer zones. So, simple combination of all these plans is in fact Overall Integrated Management Plan of the whole territory of Biosphere Reserve. All controversial issues are discussed at the sessions of Coordinational Council of Biosphere Reserve.

A Management Plan for Aksu-Zhabagly that is inclusive of the core, buffer and some part of transition area, was worked out and developed for five year period according to the national legislation. After that the results of its implementation are analyzed and new Management Plan is created taking into consideration positive and negative experiences of previous plan’s realization. Management Plan was agreed with local authorities and, according to legislation of Kazakhstan, was approved by the authorized body – Forestry and Hunting Committee under the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Water Resources of Kazakhstan.

The existing Management Plan for Aksu-Zhabagly was submitted to MAB UNESCO as a part of original proposal documentation (Russian/Kazakh original is given in the Appendix to documentation). It consists of introduction and 24 chapters, gathered in three main parts: 1) status and peculiarities of nature reserve, 2) evaluation of current condition and overall conclusions, 3) management plan’s realization mechanism. Tables, maps and other materials are given in the Appendices to the Management Plan. This is why the Management Plan contains both detailed analysis of the condition and importance of the reserve and detailed action plan for five years. For example, the second part (evaluation of current condition) in Chapter 13 gives assessment of labor resources, and Chapter 14 presents analysis of the main threats and management problems. The English translation of the List of Contents of Management Plan is attached to the nomination documentation (Kz_05 Aksu-Zhabagly 2014/01 Main nomination docs/19 Supporting documents (suppl)/+05 List of land use and management plans/Scans and docs/16 Management Plan/eng_The list of contents of Management Plan.docx). The developed Management Plan is obligatory for execution; it is based on consensus of all parties interested in the management of biosphere reserve. In the present time, the Overall Integrated Management Plan of Biosphere reserve represents the simple composition of existing Management Plan of Aksu-Zhabagly State Nature Reserve and management plans of other nature users working in transition area.

The biosphere reserve is managed through Aksu-Zhabagly Biosphere Reserve Coordinational Council created in 2012. Before that the territory of the core and buffer zone was managed by Scientific-Technical Council of the Nature Reserve (until July 2012). Coordinational Council is a collegial public body created to introduce policies of effective management and sustainable use of biosphere reserve's resources, alternative activities, resource-conserving and resource-restoring technologies. The Coordinational Council of biosphere reserve consists of representatives of state agencies (territorial agency of forestry and hunting, oblast territorial agency of fishery), state nature reserve, Akimats (department of land resources, agriculture, etc.), local NGOs and land users, and is necessary in providing collaboration and problem-solving opportunities for all stakeholders.

There is a current monitoring of the condition and conservation of natural complexes on the territory of biosphere reserve, and monitoring of rare and threatened species to clarify the condition of the populations, ecological peculiarities of rare plant and animal species, providing a basis for evaluation of the species’ conservation and restoration perspectives. The goal of the monitoring is to obtain regular objective data about the condition of plants and animals on the territory of biosphere reserve, as well as on the condition of their habitat. Based on monitoring data it is necessary to conduct current evaluation of the condition of populations and ecosystems, biosphere reserve’s functioning effectiveness, and development of measures for critical and unfavourable situations’ prevention. According to the Management Plan of Aksu-Zhabagly, scientific research on its territory focuses on inventarization and study of the objects of state nature reserve fund, as well as study of natural processes for Nature Chronicles program. This scientific work includes observations of natural phenomena and processes and their study for the «Nature Chronicles» program, flora and vegetation inventarization, research of rare and threatened vertebrate and invertebrate animals, monitoring of biodiversity condition and indicator species' population condition.

For cultural – educational activities in the Reserve there is a department of ecological education. The staff of the Department consists of 5 people - museum chief and 4 instuctors – excursionists. Cultural – educational work is also carried out by staff from Department of Science, Information and Monitoring, and Reserve's Security Service (30 people) in the area of nature protection legislation. The main work on ecological education is carried out in the form of excursions on ecologicla paths in the protective zone, in Nature Museum, lectures, articles publication in mass media. There are environmental protection activities such as Parks' March, ecological scouts, etc. In the past such effective methods as slide shows and scientific-popular documentary films were often used, but now the projection equipment is worn out and this kind of activities are not conducted. The goal of Department's work is in raising ecological awareness of local people, their understanding of the key role of the protected territory, importance of unique nature conservation, public support, and raising patriotism and responsibility for the environment, and, as the result, pressure decrease on region's biodiversity from local population. The main activity directions are: work with mass media, publishing activity, museum, ecological excursions, environmental tourism, interactions with teachers and educational bodies. Besides, Department's staff develops posters, leaflets and other agitational materials, and takes part in providing practice for students on the base of nature reserve.

Supported by two UNDP/GEF Projects (Conservation of biodiversity of West Tien Shan and Wetlands Project) state nature reserve’s staff had an opportunity of exchange experience and raise their qualifications in Korgalzhyn Biosphere Reserve, Karatau Nature Reserve (Kazakhstan), Berezinskiy Nature Reserve (Belarus), Zapovedniki Ecological Center (Moscow, Russia), and at scientific-practical conferences inside Kazakhstan and abroad (Minsk, Belarus). In 2009-2011 training seminars were conducted dedicated to preparation of management plan, biodiversity monitoring, state inspectors were trained in drawing up reports, complying with safety operating procedures and fire prevention.

The most important activity that would enhance sustainable development function of the site is the rapid growth of ecological tourism, development of the programmes for ecological education of local people and the use of alternative sources of energy (solar and wind).

Aksu-Zhabagly biosphere reserve is located in the Western end of Talasskiy Alatau and Southern part of  Karatau in the West Tien Shan.  The whole region of the West Tien Shan is an Eastern outpost of Mediterranean atmospheric circulation, therefore it has a winter-spring rainfall.  The mountain range of the West Tien Shan is a barrier that catches the moisture in the Western transport of air masses; in addition, this region is situated within the zone of the Southern deserts, where the annual temperature sum is high and about 4000-5000o C. As a result, this area is the most favorable for vegetation and preservation of many ancient relict species and plant communities. Moreover, the reserve’s ecosystems have a very close relationship with the natural systems of the Near East and the Mediterranean than to the rest of the ecosystems of the Tien Shan.

The territory of Aksu Zhabagly has a high degree of representativeness at regional level. For example, it has almost all landscape types and sub-types of the West Tien Shan, except for deserts and gypsophilous subshrub communities, which are well below the reserve in altitude.  Aksu Zhabagly Biosphere Reserve has about 75% of biodiversity of West Tien Shan.  It has 48% of the total diversity of birds in the region, 72.5% of vertebrates, 221 of 254 fungi species, 63 of 80 moss species of and 15 of 17 vegetation types of West Tien Shan and 114 of 180 plant formations.

Flora of higher plants consists of 483 genera and 91 family, which is very representative of both West Tien Shan and Mountain Middle Asian Province. This fact is proved by its representativeness – 51.3% of West Tien Shan flora (2538 species) and approximately 25% of Middle Asian Province flora, which is estimated as 6,000 species by florists. Flora of biosphere reserve is quite representative at the families level, the majority of them are represented in 50% and more of their species diversity for the whole region. The same pattern is observed at the genera level, with leading genera: Astragalus (60 species), Gagea (24), Carex, Allium (22 each), Oxytropis (20),Veronica (19), Cousiniа, Polygonum, Potentilla, Sileneи Artemisia(15-17 species each). Flora of Aksu-Zhabagly Reserve is typical for Middle Asian province, which is also proved by the presence of Middle Asian endemic species in its composition (Korolkowia, Rhaphidophyton, Pseudoclausia, Hyalolena, Mediasia, Oedibasis, Pilopleura, Schrenkia, Schtschurowskia, Sphaenolobium, Pseuderemostachys, Stephanocaryum, Lepechiniella, Cylindrocarpa, Sergia, Trichanthemis, Ugamia, Lepidolpha, Kosopoljanskia). As a whole, reserve's flora is characterized by high level of genera and species endemism – there are 20 endemic genera (out of 64 genera endemic for Mountain Middle Asian Province) and about 10% of endemic species, including 28 species endemic to Karatau district, 25 species of Ugam-Chatkal district, 35 species of Kirgiz district. Reserve's flora composition also includes 100 massive species which play considerable role in vegetation cover and are edificators of separate vegetation associations (Juniperus semiglobosa, J. seravschanica, J. turkestanica, Alopecurus pratensis, Bromopsis inermis, Ferula tenuisecta, Prangos pabularia, Festuca valesiaca, Potentilla hololeuca, Allium fedtschenkoanum, etc.). There are more than 70 species of wild relatives of cultural plants on the territory of Aksu-Zhabagly, and more than 200 species are medicinal. There are 57 rare species listed in the Red Data Books of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

All vertebrates, except fishes, are well represented in biosphere reserve. So, 338 vertebrate species out of 428 are registered in the reserve (79%), and more than 70% of rare species are concentrated in this area.

Fauna of vertebrates in Aksu- Zhabagly Biosphere Reserve

Vertebrate class


Rare species





















 Nesting birds







 Migrating and wintering birds










































Note: «WTS» -West Tien Shan; « A-D » - Aksu-Zhabagly Biosphere Reserve

Invertebrate fauna of West Tien Shan is represented by 60% in the reserve. Most representative groups are insects - ground beetles (62%), scarabs (66%) and horse flies (91%), the share of beetles – Middle Asian endemics and subendemics – is about a half (47%) of total composition of reserve's beetles.
There are 24 species and subspecies of vertebrate animals, 24 insect species and 1 species of annelids listed in the Red Data Book of Kazakhstan. IUCN Redlist lists 2 bird species – Corncrake (Crex crex) and White-winged Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucopterus), and 3 mammal species - Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia), endemic to the West Tien Shan Marmot (Marmota menzbieri) and threatened to extinction endemic subspecies of Argali (Ovis ammon karelini).

From economically valuable animal species of Aksu-Zhabagly there are 14 ungulate species (Argali, Wild Boar, Roe Deer, Maral) and predators (Wolf Canis lupus, Fox Vulpes vulpes, Corsac Fox Vulpes corsac, African Wildcat Felis libyca), to lesser extent – from rodents and lagomorphs (Badger Meles meles, Stoat Mustela erminea, Least Weasel Mustela nivalis, Long-tailed Marmot Marmota caudata, Muskrat Ondatra zibethica and Tolai Hare Lepus tolai), and 6 game bird species (Common Quail Coturnix coturnix, Chukar Alectoris chukar, Grey Partridge Perdix perdix, Himalayan Snowcock Tetraogallus himalayensis, Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus and Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis). Economically important homopterans include carmine-scale insects Porphyrophora polonica and P. monticola, which serve as a natural source of very expensive natural dye carmin.

There are a lot of Jurassic fossils found on the territory of Aksu-Zhabagly Biosphere Reserve, which are typical for this territory and represent the best samples of West Tien Shan.

Aksu-Zhabagly biosphere reserve is located on the lands of Tulkibas, Tole Bi, Baydibek districts of South-Kazakhstan oblast and Zhualy district of Zhambyl oblast. Near the biosphere reserve there are 26 settlements, with 11 of them in Tulkibas district, 9 in Tole Bi district and 6 in Zhualy district. 
Most of the popoulation are Kazakhs, rather less are Russians, Uzbeks, Karakalpaks, Turks and Azerbaijanis. Kazakhs, who lived in that region, belong to older juz (ancestor branches occupying specific territories).

Major economical orientation of the region is agriculture. There are several crops growing on agricultural land: on the rainfed area – cereal cultures (wheat and barley); on irrigated arable lands – forage cultures (corn, clover, alfalfa) and technical (sunflower, safflower, tobacco). Local people usually breed cattle (mainly Aulieatinskaya dairy- meat breed), sheep (South-Kazakh Merino), goats, horses (trotters and Donskaya breed) and poultry (chicken and turkey).

Most of the villages have plumbing, others take water from wells and rivers. Roads are mostly paved or gravel. Houses are heated by wood, charcoal and dung (dry horse or cow manure). In the late 1990s - early 2000s, due to problems of natural gas supply, local people cut down a lot of tree plantations, which are currently being restored. In all the major towns there are hospitals or aid stations and shops are available in every village. Among the most significant factors affecting the local environment by local population are logging, harvesting of dead wood and poaching.

Eco-tourism, which is a constant flow of visitors, using specially equipped routes and with specially established for this purpose infrastructure, was virtually non-existent in Aksu Zhabagly until 1992, but in the late 1990s and into the 2000s it began to develop. At present, the territory of the buffer zone is visited by scientists and amateurs interested in flora and fauna, as well as ordinary sightseers. In accordance with 10 routes for scientific and educational tourism, visitors move through the reserve on trails and roads, and for the rest stops use previously constructed field bases and traditional camping sites. Currently, the potential of eco-tourism for educational purposes is still insufficiently developed, although Aksu Zhabagly is one of the famous tourist spots for birdwatchers from all over the world.

Currently the main scientific – technical support of the biosphere reserve's territory is carried out by the staff of Aksu Zhabagly state nature reserve.  In the framework of the international GEF/UNDP project "Biodiversity conservation of West Tien Shan" (1998-2004) the material-technical base was strengthened and numerous training seminars were conducted. Administrartion of biosphere reserve is conducting different festivals and competitions, such as «Parks March», Birds’ Day, festivals of children’s art, etc. Since the 1970s, Museum of Nature is open, which has several exhibition halls with numerous dioramas and museum exhibits (more than 200 stuffed animals, entomological and botanical collections.)
In 2003-2004 part of UNDP Project's equipment was donated (cars, computers and other office appliences, equipment for water quality control, photo cameras, video camera, binoculars, telescopes, GPS, etc.). In 2004-2011 training seminars were conducted dedicated to management plan preparation, biodiversity monitoring, state inspectors were trained in drawing up reports, complying with safety operating procedures and fire prevention, trips for experience exchange were organized for staff members of Aksu Zhabagly state nature reserve to attend Korgalzhyn Biosphere Reserve, Karatau Nature Reserve (Kazakhstan), Berezinskiy Nature Reseve (Belarus), and to scientific-practical conferences inside Kazakhstan (Almaty, Astana) and abroad (Moscow, Russia and Minsk, Belarus).

Biosphere reserve is located in the Western part of the Tien Shan mountain system at the junction of sub-boreal (temperate) and dry sub-tropical (warm-temperate) climatic zones. This caused complex structure of landscape and soil zoning, mixing and interpenetration of these two zones. Consequently, there is a high vegetation diversity, complex structure of vertical zoning, which differs in the Western and Eastern parts of the reserve. Aksu Zhabagly is a territory of high, medium and low mountains of Western end of the Talas Alatau and the North-Eastern edge of the Ugam Ridge. Its territory covers the upper part of the left tributaries’ basins of Arys river - Zhabaglysu, Aksu and Sayramsu. The territory of the reserve is characterized by very strong compartmentalization, prevalence of steep and very steep slopes, especially in Aksu river basin. The altitudes of the territory range from 1300 m (Alatau Mountains Southern of Zhabagly - previously Nov- Nikolayevka) to 4229 m (Sairam peak in Ugam Ridge, in the South of the reserve).
There are 5 natural altitudinal zones in Aksu-Zhabagly Biosphere Reserve:

  1. Highland nival level, 3600 (3800) m is characterized by almost absence of higher vegetation, domination of ice, firn, naked rocks and rocky alluvial deposits. This level is very important in regulating river flow. There are no soil formations on nival level.
  2. Highland alpine level, 2800 (3000) — 3600 (3800) m, with appearance of sparse short vegetation, mostly consisting of steppe and meadow-steppe herbs, including characteristic highland species.
  3. Highland sub-nival level, 2200—2800 (3000) m is characterized by a little more dense vegetation cover formed of not high meadow-steppe herbs with islands of creeping junipers, which occupy up to 20-30% of the slope surface.
  4. Medium montane level (1500—2200 m) of meadow-steppe juniper sparse forests, shrubs and shrub semi-savannas. It is characterized by vegetation cover of double type: slopes of Northern exposition are dominated by dry juniper light park forests with meadow-steppe vegetation in the forest and in the meadows, which dominate in area (50-90% of total surface); slopes of Southern exposition are dominated by shrub large herbs semi-savannas, partly with juniper sparse forests. There are apple forests in the canyons.
  5. Lowland level (below 1500—1600 m) of shrub large herbs, partly steppe semi-savannas

Vegetation of the reserve is subdivided into 4 large type groups: I. trees and shrubs, II. grass, III. prickly-shrub and IV. vegetation of rocks and screes.

I. Vegetation of trees and shrubs:

  1. Evergreen junipers – associations with dominance of evergreen trees and shrubs of the genus Juniperus (standing Juniperus semiglobosa, Juniperus seravshanica, creeping Juniperus turkestanica)
  2. Deciduous forests and woodlands – associations dominated by deciduous trees (mainly broadleaf): apple (Malus sieversii), hawthorn (Crataegus turkestanica), Caucasian Hackberry (Celtis caucasica) and woodland hawthorn (Crataegus pontica).
  3. Deciduous shrub type combines deciduous shrub thickets (mostly broad-leaved) with participation of species of the genera Rosa, Lonicera, CotonEaster, Berberis. Shrub thickets are usually multi-species, but usually the main role is played by species of Rosa genus with abundance of honesuckle. Deciduous shrubs include Spiraea hypericifolia, Сerasus erythrocarpa, C. tianschanica, Athraphaxis pyrifolia.
  4. Small-leaved forests are mostly deciduous forest of river valleys: birch (Betula pendula (synonym of B. talassica), B. tianschanica, B. turkestanica); willow (Salix niedzwieckii, S. pycnostachya, S.alba)
  5. Mountain riparian forests – floodplain forests of Asian arid zone, including poplar (Populus talassica, P. cataracti) forest.

II. Grass vegetation

  1. Cryophyte low-grass meadows – associations of microterm mesophile and xeromesophile herbaceous perennial plants, distributed in highland. This type includes: cryophyte meadiws with participation of Waldheimia tridactylites, Cerastium lithospermifolium, Cystiocorydalis fedtschenkoana, Allium polyphillum, Oxytropis albovillosa, Oxytropis chionobia, etc.; meadows of Carex stenocarpa, Cobresia cappiliformis, Puccinella subspicata, Festuca kryloviana, Helictotrichon hookeri, Hordeum turkestanicum, Poa alpine, Trisetum spicatum.
  2. Mid-grass meadows - grass and motley-grass associations of xeromesophile and mesophile perennial grasses, sub-alpine, upland. The main meadow types include: Alopecurus pratensis, Dactylis glomerata, Poa pratensis, P. angustifolia, Agropyron repens, Phleum phleoides, Zerna inermis, Salamagrostis epigeios; Roegneria canina, Carex melanantha, Geranium collinum, G.saxatile, Allium hymenorhizum, Medicago tianschanica; Polygonum coriarium and many others.
  3. Steppes – type of vegetation, including associations dominated by perennial microterm turf cereals with codomination of mesoxerophile and xeromesophile motley-grasses (Stipa, Festuca, Koeleria, Helictotrichon). The main formations are Festuca valesiaca; Stipa kirghisorum, Helictotrichon desertorum, Stipa capillata.
  4.  Savannoid type of vegetation – associations dominated by ephemeroids (Agropyron trichophorum, Hordeum bulbosum, Poa bulbosa, Carex pachystilis), as well as mesophile and xeromesophile geophytes (species of the genera Prangos, Ferula).

III. Prickly-shrub vegetation (phryganoids)

  1. Phryganoids associations of sclerophyllus dwarf-shrubs (Onobrychis echidna, Acantholimon), semi-dwarf shrubs (Artemisia) and perennial prickly grass (Сousinia). Onobrychis echidna associations also belong to this type.

IV. Vegetation of rocks and screes

  1. Petrophyton- vegetation of rocks and scree, which is subdivided into vegetation of rocks and scree of mid-mountain level (Allium polyphillum, A. pskemense, Paraquilegia grandiflora, Delphinium oreophilum, Saxifraga albertii, Campanula capusi and etc) and vegetation of rocks and scree of low and mid-mountain level(Dasiphora fruticulosa, Artemisia rutifolia, Silene braghuica, Parrya albida, Eremurus lactiflorus, Spiraea pilosa, Rosa cocanica, Ephedra equisetina). Rocks of this lower altitude are characterized by shrubs(Cerasus erythrocarpa, Spiraea pilosa, Athraphaxis pyrifolia, Lonicera tianschanica, etc).
  2. Group of petrophytes with domination of labiates, main dominant species are of genera ZiziphoraandThymus.

Most of above listed types of vegetation is unique and distributed only in Mountain Middle Asian region, part is characteristic only for West Tien Shan. Some of the unique types are savannoid and phryganoid vegetation types. Other original type for that region is juniper sparse forests (Juniperus semiglobosa and J. seravschanica).

Aksu Zhabagly is extremely important to preserve biodiversity of West Tien-Shan.

There are 52 species of mammals, accounting for 85.2% of West Tien Shan theriofauna, among them - rodents (44%) predators (24%), bats (18 %), ungulates (9%), lagomorphs and insectivores (3% each). Ungulates include Argali, Ibex, Roe Deer, Maral and Wild Boar, carnivores - Bear, Badger, Stone Marten, Least Weasel and Stoat, and rodents and lagomorphs – Long-tailed Marmot, Indian Porcupine, Tolai Hare and Muskrat. The Red Data Book of Kazakhstan lists 10 species of rare and endangered species of mammals. Special attention should be drawn to the protection of 3 mammal species – Snow Leopard, listed in the IUCN Redlist, endemic to the West Tien Shan Menzbier’s Marmot and currently endangered endemic subspecies of Argali.

There are 267 bird species in total, including 130 nesting species and 137 migrating, wintering or occasional birds. Red Data Book of Kazakhstan lists 11 species. Besides, 2 more bird species are recognized by IUCN as globally threatened, which are Corncrake (Crex crex) and White-winged Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucopterus). Herpetofauna is represented by 11 species of reptiles, and 3 species of amphibians, which is more than 70% of the regional fauna.  Three species are listed in the Red Data Book of Kazakhstan. Fish fauna includes five species, the most common of them - an Common Marinka (Schizothorax intermedius) and Scaleless Osman (Diptychus dybowskii).

Fauna of mollusca includes 53 species of 24 genera of 14 families, or about 60 % of the regional fauna. Five species are endemic to the Talasskiy Alatau: Pupilla striopolita, Pseudonapaeus entoptyx, Turanera leptogyra, Turanera stshukini, Leucozonella reitteri.

The most studied insect flora includes such small orders as cockroaches, stick insects, earwigs, and partly beetles, heteropterans, true butterflies and dragonflies. About 2,500 insect species are registered at the present time on the territory of biosphere reserve. In Aksu-Zhabagly there are 77 species of orthopterans, including 5 species of cockroaches, 4 species of praying mantis, one species of stick insect, 9 species of stoneflies, 3 species of earwigs and 53 orthopteran species. To the present time 388 species of hemipterans were found on the reserve’s territory, including 113 homopteran and 275 heteropteran species. Beetle fauna of the reserve comprises not less than 906 species of 358 genera of 41 families. Under-studied fauna of hymenopterans consists of 175 species. According to estimations, fauna of this group must count not less than 1000 species. To the present time there are 463 butterfly species on the territory of the reserve, species composition of Rhopalocera includes 118 species of 7 families.

Flora of Aksu Zhabagly Biosphere Reserve includes 1,737 species, including 235 species of fungi, 64 species of lichens, 63 species of algae and mosses and 1,312 species of higher plants. Reserve plays a prominent role in the preservation of endemic genera. So, from 64 endemic for Central Asia genera in Aksu- Zhabagly 19 genera are found: Korolkowia Regel (Liliaceae), Rhaphidophiton Iljin (Chenopodiaceae), Botschantzevia Nabiev (Brassicaceae), Pseudoclausia M.Pop., Galagania Lipsky, Hyalolaena Bunge, Mediasia Pimen., Oedibasis Koso-Pol., Pilopleura Schischk., Schrenkia Fisch.et Mey., Sclerotiaria Korov., Schtschurovskia Regel et Schmalh., Sphaenolobium Pimen., Pseuderemostachys M.Pop. (Lamiaceae), Stephanocaryum M.Pop. (Boraginaceae), Cylindrocarpa Regel, Sergia Fed., Lepidolopha C.Winkl., Ugamia Pavl. There are 57 species listed in the Red Data Books of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. In Aksu-Zhabagly Biosphere Reserve there are 72 wild relatives of cultural plants. Here are all of the useful plants: fodder, medicinal, food, technical, ether- oil crops, decorative, nectariferous. About 30-40 species were traditionally  used by local people and authorities system (fruit, medicinal, tannic, saponin-bearing). In 1940s roots of tannic plants, such as Rheum maximoviczii, Polygonum coriarium, P.nitens, as well as bulbs of food plants Koralkowia sewerzowii and Allium pskemense were produced. In the present time populations of these species are restoring.

It is very perspective to develop livestock and crop production, as well as ecological tourism on the basis of biosphere reserve. On a regional scale the experience of development ecological tourism could be successfully used in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.  Proximity of the reserve to main cities Taraz and Shymkent, as well as financial and cultural center – Almaty – with its well developed tourist infrastructure (international airport, railroad and bus stations, hotels, tourist companies, restaurants, etc.) gives tourists a potential possibility to stay in comfortable conditions of the city with short-term (without night stays) visits of the sightseeing areas. In the future these tourist services will be developed on the territory of biosphere reserve (villages in collaboration zone) in the form of private guest tourism with additional services from local people (hiring and using the boats, horse-riding, fishing, etc.) with realization of local fresh produce and local souvenirs.