Almaty Biosphere Reserve

General location of Almaty BR1


The Almaty biosphere reserve is located on the northern and southern slopes of the Ile (Zailiysky) Alatau ridge, the mountain system of the Northern Tien Shan. This ridge in natural conditions differs markedly from other mountain ranges of the Tien Shan. The close proximity, and in some places direct contact of high mountains with a cool, humid climate, vast deserts and semi-deserts with desiccating heat, makes it possible for such diametrically opposite landscapes as desert and alpine meadows, dry steppes and coniferous forests to coexist. The length of the core and buffer zones of the reserve from north to south is 31 km, from west to east - 34 km, the total area is 71700 ha. The reserve has the status of a legal entity in the form of a state institution.

Almaty BR is located in Talgar and Enbekshikazakh districts of Almaty region on the slopes of the Zailiysky Alatau ridge. The largest part of the population of both regions is concentrated in the Ili Valley at an altitude of about 800-1000 meters above sea level. The administrative center of the Talgar region is the city of Talgar, the distance from the district center to the city of Taldykorgan is 260 km. Kazakhs, Russians, Uyghurs, Germans and other nationalities live in the district with a total number of 186.4 thousand people. The area is 3.8 thousand square meters. km, the average population density is 48 people per square km. The number of settlements - 62, the number of rural, township and urban districts - 12. The administrative center of Enbekshikazakh district is the city of Esik. More than 300 thousand people live here. (according to 2018) of various ethnicity in the territory of 8.3 thousand square meters km.

The total area of the territory of the Almaty BR is 176,960 ha. The main core zone (the territory of the Almaty State Nature Reserve) accounts for 71 800 ha, the buffer zone - 27 080 ha (2 km strip along the perimeter of the state reserve), the development zone - about 78 080 ha. The main zone of the BR is a strictly protected zone of the conservation regime of the Almaty State Natural Reserve, which is a mountain natural complex of the North Tien Shan. The buffer zone of the BR Almaty in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan is the protected zone of the reserve, which covers a two-kilometer strip along the perimeter of the core zone of the reserve. The transition zone (zone of development, cooperation) of the BR Almaty is located on the territory of the lands of two districts of the Almaty region - Talgar and Enbekshikazakh. Due to its climatic conditions, the most favorable living conditions for people are located in foothill zones at heights of up to 1000 m above sea level. As a result, the main concentration of settlements is confined to foothill areas at the outlet of the main rivers and streams from mountain gorges to the plain. Thus, the entire territory north of the buffer zone of the reserve is encircled by settlements, which are one of the most densely populated regions of Southeast Kazakhstan, ranging from 20 to 40 people per 1 square km. In the immediate vicinity is the large metropolis of Almaty and 2 regional centers of Talgar and Esik. Most of the lands adjacent to the reserve are state-owned and granted on the right of permanent or temporary land use. On the used lands of the transit zone assigned to numerous local farmers and production agricultural cooperatives and associations, there is an intensive use of land for growing crops, grazing and haying.

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 taking into account conservation and restoration of objects of state nature reserve fund and by corresponding agreement with state authorities. Tourist and recreational activities in this zone are carried out by state national nature park or physical and legal bodies if they have license to undertake tour operator activity. Physical and legal bodies are responsible for keeping the site in the condition to provide conservation of state nature reserve fund's objects, and comply with the environmental protection requirements. Both zones serve for conservation of natural complexes and partially for sustainable development (buffer zone). The transition zone allows main types of traditional economic activity of land users, providing stable use of nature resources, but prohibiting or limiting types of nature use and economic activity, negatively influencing ecological systems.

Map of Zonation Almaty BR A4

Functional Zoning

For organization of partner relations, a special Co-ordination Council of Almaty biosphere reserve was created; its participants include representatives of state nature reserve, nature users, local authorities and public organizations.

On the territory of the reserve, the altitudinal zonality of vegetation, clearly expressed in Zailiysky Alatau, is most fully represented: the belt of shrub-herbaceous steppes (up to 1600 m above sea level), the spruce-forest belt (from 1600 to 2500-2700 m above sea level) ), the subalpine zone (from 2700 to 3000 m above sea level), the alpine belt (from 3000 to 3500 m above sea level), the glacial-nival belt (above 3500 m above sea level). Many species of animals and plants that live in the reserve are carriers of valuable genetic material, not only national, but also regional and world significance.

The flora of the Almaty Reserve is represented by 960 species of higher vascular plants belonging to 415 genera from 85 families, as well as 480 species of lower plants. The relict list includes 14 species, endemic - 18. 28 species of higher vascular plants and 1 species of mushrooms are listed in the Red Book of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The most diverse species is the genus Astragalus.14 species of trees, 64 shrubs, 3 shrubs, 5 half-shrubs, 3 vines, 102 annuals, 47 biennials, 722 perennials grow in the protected area. In general, the flora of the reserve is characterized by the dominance of grassy vegetation.

Narrow endemic reserve is Iris albertii, Atraphaxis muschketowii, Oxytropis almaatensis, Pastinacopsis glacialis, Cortusa semenovii, Speedwell Alatau (Veronica alatavica), Jurinea almaatensis, Kumbel hawk (Hieracium kumbelicum). The relict ones are the Mushketov’s atraphaxis (Atraphaxis muschketowii), the golden adonis (Adonis chrysocyathus), the Semenov’s corydalis (Corydalis semenovii), and the seussure wrapped (Saussurea involucrate).

Diclinous thickets represented by 42 species of fruit plants belonging to 15 genera and 5 families. Among them there are 10 species of trees, 29 shrubs, 3 grassy. Sivers apple tree Malus sieversii (Ledeb.) M. Roem growing here is of global genetic value. species with a greatly reduced abundance, the Nedzvetsky apple tree - Malus niedzwetzkyana Dieck - a very rare, almost endemic, endangered species, with a small number, common apricot - Armeniaca vulgaris Lam. rare species with shrinking habitat. One of the main forms of deciduous forest is wild fruit forest, where the main forest-forming species is the wild apple tree. Apple trees reach 6–6.5 m. Above 1600 m, the apple tree is not widespread and although it is found on the slopes of southern expositions, it is in a depressed state there.

The complex relief of the reserve, the exceptional variegation of the microclimate, determines the species and quantity diversity of the animal world. The reserve is home to 39 species of mammals, 177 species of birds, 5 - reptiles, 1 - amphibians and more than 900 species of insects. Central Asian mountain species prevail here, including endemic species for individual ranges or mountain ranges. Many forest, taiga-Siberian, steppe European and Mediterranean species live here. So spruce forests are characterized by several endemic species and subspecies, such as the Bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus Sch), the northern birch mouse (Sicistra betulina Pall) and others. Of the taiga species, the following species are common here: Northern Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatastes L.), crossbill (Loxia curvirostra L.), three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus Sch.), hawk owl (Surnia ulula L), Turkestan lynx (Lynx lynx L.), and maral (Cervus elaphus L.), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus L.) and others. Of the reptiles, the usual ones are:  Desert lidless skink (Ablepharus alaicus Elpatjewsky), Siberian pit viper (Agkistrodon halys Pall), Dione rat snake (Elaphe dione Pall), the grass snake (Natrix natrix L) and common European viper (Vipera berus L) are less common. The amphibian class is represented by one species - the green toad (Bufo viridis Laurenti). 27 species of animals are listed in the Red Book of the Republic of Kazakhstan (4 species of mammals, 12 - birds, 11 - invertebrates), and the snow leopard (Uncia uncia) in the International Red Book (IUCN). The list of species from the Red Book of the Republic of Kazakhstan includes mammals: snow leopard (Uncia uncia Sch), Tien Shan brown bear (Ursus arctos L.), Turkestan lynx (Lynx lynx L), stone marten (Martes foina Erxl); birds: Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetus L), Bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus L), Black stork (Ciconia nigra L), Barbary falcon (Falco pelegrinoides Temm.), sickbill (Ibidorhyncha struthersii Vigors), Himalayan vulture (Gyps himalaensis Bubo, L.), Blue whistling thrush (Myophonus coeruleus Sco), Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus), Peregrine falcon (Falco pelegrinus), Common crane (Grus grus), Demoiselle crane (Anthropoides vigro), invertebrates: Turkomilax tzvvetkovi, Turcomilax turcestanus, Shnitnikov’s pseudonapeus (Pseudonapeus schnitnikovi), Bradibaena sinisrosa, Callisthenes semenovi, Saga pedo, Dorcadion grande, Parnassius patricium, Parnassius boedromius two-point chylocorus Chilocorus bipustulatus, and Cordulegaster insignis.

The territory of the Almaty Biosphere Reserve is located in the mountainous and highland parts of the Zailiysky Alatau. According to zoogeographic zoning, this territory belongs to the Central Asian subregion, the Mountain-Asian province, the Dzungar-Tien Shan district. Zailiysky Alatau is one of the most saturated regions of Kazakhstan in terms of species diversity of animals, second only to Altai. The reserve covers all the main mountain ecosystems inherent in the northern Tien Shan. The following main types of ecosystems can be distinguished on the territory of the biosphere reserve:

Alpine nival-rock belt 3100 (3200) m. For many cryophytes, the line of eternal snows is the upper limit of their distribution. However, single species of flowering plants cross this critical boundary for most plants, penetrating the landscape. Actually, in the area of glaciers there are Cerastium lithospermifolium, Saxifraga oppositifolia, S. flagellaris, Draba oreades, Sibbaldia tetrandra, Poa relaxa, Waldcheimia tridactylites, Thylacospermum caespitosum, Oxygraphis glacialis, Erysimum altaicum, Melandrium apetalum, Carex nigricans. Some of these species are mainly confined to moraines. The rest are found mainly among rocks and stony placers.

Mountain meadow and meadow-steppe alpine zone 2700 (2750) -3100 (3150) m are mainly represented by cryophytic vegetation. The vegetation of the reserve is composed of cobresia and small grass cryophytic, sometimes steppe meadows. Kobresia meadows are distributed mainly on the slopes of more or less gentle and well-drained. The dominant species of this formation is always Kobresia capilliformis. This is a squat plant 10-15 cm tall. Kobresia meadows are heterogeneous and are represented by cobresia-forbs, cobresia with herbs and pure kobresia associations. The Kobresia-herb association is observed in more moistened places: depressions, depressions, hollows, slopes of the northern exposure. More humidified habitats are represented by alpine lawns, more commonly found on the northern slopes in small depressions, on passes, in small valleys. Their sizes are not large, the species composition is diverse - cereals are almost absent. Of the species encountered, Oxygraphis glacialis, Trollius altaicus), Gageae marginata, Tulipa heterophylla, Cerastium tianschanicum, Trisetum altaicum, Polygon nitens are common.

Mountain meadow and meadow steppe subalpine zone 2200 (2250) -2700 (2750) m. In this belt, juniper thickets (Juniperus pseudosabina) are confined to both northern and southern slopes, growing on alpine dark-colored peaty soils and occurring in both large impassable massifs and rather sparse areas. Mesophilic medium-grass meadows are common, found in combination with juniper thickets. Meadows are represented mainly by cuffed (Alcimilla vulgaris), geranium (Geranium saxatile, G. albiflorum) meadows, sometimes with an abundance of cereals, such as Helictotrichon pubescens, Alopecurus pratensis, etc. Cuffed and geranium phytocenoses are widespread and occupy large areas. Meadows are also represented by mixed grass formations of the mesophytic and steppe type, composed of Polygonum nitens, Alchemilla wichurae, Viola altaica, Aster alpinus, Erigerona zureus, Schultzia crinita, Euphorbia alatavica, Galium verum, Poa attenuata, Phleum phleoides, Festuca rupicola, Leontopodium leontopodioides, as well as other ordinary plants of highlands. The steppes are mainly represented by fescue phytocenoses (Festuca rupicola) and have a small distribution on the northern slopes. The southern slopes of both the alpine and subalpine zones have a completely different look: xerophytic phytocenoses from Helictotrichon tianschanicum, cobresia, sibbaldia (Sibbaldia tetrandra) dominate here.

The belt of mountain spruce forests, forest meadows and meadow steppes 1700 (1750) - 2200 (2250) m. This belt is a complex of three different types of vegetation: forest, meadow and steppe. The forest belt, in turn, consists of two types: coniferous forests and deciduous forests. Coniferous forests, reserve, are heterogeneous in their structure. Spruce forests are represented mainly by light, park-type light forest. Plots of dense forests are extremely rare. The main dominant is the Tien Shan spruce (Picea schrenkiana). The herbal type of spruce forests is widespread, characterized by a lush grass layer with a predominance of Rubus saxatilis, Polypodium vulgare, Thalictrum minus, Campanula glomerata, Solidago virgaurea, Polemonium coeruleum and other species. Along with light spruce woodlands, real spruce forests with a dense closed canopy are often found. Spruce forests are confined almost exclusively to the northern slopes of the gorges, and only in those cases when the gorge is extended in the meridional direction, forests can be found on both slopes.

The belt of mountain small-leaved forests, forest meadows, meadow steppes and xeropetrophytic steppes 1350 (1400) -1700 (1750) m. At the lower border of the spruce forest on the mountain slopes, on ancient river terraces, sometimes aspen forests can be found on pebble floodplains. They are presented locally and occupy small areas and rarely have a closed canopy. Shade-loving forest grasses settle under aspen, reaching a high crown density – Aegopodium podagraria. Under the crowns of rarefied aspen forests, meadow-steppe vegetation develops, which is similar in nature to that of the previous belt. Birch forests (Betula procurva) are also found in small fragments. These are quite dense forests with a small undergrowth of shrubs (Berberis heteropoda, Rosa beggerana), aspen (Populus tremula). The grass cover is quite sparse, but the species composition is 15-25 species of higher plants. The most common are: bluegrass (Poa stepposa), rank (Lathyrus humilis), nomad (Orobus luteus), codonopsis (Cadonopsis clematidea), hedgehog (Dactilis glomerata), chick (Aegopodium podagraria), geranium (Geranium rectum), Bupleurum longifolium, St. John's wort (Hypericum hirsutum), bump (Anthriscus sylvestris), etc.

Belt of mountain fruit forests 1200 (1250) - 1350 (1400) m. Fruit forests are represented by the Sievers apple tree (Malus sieversii). Throughout the mountain strip, apple trees are found in the form of rare single specimens or local spots of several trees. The apple tree grows both on the slopes (sometimes quite steep), and in leveled habitats. The apple tree is represented mainly by large, rather old trees (much fewer young treesApple trees are widespread along the ridge quite widely, thanks to significant aligned spaces. The grass layer in these forests is mostly high, well developed and contains the usual plants of the surrounding meadows. As a rule, cereals dominate. Among them there are Alopecurus pratensis, Dactylis glomerata. Довольно часто встречаются Polygonum songarica, P. alpina, Aconitum septentrionale, Tanacetum boreali, Companula glomerata, Ligusticum discolor, Urtica dioica, Bupleurum longifolium, Veronica parphyriana. Так же встречаются степные виды (Pheum phleoides, Festuca ganeschinii, Galium verum) and others.

Belt of the steppes (1000-1200 m). Steppes occupy both the slopes of the mountains and intermountain valleys. The most widespread on the northern slopes and in the valleys are grass-fescue and grass-red-feather grass (Stipa zalesskyi, Festuca valesiaca, Poa stepposa, Lathyrus pratensis, Thalictrum minus, Galium boreale) steppes, often in combination with rosaries (Rosa) plathyacant. There are sections of ovtsovy (Helictotrichon desertorum) steppes. When moving to the southern rocky slopes, the grass stand becomes thinner and acquires a different look. Petrophytes (Sedum hybridum, Stipa caucasica, Ziziphora bungeana, Patrinia intermedia) and shrubs are abundant here. The most common shrubs are Spiraea hypericifolia, Cotoneaste rmelanocarpaи Lonicera microphylla. The grass-feather grass steppes on chernozems are replaced by dry mountain tyrs steppes with a predominance of Stipa capillata. Other feather grass species (Stipa lessingiana, S. kirghisorum) also participate in the addition of tyrse steppes. At the lowest hypsometric levels, deserted wormwood-turf-grass-steppes prevail (Festuca valesiaca, Artemisia sublessingiana). In Kazakhstan, during the development of virgin lands, the total destruction of the plain steppes, especially grass-feather grass and dry fescue-feather grass occurred. In this regard, the preservation of their mountain counterparts in the designed park is of great importance.

Almaty BR is an extremely important natural complex for the conservation of biodiversity of the Northern Tien Shan. About 1,000 species of higher plants are protected in the reserve, including: 5 endemics to the Trans-Ili Alatau, 16 to the Northern Tien Shan, 23 to the East and 50 to endemic to the Tien Shan range. More than 50 species are rare, 26 of them are included in the Red Book of Kazakhstan. The exact number of protected animal species has not yet been established (about 2,300 species are known), given the enormous diversity it can be assumed that there are about 6,000 species of animals in the reserve. The range of many plants and animals extends beyond Kazakhstan. The reserve also preserves a unique genetic fund: plants with useful properties (fodder, food, medicinal, decorative, etc., at least 60) and animals of resource value (objects of hunting, fur, medicinal, etc.). For more than 70 years, geologists, geologists, soil scientists, botanists, zoologists and other specialists of research institutions have been conducting their research in the reserve. A large and constant research work is carried out by the scientific staff of the reserve. Before the organization of the reserve, cattle were grazed in mountain meadows, wild animals were hunted, and timber was harvested in spruce forests, which led to significant changes in the natural complexes of Zailiysky Alatau. As a result of the organization of the reserve on its territory, natural ecosystems began to be restored. So in the protected area the cattle erosion of the slopes almost disappeared, the vegetation cover is restored and spruce renewal has improved, the number of animals has become close to the natural number.

Soil map Almaty BR

Soil map

According to the system of categories of protected areas of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Almaty Biosphere Reserve is included in the first category (1a) - “A strictly protected natural reserve - the surface of the earth and / or a piece of sea with unique or typical ecosystems, geological or physiological features and / or species suitable primarily for research and / or environmental monitoring. ”

The reserve provides a fairly complete vertical profile of the natural zones of Zailiysky Alatau, and the lowlands and foothills belt belong to the transit zone. This shows the high representativeness of the reserve's territory. In addition, apricot groves grow on the lands of the buffer zone (the Red Book species, a relative of cultivated varieties and valuable breeding material), which are absent in the reserve, there are relict iron tree curtains (Celtis caucasica).

Almaty BR has ecological walking tours with a total length of 26.6 km. All routes are equipped with full houses, billboards and warning full houses. Ecological paths of the reserve satisfy the cognitive needs of tourists, meet the requirements for walks and relaxation. Tours are accompanied by employees of the reserve, strict compliance with the rules of conduct and safety is ensured. For each trail, an approximate maximum permissible load is determined. There are 3 walking ecological trails in the reserve - “Left Talgar”, “Right Talgar” and “Issyk Lake”, which are visited annually by no more than 500 people. Ecotropes are equipped with viewing platforms and parking lots. There are information houses. Routes run mainly along field roads along the border of the reserve and the protected zone. Much attention is paid to scientific and educational excursions for students of schools and colleges in Talgar, Enbekshikazakh districts and Almaty, which are designed to get acquainted with the sights of wildlife on the ecotropes of the reserve.

In order to get acquainted with biodiversity, the landscape in the reserve there is a museum of nature, which contains more than 3,000 exhibits representing the nature of the whole Almaty region.

Currently, the main scientific and technical support on the territory of the BR is provided by the staff of the Almaty State Nature Reserve. Within the framework of state programs for the development of the system of national protected areas, the material and technical base was strengthened and numerous training seminars were held to prepare a management plan, monitor biodiversity, train state inspectors in the preparation of protocols, comply with safety and firefighting rules, and business trips were organized to exchange experiences in the biosphere reserve Korgalzhyn, Aksu-Zhabagly, Altyn-Emeld, Karatau, etc. Every year, the administration of the Almaty BR holds various festivals and competitions (March of parks, a bird festival, children's art contests, etc.).

The potential of the region is primarily associated with the development of animal husbandry and crop production, as well as ecological and recreational tourism. On a regional scale, the experience of developing eco-recreational tourism in the territory of the BR can be successfully used in other parts of Kazakhstan, as well as in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. It is close to the reserve of two large cities (Almaty and Taldykorgan), and the largest Kazakhstan financial, economic and cultural center (Almaty) is a metropolis with a well-developed tourist infrastructure (international airport, bus and train stations, hotels, travel agencies , a network of food points, etc.), which gives the potential opportunity to Kazakhstani and foreign tourists for a comfortable stay upon arrival in the region of South-East and South Kazakhstan. Currently, tourism services in the territory of the BR (settlements in the cooperation zone) are developing dynamically. This is mainly due to the development of small and medium-sized businesses with the provision of additional services to tourists by the local population (the organization of guest houses and small hotels and tourist camps, horse riding, etc.) with the sale of food from their own household and local souvenirs.