Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Djanbas Kala



Ruines formidables d'une vaste forteresse Djanbas Kala ayant fonctionné du 1er siècle av. J.-C. au IVe siècle. Inscrit au patrimoine mondial de l'UNESCO ces forteresses furent la résidence des rois de Khorezm. La forteresse a été construite avec de solides murs massifs en briques d'argile séchées à l'air et selon un plan prédéterminé de trois ensembles : un espace cultuel avec en son centre un foyer circulaire zoroastrien, un fort surélevé servant de centre administratif et d'une vaste cour rectangulaire en contre bas destinées aux habitations et aux caravanes. Ceinturé de remparts, aujourd'hui cette forteresse est en ruine. Ces forteresse du dèsert de Kizil Koum s'étendaient dans une zone autrefois cultivée et boisée. Elles ont été ravagées en 1220 par Gengis Khan.

Source: http://sheherazade-voyages.fr/noukous

Земля и вода - бесценное богатство Узбекистана (Land and Water - Precious Resources for Uzbekistan)

Credit : ZEF - UNESCO Source: http://www.zef.de/index.php?id=1796

Земля и вода - бесценное богатство Узбекистана (Russian) 21:47


 Land and Water - Precious Resources for Uzbekistan  (English) 21:51

Video: Kyzylkum desert. The nature of Uzbekistan.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Zoroastrian Ruins in Karakalpakstan (Monumentos Zoroastristas de Karakalpakstán)


Photo: Chilpyk Kala - Tower of Silence  (Credit: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/62366723)

1. 'Zoroastrian monuments in Qoralqalpogiston. Ancient Khorezm sights' 8:43 (English) Go to Zoroastrian Ruins

Karakalpakstan and Khorezm (north west of Uzbekistan) the core territory of ancient Khwarezm is believed to be the birthplace of the Zoroastrian religion and has the richest area of Zoroastrian settlements, fortresses and temples in the whole of Central Asia. These include the magnificent ruins of the Mizdakhan with its huge necropolis (4th c BC), the settlement site Gyaur-Kala (4th c BC - 4th c BC), the dakhma ‘tower of silence’ and ossuary burial site of Chilpyk-Kala (4th c. BC - 11th c. BC), the ancient settlement of Toprak-Kala (1st c - 4th c) and the burial and astral cult site of Koy-Krylgan-Kala (4th c BCE - 4th c BC).













Photo Credit: Mizdakhan : http://grandgeocoucou.com/2013/09/09/le-journal/

 2. 'Monumentos Zoroastristas de Karakalpakstán. Curiosidades de Khorezm'. 8:28 (Spanish) Go to Monumentos Zoroastristas


En el oeste de Uzbekistán, en el antiguo Khorezm, se han conservado numerosos monumentos de la época del zoroastrismo - las ruinas de antiguos asentamientos y muros de fortalezas zoroastrianas, construidas de pahsa (arcilla). Los más grandes de ellos son: citania Mizdahkan (s.IV adC) y su gran necrópolis, fortaleza Gyaur Kala (s.IV adC -- s. IV dC), dakhma Chilpik Kala (s. IV adC -- s. XI dC). El lugar ceremonial de los zoroastristas de entierro en osarios, el antiguo asentamiento Toprak-Kala (ss. I-IV dC) y el monumento funerario y de culto astral del zoroastrismo -- Koy-Krylgan- Kala (s. IV adC -- s. IV dC).

Also see Golden Ring of Ancient Khorezm

http://karakalpak-karakalpakstan.blogspot.com.au/2011/06/golden-ring-of-ancient-khorezm.html

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Northern Deserts of Central Asia

Introduction

The Central Asian Northern Desets are a mosaic of clay, stone, salt and sand and together with the Central Asian southern desert, supports the highest level of biological richness of all Eurasian deserts. The region is populated by middle Asian and north Caucasus species and is closer in nature to the Turanian subtropical realm. The area is dominated by rarefied semi-shrub communities formed by the perennial saltworts (Chenopodiacea) and sagebrushes (Artemisia spp.). Northern Turanian or Kazakhstanian species of plants are the dominant flora. Two prominent small mammals in this ecoregion are jerboa and gerbil. The latter digs deep burrows which become critical for vegetation growth. Rare but still found are the goitered gazelle, marbled polecat, saxaul jay, Asian desert sparrow, and Houbara bustard.

Location and General Description


Photo: Usturt Plateau

The Northern Desert includes the Kazakh territory of Mangyshlak, the central part of the Ustyurt plateau (including a large part of the territory of Karakalpakstan) streatching across again into Kazakhstan and the northern and southern areas near Balkhash Lake. The northern deserts are distinguished the following climatic parameters: total solar radiation 130-140 kilocalories (kkal) per square centimeter (cm2) and the radiating balance 45 - 50 kcal./cm2. The mean temperature in January is –10 to -15oC and in July from 24 to 26oC.

The precipitation is distributed evenly across seasons with some increase observed in the spring. The quantity of precipitation compounds 100-150 millimeters (mm) per one year (for separate years up to 200mm). The influence of the Asian anticyclone begins to develop in this territory.

The relief of the Northern Desert is varied in form and origin. Low littoral plains near the Caspian Sea, arid denudational plateaus (northern part of Ustyurt and western part of Betpakdala), stony plains, and melkosopochnik - a highly eroded plateau (Mangyshlak, eastern part of Betpakdala and northern part near Balkhash Lake) are represented here. There are also sandy deserts (Muyunkum), and sandy regions near the northern part of Aral Sea and near Balkhash Lake. These vast areas are composed of the clay alluvial and alluvial-delta plains found in the lower reaches of the Chu, Ili and Emba rivers.

Perennial saltworts predominate in the Northern deserts. Species that prevail on clay soils of the region include Anabasis salsa, Salsola orientalis, and sagebrushes such as artemisia terrae albae, A. turanica, and A. gurganica to the west. The plant communities from Salsola arbusculae formis and Nanophyton erinaceum are typical in stony soils. Typical for sandy soils are psammophitic semi-shrubs such as Ceratoides papposa, Artemisia terrae albae, var. massagetovii, A. santolina, and A. songarica, and shrubs such as Calligonum aphyllum, Ephedra lomatolepis and psammophitic grasses (Agropyron fragile).

The spring flora of ephemers and ephemeroids aren’t as richly represented in the northern desert as in the southern deserts, however the colorful tulips (Tulipa greigii, T. albertii) decorate these areas in some years. The halophytic succulent semi-shrubs such as Halimione verrucifera, Kalidium folitum, K. Schrenkianum, anc Halocnemum strobilaceum, and annual saltworts (species of Petrosimonia, Climacoptera, Suaeda) dominate on solonchaks. Spireanthus schrenkianus (relic of Tertiary time) is
a rare plant growing in the central area of Betpakdala. It is associated with a specific community of species peculiar to chink ecosystems found in Mangyshlak, Ustyurt Plateau, and Ili depressions.

Biodiversity Features

The most common northern desert mammals are the long-eared hedgehog (Erinaceus auritus), long-quilled hedgehog (Piracohinus hypomelas), and tolai hare (Lepus tolai). Yellow gopher (suslik) is characteristic of the clay desert and feeds on the ephemeral plants. A variety of rodents such as gerbils (Rhombomys, Meriones), and more than ten species of jerboas (Allactaga, Dipus, Paradipus, Eremodipus, Stylodipus) are found here. Both gerbils and jerboas play an important role in the biological functioning of the clay desert. Numerous, deep burrows by the gerbils are critical for vegetation growth. Both form a significant part of the diet of nocturnal predators such as owl, steppe ferret (Mustela eversmanni) and corsac fox (Vulpes corsac). Endemic jerboas include the selevinia (Selevinia betpakdalensis), comb-toed jerboa (Paradipus ctenodactylus), and the three-toed and five-toed dwarf jerboas (Salpingotus heptneri, salpingotus pallidus, Cardiocranius). Also endemic are representatives of several mammalian genera (e.g., Diplomesodon, Spermophilopsis, Pyderethmus, Allactodipus, Eremodipus).

Saiga (Saiga tatarica) were once quite common throughout these deserts, coming here for winter periods. Their population size has been significantly reduced however. The goitered gazelle or djeiran (Gazella subgutturosa subgutturosa) and marbled polecat (Vormela peregusna) are also rare and endangered. First attempts to reintroduce Asiatic wild ass (kulan) (Equus hemionus) were undertaken here in the 1980s. Until only recently, there was a chance that cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) continued to survive in some parts of this ecoregion.

Photo: Saiga http://www.fauna-flora.org/explore/kazakhstan/

Larger birds of the ecoregion include the houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata), black-bellied and pin-tailed sandgrouse (Pterocles alcata, P. orientalis), cream-colored courser (Cursorius cursor), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetus), short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus), steppe eagle, (Aquila rapax), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), and saker falcon (Falco cherrug). Among the more common bird species are wheatears (Oenanthe isabellina, O. deserti), desert warbler (Sylvia nana), the desert lark (Ammomanes deserti), desert raven (Corvus ruficollis), and desert shrike (Lanius excubitor). Pander’s ground jay or saxaul jay (Podoces panderi) is a rare and unusual member of the crow family. Asian desert sparrow (Passer zarudnyi) is also rare. Houboara bustard is one of the most endangered bird species in this region. It migrates from Saudi Arabia through Iran and Pakistan to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. It is threatened by elite hunters who spend large amounts of money for the opportunity to hunt it.

The list of desert reptiles includes a number of species of toad agamas, namely: Khentau toad agama (Phrynocephalus rossikowi), Molchanov's toad agama (P. moltschanovi), Strauch's toad agama (P. strauchi), spotted toad agama (P. maculatus), Sogdian toad agama (P. sogdianus), Said-Aliev's toad agama (P. helioscopus saidalievi). Other reptiles include gekkos (Alsophylax pipiens, A. laevis), Rustamov's skink gekko (Teratoscincus scincus rustamovi), Chernov's snake-lizard (Ophimorus chernovi), Ferghana sand lizard (Eremias scripta pherganensis), black-eyed lizard (Eremias nigrocellata), gray monitor (Varanus griseus), Afghan lytorhynch (Lytorhynchus ridgewayi), four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata), and the cobra (Naja naja oxiana). The invertebrate fauna of the sandy deserts is especially rich, represented by species such as grasshoppers, darkling beetles, scarabaeid beetles, butterflies, termites and ants.

The main anthropogenic threats are agriculture, hunting and poaching, and overuse of woody plants for firewood. Overgrazing of livestock is the main threat in non-irrigated areas. Biodiversity in the deserts of this region are adversely affected by desertification and localalised degradation of soils. Irrigated agriculture in marginal lands has significantly accelerated wind erosion and salinisation of soils.

References:

• Borodin, A. M., editor. 1985. Krasnaya Kniga USSR: Redkie i nokhodyashchiesya pod ygrozoi uschesnoveniya vidy zhivonykh i rastenii. Moscow: Lesnaya Promyshennost.

• German, V. B., A. L. Zatoka, E. Y. Shubenkina, and V. P.Shubenkin. 1990. Kaplankyr zapovednik. Pages 141-149 in V. E. Sokolov, editor. Zapovedniki of the USSR, Volume 6., Moscow.

• Ismagilov, M. I., L. A. Kuznetsov, and V. L. Rashek. 1990. Zapovednik barsa-Kelmes. Pages 42-56 in V. E. Sokolov, editor. Zapovedniki of the USSR, Volume 6., Moscow..

• Kovshar, A. F. 1990. Usturtskii zapovednik. Pages 30-41 in V. E. Sokolov, editor. Zapovedniki of the USSR, Volume 6., Moscow.

• Krever, V., O. Pereladova, M. Williams, and H. Jungius. 1998. Biodiversity conservation in central Asia: An analysis of biodiversity and current threats and initial investment portfolios. World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF), Washington DC.

• Lavrenko, E. M. 1962. Osnovnye cherty botanicheskoi geographii pustyn Evrasii Severnoi Africi, Moskow-Leningrad Izdatelstvo. Academii Nauk, SSSR.

• Pereladova, O., V. Krever and M. Williams. 1997. Biodiversity Conservation in Central Asia. Moscow. ISBN: 1559636084

• Rachkovskaya, E. I. 1995. Kazakhstan semi-deserts and melkosopochnik. Vegetation Map of Kasakhstan and Middle Asia. Scale 1:2 500 000. Komarov Botanic Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Sankt Peterburg.

• Suslov, S. P. 1961. Physical geography of Asiatic Russia. W. H. Freeman, San Francisco. ISBN: 0199248028

• Syroechkovskii. E. E. 1990. Zapovedniks of central Asia and Kazakhstan. In V. E. Sokolov, editor. Zapovedniki of the USSR, Volume 6., Moscow. ISBN: 5244004964

Southern Deserts of Central Asian

Introduction
The Southern Deserts of Central Asia make up the richest desert complex in Eurasia and encompass the majority of Turkmenistan and central Uzbekistan. The southern deserts stretch from the eastern Caspian coast (to the west) to the middle current of Syr Darya (to the east) and to the foothills of the Central Asian mountains. The southern deserts include the Caspian coastal plains, the southern part of Ustyurt Plateau, Krasnovodsk Plateau, Kara Kum sandy deserts, and the southern part of Kyzyl Kum sandy desert.

They are distinguished from the northern deserts in that they are warmer with more seasonal rainfall which encourages the growth of ephemerals. Also the plant species have a much stronger Irano-Turanian character than the deserts to the north. Sand acacia communities with their accompanying biological richness are much more abundant in the southern deserts.

Precipitation is greatest during the winter and spring while the average temperature and degree of aridity are higher than in the northern deserts. Consequently plants and animals in the region have developed certain physiological mechanisms to help them survive the combination of extremely cold winter temperatures and blistering hot summers.


Photo: Sand Cat (Feliz Margarita)

Reptile and rodent diversity are particularly high. Along with several endemic jerboa species, this ecoregion is home to rare and endangered cats such as Pallas’ cat and the small, secretive sand cat.

General Description

The characteristic feature of the climate of the Southern deserts is the considerable heat supply generated by the average annual temperature (day/night~+16º C) which is considerably higher than in the northern deserts. The pattern of precipitation is typical of the Mediterranean region at 125-170 mm with most falling during winter, spring and partly autum. Rains almost never occur in the middle of summer, causing a prolonged summer pause in almost all biotic activity. Winters are mild with the average temperature in January being –1 to 5º C. In the southern deserts a prolonged snow cover rarely occurs. Shorter duration snows are possible from the middle of December to the end of February.

Sands occupy large areas in the Southern Deserts. Two great Central Asian deserts, the Kara Kum and Kyzyl Kum, are both located here. In addition to the denuded, arid plateau (Ustyurt) and low alluvial and delta-alluvial plains of Amu Darya, the Tedzhen, Murghab, and Zeravshan rivers are also found in the eco region. There are some low mountains (760-920 m) on Paleozoic rocks in the Kysyl Kum. The elevated, inclined foothill plains are typically in the south while low solonchak plains occupy the Caspian coast and depressions.

The southern deserts are distinguished from the northern deserts by changes in the structure of dominant plant species and an increase in the diversity of ephemeroids and ephemers. This difference is connected to a mild winter and early spring in the Southern Deserts. The green aspect of ephemers (Bromus spp., Malcolmia spp., Koelpinia spp., Amberboa spp.) and ephemeroids (Eremurus spp., Rheum spp., Tulipa spp., Gagea spp.) dominates in March and April. By the end of May these plants finish their annual growth as the summer there is no precipitation.

The community structure of desert vegetation is closely associated with edaphic conditions. White saxaul (Haloxylon persicum) and black saxaul (Haloxylon aphyllum) occupy large areas on the sands. Saxaul is a high shrub (3-10 m). There are many endemic species found in sand the regions typical of the Southern Deserts (e.g., Salsola richteri, S. subaphylla, Ephedra strobilacea Ferula foetida). Sandy acacia (Ammodendron conollyi) grows on barkhans (sand-hills). In this region a diversity of shrub species such as Calligonum leucocladum, C. eriopodum, and C. setosum is great.

White salsola (Salsola arbuscula) and sagebrushe communities with a number of endemic species (Artemisia kemrudica, A. diffusa, A. dimoana, A. arenicola, Mausolea eriocarpa) are widespread on thin sandy soils and loamy sands. Endemic Astragalus vilosissimus and shrub bindweed (Convolvulus hammada) are characteristic for the east part of region. The perennial saltworts (Salsola gemmascens, S. orientalis) dominate on clay soils. Halophytic, succulent semishrubs such as Halostachys caspica, Halocnemum strobilaceum, Suaeda microphylla, and Salsola dendroides, grow on solonchaks.

Biodiversity Features

The fauna of deserts is characterized by a high degree of endemism. Especially rich is the fauna of sandy deserts. Among insects, the characteristic groups include grasshoppers, darkling beetles, scarabaeid beetles, butterflies, termites, and ants. The majority of Reptile species being autochthonous and belong to the core of the Central Asian herpetofauna.
 
The most common desert mammals are the long-eared hedgehog (Erinaceus auritus), long-quilled hedgehog (Piracohinus hypomelas), and tolai hare (Lepus tolai). A variety of rodents such as gerbils (Rhombomys spp., Meriones spp.), and more than ten species of jerboas (Allactaga, Dipus, Paradipus, Eremodipus, Stylodipus) also live here. The characteristic components of desert ecosystems are such rare and disappearing mammal species as the honey badger (Mellivora capensis), sand lynx (Felis caracal), sand cat (Felis margarita), onager (Equus hemionus), goitered gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), and marbled polecat (Vormela peregusna).

Photo: Comb-toed Jeroba  

Endemics include the desert dormouse (Selevinia betpakdalensis), comb-toed jerboa (Paradipus ctenodactylus), three-toed and five-toed dwarf jerboas (Salpingotus heptneri, S. pallidus). Also endemic are several mammalian genera, such as Diplomesodon, Spermophilopsis, Pyderethmus, Allactodipus, Eremodipus and many others. Rare cats include Pallas’ cat (Otocolobus manul), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) which is extinct from the ecoregion, and the small sand cat which is restricted to dune areas with saxaul tree.

Photo: Houbara Buzzard

The common birds are larks (Calandrella spp., Galerida spp.), wheatears (Oenanthe isabellina, O. deserti), desert warbler (Sylvia nana), desert lark (Ammomanes deserti), desert raven (Corvus ruficollis), saksaul jay (Podoces panderi), desert shrike (Lanius excubitor), and desert sparrow (Paser simplex). Larger birds include the houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata), black-bellied and pin-tailed sandgrouse (Pterocles alcata, P. orientalis), cream-colored courser (Cursorius cursor), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetus), short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus), steppe eagle (Aquila rapax), Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus), and saker falcon (Falco cherrug). Pander’s ground jay or saxaul jay (Podoces panderi) is a rare and unusual member of the crow family. The Asian desert sparrow (Passer zarudnyi) is also rare.

Reptiles and amphibians include: Khentau toad agama (Phrynocephalus rossikowi), Molchanov's toad agama (P. moltschanovi), Strauch's toad agama (P. strauchi), spotted toad agama (P. maculatus), Sogdian toad agama (P. sogdianus), Said-Aliev's toad agama (P. helioscopus saidalievi); gekkos (Alsophylax pipiens, A. laevis), Rustamov's skink gekko (Teratoscincus scincus rustamovi), Chernov's snake-lizard (Ophiomorus chernovi), Ferghana sand lizard (Eremias scripta pherganensis), black-eyed lizard (Eremias nigrocellata), gray monitor (Varanus griseus), Afghan lytorhynch (Lytorhynchus ridgewayi), and the cobra (Naja naja oxiana).

Types and Severity of Threats

The main anthropogenic threats are agriculture-related, especially irrigated cotton production. Other significant threats include hunting and poaching, and the overuse of woody plants for firewood and silk production. Overgrazing of livestock occurs in non-irrigated areas. Unregulated roads across the desert scape also threaten these especially fragile desert ecosystems.

Fauna and fauna of the sand deserts are particularly vulnerable to human disturbance. Saksaul and other trees and shrubs are cut extensively for fuel wood. It is believed that in recent decades the area covered by saksaul in Central Asia has decreased by half, leaving the topsoil prone to erosion. Species associated with saksaul are disappearing rapidly, as saksaul forests are illegally cut for heating and cooking needs. The reduction of native species has encouraged the spread of desert moss (Tortula desertorum), which provides no nutritional value for wildlife and prevents the re-seeding of higher forms of native plants.

References:

Borodin, A.M., editor. 1985. Krasnaya Kniga USSR: Redkie i nokhodyashchiesya pod ygrozoi uschesnoveniya vidy zhivonykh i rastenii. Moscow: Lesnaya Promyshennost.

Golub, O.N., and I.K. Huseinov. 1990. Amudarjinskii zapovednik. Pages 175-182 in V. E. Sokolov, editor. Zapovedniki of the USSR, Volume 6., Moscow.

Krever, V., O. Pereladova, M. Williams, and H. Jungius. 1998. Biodiversity conservation in central Asia: An analysis of biodiversity and current threats and initial investment portfolios. World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF), Washington DC.

Lavrenko, E.M. 1960. O Sacharo-Gobiiskoi pustynnoi botanico-geographicheskoi oblasti i ee razdelenii. Moskow-Leningrad Izdatelstvo. Academii Nauk, SSSR.

Lavrenko, E.M. 1962. Osnovnye cherty botanicheskoi geographii pustyn Evrasii Severnoi Africi, Moskow-Leningrad Izdatelstvo. Academii Nauk, SSSR.

Pereladova, O., V. Krever, and M. Williams. 1998. Biodiversity conservation in Central Asia. Moscow.

Popov, V.A., T.A. Abdreimov, and A.A. Tishkov. 1990. Zapovednik Badai-Tugai. Pages 214-224 in V.E. Sokolov, editor. Zapovedniki of the USSR, Volume 6., Moscow.

Rachkovskaya, E.I. 1995. Vegetation of Kazakhstan and Middle Asia (Desert region). Vegetation Map of Kasakhstan and Middle Asia. Scale 1:2 500 000. Komarov Botanic Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Saint Petersburg. http://www.grida.no/enrin/biodiv/

Salimov, K.V., A.F. Faiziev, and A.A. Tishkov. 1990. Zapovednik Kyzylkumskii. Pages 225-232 in V.E. Sokolov, editor. Zapovedniki of the USSR, Volume 6., Moscow.

Sokolov, V.E., G. N. Sapojnikov, and P. D. Gunin. 1990. Zapovednik Tigrovaya Balka. Pages 304-321 in V. E. Sokolov, editor. Zapovedniki of the USSR, Volume 6., Moscow.

Sokolov, V.E., S.V. Veisov, and P.D. Gunin. 1990. Repetek zapovednik. Pages 183-197 in V.E. Sokolov, editor. Zapovedniki of the USSR, Volume 6., Moscow.

Suslov, S.P. 1961. Physical geography of Asiatic Russia. W.H. Freeman, San Francisco.

Syroechkovskii. E.E. 1990. Zapovedniks of central Asia and Kazakhstan. In V.E. Sokolov, editor. Zapovedniki of the USSR, Volume 6., Moscow.

Walter, H., and E.O. Box. 1983. The Karakum Desert, an example of a well-studied EU-biome. Pages 56-89 in N.E. West, editor. Ecosystems of the world 5: Temperate deserts and semi-deserts. Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, New York.

Source: http://www.worldwildlife.org/ecoregions/pa1312