Status and Trends of Biodiversity
Turkmenistan is a newly independent neutral state situated in the western part of Central Asia. There are over 100 ethnic groups but 90% of the population is Turkmen. More than half of the population lives in rural areas and nearly 40% of the labour force is involved in agricultural production. Though desert ecosystems occupy the majority of the country (80%), Turkmenistan possesses a rich and unique biological diversity that includes the characteristics of three large floristic provinces: the Kopetdago-Horasan (Kopetdag, Greater and Lesser Balhans), the Montane Central Asian (Kugitang) and Turan (Karakum) with the transitional region of Badkhyz and Karabil.
Some ecosystems remain relatively uninfluenced by Man’s activities, representing great potential for sustainable use. Turkmenistan possesses high biodiversity. More than 20,000 species have been identified, of which 7,064 are higher and lower plants and about 13,000 are vertebrates and invertebrates. Vertebrates include 115 fishes, 5 amphibians, 82 reptiles, 376 birds and 104 mammals. There is a large number of rare species and relict habitats with a high degree of endemism that are characteristic of ancient arid ecosystems (for instance, the level of endemism in the Kopetdag is 16%). Of the 393 rare plant species, 370 are found in the mountains including 255 that are endemic. There are 100 endemic or rare species in the lichen flora of Turkmenistan.
Representatives of Turkmenistan’s flora and fauna are of great significance for the development of such branches of the economy as local medicinal, perfume and food industries, as well as hunting, fishing, agriculture, etc. The number of flora and fauna species involved in the system of economic consumption is increasing. The main threats to biodiversity are habitat loss, invasive alien species, pollution and over-exploitation of biological resources.
Number and Extent of Protected Areas
The total area of protected areas of all categories is 1,978,300 ha or 4.02% of the whole territory of the country. There are 250 registered natural monuments, of which only 17 have official legal status.