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Kazakhstan - Country Profile

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Status and Trends of Biodiversity


Kazakhstan, with its vast territory almost the size of Western Europe, is endowed with an enormous diversity of mountain ecological systems due to the high altitude zones. It has a great diversity of natural conditions, ecosystems and species. Four major ecological systems can be defined: forest (2% of country), steppe (28%), desert (32%), and mountain (7%). The rest is pastures (8%), fallow lands (4%), and agriculture land. Over 6 000 species of higher vascular plants, 5 000 species of mushrooms, 485 species of lichens, 2 000 species of sea weeds, 178 mammal species, 489 bird species, 12 amphibian species, and 104 fish species can be found in Kazakhstan. Mushrooms have very high endemism with 3 endemic genus and 124 endemic species. Fossil flora and fauna are also very rich: the Chu-Iliski mountains contain the oldest fossils discovered on Earth – 420 million years –and are an important witness to earth’s flora beginnings. Many species are endangered, mostly due to habitat destruction and hunting. The Red Data Book of Kazakhstan lists 125 species of vertebrates (15%), 96 species of invertebrate, 287 species of higher plants (4.8%), and 85 species of insects. Rare hoofed animals, despite the improved quality of protection, are still declining, and the situation is generally critical for many species. These include the Tran Caspian argali (ovis vignel argali), the Kazakhstan argali (ovis ammon collium), saigas (antelopes) and gazelles. Poaching is the main cause of this rapid decline. It comes either from poor local communities with little choice for food, but also from better off groups and senior officials.

Number and Extent of Protected Areas

Protected areas currently cover 14.8 million ha, or 5.44% of land surface in Kazakhstan. They consist of 9 natural reserves, 4 national parks, 60 reserve plots, 24 nature memorials of the republican jurisdiction, 3 zoological parks, 5 botanical gardens, several dendrological parks, 3 water lands recognized to be of international importance in accordance with the Ramsar Convention, and 150 water cavities that have state significance. The best-represented ecosystems are the mountains (The Aksu-Dzhabagly and Alamatinsky reserves). The steppe lakes ecosystems are less well represented (Kurgaldzhinski and Nurzumskyi), but the worst represented ecosystems are the desert and semi-desert, which cover more than half of the territory of Kazakhstan. Only a small part of the diversity of the desert ecological system is represented in the Ustyurtskyi and Barsakelmeskyi reserves.

National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan

Major features of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

Recognizing Kazakhstan’s special place in the global context to conserve biodiversity, the republic developed an NBSAP in 1998, and decided to incorporate its targets in the national Development Strategy for the Republic of Kazakhstan up to the year 2030. The main objective of the national strategy is to conserve biological diversity and to achieve economic gains through the balanced use of its components. This of course includes biodiversity restoration. Although many species, especially those on the endangered list, are well represented and protected in some areas, like the vertebrates in the mountainous ecosystems, many species, whether on the Red List or not, fall outside the national reserves network. And since degradation, mostly due to human activity, occurred in over 60% on the republic’s territory, many actions are to be implemented to address this situation. The most important step will be to more than double the surface of existing reserves, by adding 13 new ones.

The main objectives of the National Strategy are to assess the status and trends of biodiversity, to promote the In-Situ conservation of biodiversity, to account for and assess socio-economical benefits of biodiversity, to allow additional resources to the genetic fund that helps achieve national biological security, the development of a national legal framework, the reduction of dangers affecting biodiversity, ecological restoration on infringed ecosystems, and the promotion, through awareness campaigns, of the sustainable use of biodiversity by local populations.

Implementation of the Convention

Measures Taken to Achieve the 2010 Target

Besides the planned increase in protected areas, 2010 targets have been incorporated in national plans. The Programme for Conservation and Restoration of Rare and Threatened Species of Wild Hoofed Animals and Saigas for 2005-2007 is a good example. Priority plans and actions target rare and threatened species. These include population monitoring, legislative decrees, programme of action for protected areas creation and transboundary species monitoring. The government wants to establish economic and regulatory mechanisms to provide government support to local biodiversity-based farms and enterprises. To reduce habitat loss, Kazakhstan has developed a three-phase plan (2005-1015) to combat desertification. These phases are as follows: inventory and identification of sensitive areas, monitoring, international environmental conventions implementation and the integration of measures to combat desertification into social and economic development of the country.

Initiatives in Protected Areas

Establishing natural reserves is a long-standing tradition in Kazakhstan, the republic having the oldest natural territory in the region: Aksu-Dzhabagly, created in 1926. It Is worthy to note that of all the different types of protected areas, only the reserves offer strict and full biodiversity protection, making them suitable for long term and multi-profile studies. All reserves have mandatory ‘Nature annals’, in which major indicators on the position of all components of protected ecological systems are recorded. However, as the 9 reserves represent only 0.3% of the territory of Kazakhstan, their national importance in biodiversity protection is limited. Kazakhstan has goals to increase the size of presently protected areas by 1 million ha, and to add new reserves totaling 2.24 million ha, bringing the country total to 17,490,000 ha or 6.4% of land cover. Kazakhstan is also proposing a series of protected areas on the Ural, Arys, Keles and Tokraun rivers to protect and ensure the sustainable use of rare and threatened species of fish (like the Sturgeon in the Caspian Sea). Four main indicators are used to monitor target achievement: percentage of protected areas, coverage of key biodiversity areas, territory representation and coverage of nationally and globally significant species.

Initiatives for Article 8(j)

Despite the rich ethnic heritage of Kazakhstan, there are no legal guidelines for recognizing and determining traditional local communities. Their knowledge and practices were mostly lost already during the Soviet time and have not been restored after gaining independence. However, one of the objectives of the NBSAP is: ‘The identification of traditional dependence of local population on conservation and rational use of biological diversity including agrobiodiversity, for the purpose of satisfying the population needs in food, health, fuel-construction, raw material, business, technical, recreation, and other resources’.

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  • United Nations Environment Programme