Climate & Environment Guide
Table of contents:
The Central Asia historic spaces covers the Caspian and Aral seas, the vast desert lands of Karakum and Kyzyl Kum, limitless Kazakh steppes, gorgeous ice covered mountains of Tien Shan, Pamir, Alai, Altai and the vital rivers of Amu Darya, Syr Darya, Ural, Irtysh. Forming the five countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan (having total around 72 million people).
The lowlands areas (mainly Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan), have the vast spaces of steppes, semi-desert or desert zones. This climate patterns include Tashkent, Samarkand, Ashgabat, Dushanbe. Open and unprotected by large water basins, the temperature fluctuations are fast and severe, with hot long summers and cool or sometimes cold winters. In the most areas, the climate is dry and continental, with semi-arid or arid zones.
The main precipitation period starting in March – April, some part of May. The completely dry season from June – July – August, with average temperatures close to or above 40 C, rarest rain may happen as a great surprise. The renewed precipitation, restart end of September – October- November. The warm temperatures return in September, becoming cool and finally cold in November. The rare snowfalls in the winter, with average temperatures 0 C – 5 C, some years with drop to minus 10 or minus 15 C in Karakum or Kyzyl Kum desert areas. The coldest area is in Kazakh open steppes reaching minus 30 C or minus 40 C. Starting from Nowruz (Spring) Holiday in end of March 21, the nature wake up from the winter sleep, upbringing warm and caressing temperatures, showing its dance of colors with green valleys, flowers of red, blue, yellow, white and many other are in full bloom. The best time of year. In the beginning, the temperatures are around 10 -15 C, reaching in May 30-35 C warm.
The highlands areas (Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, partly Kazakhstan, and a little part of Uzbekistan) have the glaciers and permafrost zones, feeding all main rivers of the Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan high mountains has the moderate climate zone, above 2000m elevations receiving heavy rainfall, but in general, the country has drought trends. Tajikistan half of the country is about on 3000 m elevations or above, having subtropical and semi-arid regions. The average annual precipitation across highly mountainous Tajikistan is around 500 mm, through spring and early summer. Uzbekistan has less than half as much. Heavy winds prevail in the region, mainly across the plain spaces, leading in dust storms in many areas, in summer or autumn. Floods and mudflows risks in the mountain regions are frequent, the drought are relatively common.
Central Asia ecoregion is included the Palearctic biogeographic realm. Biomes of the dry steppe grasslands, the vast deserts, the montane forests, woodland and grasslands in the high mountains region and on the plateau.
The main climate resulted factors are the remoteness from the oceans, the lowlands relief, the specifics of the atmospheric circulation in the area, the location of the mountain systems in the south and south – east. The continentality of the climate is shown in the severe daily and annual fluctuations of the temperature, high aridity of the region, low annual precipitation, dry air and rare cloudiness, intense evaporation.
The vast open and flat desert relief of the north and north- west open the atmospheric corridor from middle and high latitudes spaces, realizing the sudden temperature changes as normal. It is more expressed in the winter and early spring periods. The Kopet-Dag mountain system in the south and south-east stop the atmospheric moisture from Indian ocean.
The main winds:
Winter period: about 60-70 % of the winds in winter and cold periods are arriving from the north and northeast of the country (Dashoguz – Turkmenabat line) and coming to south and southeast through the country to the direction of the Caspian Sea. The Kerki area can have wind coming from Afghanistan to the direction of Mary and then along Kopet Dag mountains, around 20-30 %. (The atmospheric pressure around 1025)
Summer winds: about 25- 30 % of the winds starting from the northwest, along the Caspian sea, turning to the east along Balkan and Kopet Dag mountain ranges, before Ashgabat, it joins with the main winds coming from the north (60-70 % of winds) – central Karakums, and continue to Mary – Gushgy direction. The line Bir Ata (Gaz Achak) – Turkmenabat - Kerki have separate winds from the north and northeast coming also to Gushgy- Afghanistan direction. (The atmospheric pressure between 1002-1008)
The temperatures: Turkmenistan *note: the temperatures between the regions may differ 2- 5 C
+9 C / +3 C
-5 C/ -9 C
+8 C / +2 C
-10 C/ -15 C
+12 C / +7 C
-5 C / 0 C
+20 C / +10 C
+9 C / +5 C
+28 C / + 15 C
+ 11 C / + 5 C
+39 C / +25 C
+17 C/ + 12 C
+42 C / + 30 C
+ 30 C / +20 C
+48 C / +37 C
(the temperature on the surface of sands may reach +80 C)
+38 C / +25 C
+44 C / + 35 C
+ 31 C / +23 C
+35 C / +25 C
+17 C/ + 12 C
+21 C / + 17 C
+9 C / +4 C
+15 C / +10 C
+5 C / +0 C
Rainfall / Precipitation:
- Garabogaz bay region and Zaunguz Karakum sands – less than 100 mm annually
- Low Karakum desert regions – around 150 mm annually
- In the south, the foothills of Kopet Dag mountain range and in the southeast of the country – around 250 mm annually
- Kopet Dag mountains – more than 250 mm annually
The meteorology of Turkmenistan is well known. The first meteorological stations established in 1869 in Krasnovodsk (now Turkmenbashy), in 1876 in Kizyl Arvat (now Serdar). By 1917, the territory of located 24 active meteorological stations. Today, there are 56 stations and 44 posts conducting doing meteorological. The lowland of Turkmenistan is well characterized climatically. In the mountains, climate is more complex, and number of existing stations located at altitudes from 500- 1,000 m: Gushgy, Germab, Firyuza, Kuitan, two stations located from 1,000 to 2,000 m Saivan and Gaudan/ Howdan and only one above 2,000 m Kheirabad
The Air Temperatureincrease in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
(Higher by 0.6- 1.3 C, over the past 50-70 years. The number of days with temperature above 40 C increased in the southern mostly populated areas of Central Asia)
The Precipitation increase in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
(Small but increased precipitation in the semi desert low lands in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan. Winter precipitation particularly increased in Kazakhstan. Slight precipitation increase in the western Pamir and Turkistan Alay – Uzbekistan, north of Kyrgyzstan and central Tajikistan. Precipitation intensity observed in the southern and eastern parts of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan – the eastern Pamir and in the central Tien Shan of Kyrgyzstan)
The Snow increase in Kazakhstan and lower in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
(The seasonal snow covered area of the Ten Shan mountains decreased by 15 % over 20 last years)
The Climate Aridity and Desertificationincrease in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan.
The Extreme Weather Events and Climate Related Hazardsincrease in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
The Melting Ice and Permafrost increasein Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
(Glaciers cover 4 % of Kyrgyzstan, 6 % of Tajikistan. There are also in Kazakhstan and in Uzbekistan covering an area of 12,000- 14,000 square km. The frozen water reserves in the glaciers is about 1,000 cubic km, the equivalent of 10 years water flowing down in Amu Darya and Syr Darya. Melt water from snow, glacier and permafrost supplies around 80 % of the total river runoff in central Asia. Today’s rate of glacier melt in Central Asia is around 0.2- 1 % per year. The permafrost temperature increased by 0.3-0.6 C, over last three decades. The glacial lakes increase in the mountainous regions above Almaty, Bishkek cities, around Issyk-Kul lake, Ferghana valley, in the narrow Pamir and Hissar Alay valleys)
The Water Resources Availabilityin the future has mixed trends in Kazakhstan and lower in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan is known for the extraction of hydrocarbons and Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan develop the hydropower.
Central Asia relies largely on the irrigated agriculture, playing the important role in the region’s economy. The wheat, rice, cotton, fruits and vegetables are the primary crops. The agriculture contribution to the gross domestic product range from 5 % in Kazakhstan to 22 % in Tajikistan, to 9 % in Turkmenistan, 17 % in Uzbekistan, 15 % Kyrgyzstan (in 2015).
Turkmenistan is mainly flat sands desert and have only 4 % of total land area for the arable cultivated land. The main crops are cotton, wheat. The rice, melons and watermelons, citrus fruits, pomegranates, sugarcane, sesame and pistachios and others are cultivated in the country. Animal farming is important part of Turkmenistan agriculture; the pastures are dispersed in the desert and in mountain valleys, on the slopes of the foothills. The main livestock are sheep and goats, cows, chicken. Pigs are also raised on smaller scale. The country has completely the irrigated agriculture, fully dependent on the water from rivers of Amu Darya, Murghab, Tejen, Atrek and small mountain streams. The Akhal Teke horse is raised in Turkmenistan and is the important part of Turkmen culture and national pride.
Uzbekistan is one of the largest world exporter of cotton. Cotton producing is also important for Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The large production volume go to China and some part to EU. However, recently Uzbekistan variety of agricultural products arisen and the cotton became slightly less important as a share of agricultural export value. In Tajikistan, the cotton producing is still over 60 % of the country’s agricultural exports (including cotton oil and cotton cake).
Kazakhstan is major producer of wheat in Central Asia and is primary agricultural products export country in the region. It exports considerable quantities of gran, flour and dairy products to neighboring countries. Wheat, flour and bread comprise over 60 % of Kazakhstan agricultural exports by export value. Tajikistan is particularly dependent on grain imported from Kazakhstan, around 50 % of country demand is exported from Kazakhstan.
The increasing temperatures and changing rainfall patterns could contribute to increased outbreaks of agricultural pests and diseases, such as locusts and wheat blast, including those traveling through national boundaries. Diseases and changes in water availability are expected to be detrimental to farming practices, particular for water intensive crops, such as cotton and rice. Droughts already significant challenge the region, particularly in Kazakhstan, where up to 66% of the total land is affected. Worsening desertification threatens up to half the land in Kyrgyzstan in coming decades and potentially shifting large areas of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to arid land. High soil salinity, already affecting arable lands and impacting crop productivity, will increase with greater evapotranspiration and higher irrigation demand.
Livestock production and the traditional agro-pastoral grazing systems important in the Central Asia. It faces the challenge of significant consequences due to the climate variability and change. The temperature and precipitation patterns change would lead to the biological stress on animals, affect growth and reproductive patterns. Feeding sources and grazing areas, particularly pastures, face degradation and overgrazing, are likely to be affected by desertification, droughts and sand storms.
Around five and half millions years ago, due to the tectonic movements and sea level changes, the Caspian Sea became the landlocked remnant of the ancient Paratethys Sea and Tethys ocean.
Now, itis the largest lake in the world or inland closed sea. Being between Europe and Asia, the Caucasus Mountains and vast deserts of Central Asia, the Caspian has the surface of 371,000 square km (excluding Garabogaz Gol) and 78,200 cubic km of water volume. The biomes are surprisingly varied along the Caspian Sea; it is around 1,030 km long and 435 max- 200 min km wide, divided into three parts. The Northern part has the shallow waters, mainly 5-6 m deep, having only about 1 % of total water volume. Coming down to the south, the Middle part of the Sea as deep as 190 -211 m, making 33 % the water volume. Finally, the Southern deepest part bellow 1,025 m, and 66 % of the water volumes. Altitude – 22 below sea level, the Caspian Depression in the northern area of the Caspian Sea is one of the lowest points on the Earth.
The north and east have continental deserts, hot summers and cold winters. The south and southwest are mainly warm with different mix of highlands and mountain ranges. The vast changes in the climates lead to the great biodiversity in Caspian Sea area. The main north inflow makes the Northern Caspian waters almost fresh; it became brackish in the Middle part and finally the most saline in the Southern part at Iranian side where the sea inflow is minimum. Totally, the Sea salinity makes one third of the Ocean salinity level (Except the Garabogaz Bay where the salinity exceeds 10 times)
Over 130 rivers flow into Caspian. The largest are Volga, Ural and Kura rivers. In the past, also Amu Darya – Oxus (via its riverbed - Uzboy) and Syr Darya rivers flowed to the Caspian, but since that, time changed its courses. The sea has numerous islands groups. The largest Ogurja Ada (37 km long), the Tyuleniy Archipelago islands.
Historically, in the ancient times, the sea known as:
Hyrcanian Ocean after the historical name of the Hyrcania region (the region around the south shores of Caspian, and to the east along the mountains in Iran and Kopet Dag mountains in present day Turkmenistan).
The former Arabic name – Qazvin Sea, after the Iranian city – Qazvin.
The Iranians call it sometimes as Mazandaran Sea.
The Turkic people named it as Khazar Sea, after the name of Khazar empire around the northern part of the Caspian, in 7- 10th century.
The Turkmen name is Hazar Denizi.
The name of Caspian coming from the ancient people – Caspi who had lived in Transcaucasia (probably migrated to Iran).
Since 1991, five countries divide the Caspian Sea: Russia and Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.
The sea level has been fluctuating for many years. It has fallen and risen, often rapidly, many times in the past. One of the reasons may be the water diversions and dams and unexplored underground water streams.
In the last 10 years, the Caspian level is around minus 26.5 m and relatively stable. This trend can be reverse, as the increased rainfall in the northern parts of Caspian basin increase water flow in the Volga and Ural rivers and it may contribute to sea level rise (this suggest some experts but not yet confirmed).
Satellite and meteorological data show that the extent and duration of sea ice, which covers around 70-75 % of the northern Caspian Sea area in the winter, is declining. The milder winters with higher temperatures, influence the extent of ice, making it smaller than usual during last 10 years.
River formed by the junction of the Vakhsh and Panj rivers in the Tigrovaya Balka Nature reserve on the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. It starts in Pamir Mountains at altitude of about 5,000 m and flows through central Asia countries to the southern part of Aral Sea.
Total length: 2,400 km (from conjunction place 1415 km)
Drainage basin: around 535,000 square km
Annual average discharge of water: 97-98 cubic km
The navigable part: 1,450 km
The main source: the snow and glaciers in the Pamir Mountains and Tian Shan
The precipitation in the high mountains over 1,000 mm and the annual precipitation lower in the steppes less than 300 mm. It makes only 226,800 sq km drainage area active to contribute to the river waters.
Average Area of Irrigated Land: 3.6 – 4 mln ha.
River tributaries: Panj, Vakhsh, Kunduz, Kafirnigan, Surkhan, Sherabad rivers
Canals from Amu Darya: KARAKUM, KARSHI (main canal with six pumping stations), AMU-BUKHARA. Each canal has the network of water reservoirs. In the middle stream, from Kelif to Tuyamuyun, there are a dozen of canals for irrigation system. In the lower stream, the canal systems include Tashsaka, Pakhtaarna, Klychniyazbay, Urgench Oktyabr arna, Shavat, Khan yab, Kyzytken, Suenli.
Reservoir water storage: Two main - Nurek reservoir on Vakhsh river, Tuyamuyun in the lower stream, and a dozen other in-basin artificial water lakes.
In ancient times, Oxus constantly changed its course in the Karakum desert area, drifting there more sands and diverse vegetation, changing the relief and the landscapes of the desert. At some point and until 9th century, Oxus flowed to Caspian Sea via Sarakamysh lake and its old tributary Uzboy. Around 9th century, near Kunya Urgench, the dam was built to bring more water into Chorasmia (Khwarazm), leaving without water the people of the desert and the nomads. In 13th century, Mongols destroyed the dam and the current was resumed into Uzboy and to Caspian Sea. Between 5th-17th centuries, the significant population and farmland cultivation had been along the Uzboy river. In the end of 16th century, Amu Darya’s new course and reconstruction of the dam in the Khoresm, blocked the waters into Uzboy river bed and lead to slow dry up of Sarakamysh lake. This prevented also the water supply for Turkoman tribes living in the desert what influenced their migration along the Caspian Sea, up till Kopet Dag mountains, further to the east, what makes now present day Turkmenistan. In 1717, Russian Tsar Peter the Great sent expedition to estimate the possibility to destroy the dam and return water current into Uzboy river, that to restart waterway from Volga – Caspian Sea - Uzboy – Central Asia. Some estimates had been done but project not realized.
The river isa key source of water for Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. River highly connected to the melt of glaciers and permafrost that promote summer (June – September) pick flow in the Panj and Vaksh rivers, contributing more than 40 % of seasonal river flow. This ideally coincides with the critical period of highest water demand for irrigation. Nevertheless, it seems that water formation in the Amu Darya basin is decreasing. Even more worrying is a trend related to low water years, reaching extreme minimums occurred in 2000, 2001, 2008
In different historic periods, there was always plan to redirect some Amu Darya waters via Sarakamysh lake to old riverbed of Uzboy river and to the reestablishing of waterway till Caspian Sea.
However, in 1954 another project started near the town Kerki. The largest irrigation project and water supply canal in the world. The construction of canal finished only in 1988, stretching the water supply for over 1,375 km and carrying 13 cubic km of water annually. Now, it is the main water supply and water source for irrigated agriculture in Turkmenistan, draining the waters from Amu Darya River.
The water reservoirs (artificial lakes) of Karakum canal:
Hauzkhan(Hanhowuz) lake – water volume 875 mln cubic m, surface area 207 square km
Ashkhabad’s eastern lake (sportivnoe) – water volume 6.3 mln cubic m, surface area 3.3 square km
Ashkhabad’s western lake (Kurtly, since 2020 Altyn Kol) – water volume 48.5 mln cubic m, surface area 11 square km
Kopetdagskoe reservoir (lake) – water volume 550 mln cubic m, surface area 49 square km
The snow and rain fed rivers with small or no glaciers in southern parts of Central Asia are Murghab, Tedzhen, Atrek experiencing some reduction in water flow.
Coming from Paropamisus mountain, Afghanistan province of Marghab, enter present day Turkmenistan, passing Tagta Bazar and Yoloten districts to arrive in Mary- Merv area where it joins Karakum canal waters, 850 km long. The main tributary Kushk river flowing also from Afghanistan. Total drainage basin estimated around 46,000- 47,000 square km.
The water reservoirs, lakes along Murghab in Turkmenistan:
Tashkenprinskoe – water volume of 9 mln cubic meters
Saryyazinskoe – water volume of 154 mln cubic meters
Kolkhozbentskoe – water volume of 30 mln cubic meters
Yolotenskoe – water volume of 24 mln cubic meters
Srednegindushskoe – water volume of 15 mln cubic meters
Nijnegindushskoe – water volume of 16 mln cubic meters
River starts in the Koh-i-Baba Mountain range in the western extension of Hindu Kush, at the altitude of about 3,000 m. The rivers is 1,124 km long, but mainly 800 km flowing through Afghanistan, then along Afghan- Iranian and Iran – Turkmenistan borders, only after finally entering into Turkmenistan as Tejen river, to Karakum desert and join the waters of Karakum canal. Total river catchment area is as large as 70,000 square km. Historically, river known as Arius
The river irrigates the fertile valley of Herat in Afghanistan, one of the water supply in Mashhad area in Iran and Tejen region in Turkmenistan. Salma Dam built on the river in Herat province for water reservoir and hydroelectricity, and another dam is Doosti Dam on the Iran – Turkmenistan border open since 2005, as water reservoir and hydroelectricity, with equal rights to the waters from both sides.
Iran- Turkmenistan Friendship Dam
Height 78 m, Length 655 m, Width 15 m(crest), Dam volume: 4.5 mln cubic m
Total capacity: 1,250 mln cubic m
Active capacity: 735 mln cubic m
Inactive capacity: 300 mln cubic m
The estimate water reservoirs, lakes along Tejen river: Due to natural reasons (droughts) the river may dry up in summertime,
Tejenskoe 1st – water volume of 38 mln cubic meters
Tejenskoe 2nd – water volume of 141 mln cubic meters
is permanent fast moving mountain river, starting in Kopet Dag Mountains in Iran at the altitude of about 2,000 m. The catchment area 26.7 thousand square km, it is 635 km long and only last 135 km flowing in Turkmenistan and drains into Caspian Sea. One tributary is Chandyr river joining Sumbar river and then both flow into Atrek river. The mean annual runoff of Atrek river in Turkmenistan is 354 mln cubic meters. The river waters are very turbid; the sediments surpass all central Asia Rivers, there is around 25 kg of solid matter per 1 cubic m of water. Sumbar river is the main tributary, starts in Iran at 1,600 m altitude it runs mainly in Turkmenistan 262 km, seasonal river may dry up in middle stream during summer period.
Mamedkul – water volume of 16.4 mln cubic meters
Kyzyl Ay – water volume of 3.6 mln cubic meters
Delili – water volume of 11 mln cubic meters
The water system of the country traditionally include the collectors for the drainage waters formed due to leaching salts in autumn – winter period, that are accumulated in soil as a result of evaporation of irrigation water in the summertime. These drainage waters are usually discharged into natural depressions in deserts. Since 1960s, the problem of drainage waters diversion became rather acute. The idea of the construction of the Trans- Caspian collector that would discharge the accumulated drainage waters into the Caspian Sea discussed but never accomplished.
The idea changed to the new project in 2000, The Golden Age Lake in the north of Karakum desert. The new Turkmen Lake located in natural depression of Karashor, with area of 3.5 thousand km and a capacity of 132 cubic km of water. The existing main collector and drainage network of the country rearranged and new collector canals discharging water in the lake constructed. The length of all canals bringing saline drainage waters are over 2,650 km. Dashoguz collector 432 km long, partly follow old Uzboy riverbed. The Great Turkmen Collector come from Lebap region, 720 km long.
Now, the Turkmen Lake in the center of Karakum desert, having currently around 580 mln cubic meters of water. The recent approval of Altyn Asyr Lake Development Concept, implement the Action Plan 2019- 2025 for the development of the territories around the lake. Construction of the villages for the development of the livestock farming and fishing in the lake. Saplings of Saxaul trees, salwort, Ephedra, desert Acacia and other sand tolerant species are expected to create conditions for 12 months pasture source for cattle.
It is stretching clockwise between the Caspian Sea, Sarakamysh lake, Aral Sea area, Amu Darya river, Karabil uphills, Murghab and Tejen rivers lower streams and Kopet Dag Mountain range. The sandy desert is a geographically well delineated biome of the temperate desert, zonobiome of the Arid- Temperate Climate, with a little rain, hot summers and cold winters, extensive droughts about 4- 6 months.
The large basin of Karakum desert is remain part of the ancient Paratethys Sea and Tethys Ocean. Then since the Tertiary has been in the process of being filled with loose alluvial rocks by paleo- Amu Darya river and later by Murghab and Tejen rivers. In the course of the long period the sand barchans had been formed. The dust particles have been deposited by wind, on the Kopetdag slopes in the south forming a dune region.
The paleo- Amu Darya originally crossed Karakum desert basin and into the Caspian Sea, often changing its course what can be clearly seen on the example of Erbent 1,000 km long wedge left by Amu Darya. Later, Amu Darya was displaced to the east by the delta deposits of the Murghab and Tedzhen rivers and redirected to the Aral Depression. It emptied into the Aral Sea.
Amu Darya river is still important for the basin, since its water infiltrates directly from Amu Darya, via Karakum canal and Turkmen lake in the desert, to feed a groundwater lake underlying the entire central Karakum. It is proved that groundwater lake moves slowly from east to west but probably none of this flows to Caspian Sea. The water is slightly brackish, although it is covered by a lens of fresh water beneath the bare dunes, owing to the rainwater seepage, even in the year with lowest precipitation recorded. Wells made in such places collect good drinking water.
Inflow to the subterranean groundwater lake:
Groundwater infiltration from Amu Darya 150 cubic m per sec
Rainwater seepage in the barchans region 30 cubic m per sec
Infiltration from Murghab and Tejen rivers 21 cubic m per sec
Subterranean inflow from Kopet Dag 20 cubic m per sec
Seepage from elevations and takyrs 1 cubic m per sec
Totally 222 cubic m per sec
Evaporation from saltpans above high groundwater table (average) 165 cubic m per sec
Groundwater loss due to phreatophytes (plants dependent on groundwater) 57 cubic m per sec
Totally 222 cubic m per sec
Paleo-Amu Darya riverbed left the chain of depressions, some 10 - 15 km long and 1-4 km wide, known as Unguz line, stretching from the east to old Uzboy riverbed, for 470 km long. Unguz divide Karakum desert into Zaunguz (Northern 102,000 square km) part, Central or Low Karakum sands and Southeastern Karakum. Total area of Karakum desert 350,000 square km. Annual Precipitation: The northwest of the desert less 100 mm, the central and southeastern parts of the desert around 150 mm. Potential evaporation in the desert amounts 1500- 2000 mm, what 10-15 times exceeds the precipitation.
Flora of Karakum:
The distinctive feature of the desert biome is the often highly heterogeneous origin of its flora. This is especially true for the Central Asia deserts, the species of which originated in the surrounding high mountain areas and on the littorals of the ancient Tetis. Its long evolutionary history under gradually increasing xeric conditions and its large gene pool may explain the high percentage of endemics and a considerable diversity with respect to adaptive characters, both morphological and physiological.
Two groups of plants can be distinguished with respect to photosynthetic behavior in the Karakum desert. Ephemeres and ephemeroids, which finish the life cycle before May, are characterized by high potential photosynthesis. In drought-enduring shrubs and trees (Haloxylon, Calligonum, Salsola, Ephedra) the photosynthesis is lower. At different times of the year, the maximum photosynthesis rates vary as per different life forms: Ephemeres and Ephemeroids coincide with the onset of fructification, end of March – end of April, in Ferula, Carex, Horaninovia. For plants completing the vegetative period at the beginning of the summer, they precede summer dormancy and partial leaf shedding – Smirnovia, Astragalus, Convolvulus. For drought enduring shrubs and trees they occur during the hottest and the driest period in the middle of June.
In the Karakum desert, the water content of the drought enduring species is low and remains almost constant during the day, with water saturation deficits not exceeding 6-15 % even on a midsummer day (sub-lethal saturation deficits are in the range 46-53 %). Photorespiration was found in few species Haloxylon, Aristida, Calligonum.
In sandy desert, three vegetation layers are usually identified.
- The first layer, formed by shrubs – Haloxylon species, Salsola richteri, Calligonum species, Ephedra strobilacea, 120 -250 cm in height
- The second layer, 60-90 cm in height, formed by semi-shrubs and high herbs – Artemisia kemrudica, Astragalus species, Aristiuda karelini
- The Third layer, 15- 25 cm in height, formed by Carex physodes and annuals.
Vegetation of clay deserts mainly formed by shrubs and semi shrubs. The main plants are Haloxylonaphyllum, Salsola orientalis, Salsola gemascens, Salsola arbuscula, Artemisia kemrudica, Artemisia badkhysi, Artemisia turcomanica, Ceratoides papposa. Annual halophytes – Gamacanthus gamocarpa, Halimocnemum longifolia, Halocharis hispida. Grasses and spring ephemeres are also met in these communities. Plant cover is very low.
Vegetation of gypsum desert – Haloxylon aphyyllum, Salsola gemascens, Salsola arbuscula, Anabasis salsa, Artemisia kemrudica, Artemisia badkhysi, Artemisiasublessiana, Artemisia terra alba, Artemisia arenaria, Stipa sareptana, Nanopnyton erinaceum, Atriplex cana. Only two plant layares are common in this formation: The upper layer formed by semi shrubs and second layer formed by small herbs (Eremopyrum buonapartis, Carex pachystylis etc)
Vegetation of salt deserts – Halocnemun srobilaceum, Nitraria schoebery, Kalidum capsicum. These communities are confined to soils rich in water soluble salts. Dense patches of halophytes sometimes can be seen on solonchak.
Vegetation of loess deserts – located in foothill of the country, highlands of Karabil and Badkhyz are typical habitats of this formation, know also as ADYR in Turkmen (Bair in Uzbek). Plant communities are formed here mainly by herbs – Carex pachystilis, Poa bulbosa, Eremopirum triticeum, Aegilops juvenali, Psammogeton canescens, Astragalus sp., etc. ferula badrakema and Dorema badkhysi, high ephemerals from Umbeliferae familyform the first layer. They give a specific aspect to this landscape. Artemisia turanica and Artemisia badkhysi (sagebrush) also form several communities in this area.
Tudai vegetation: Vegetation of river valleys is known in Central Asia as ‘tugai’. The areas occupied by tugai jungle have been declining from year to year because of severe human pressure and agricultural reclamation. There are three main formation in tugai: forests, shrubs, herbaceous vegetation. The most common species are the following: Populus ., Salix (Willow)., Tamarix ., Lycium turcomanicum(Kyzgan, dereza turkenstanskaya), Halimodendron halodentron (salt tree)… More than 70 herbaceous plant species form here dense thickets.
Jurinea derderioides (Asteraceae),a hardy herbaceous perennial about up to 91 cm high, with grey oblong-lanceolate leaves and small heads of purple flowers. Native to Turkistan
Psammophyte, Perennial shrub or tree, 3-7 m high, deep and well developed pivotal root up to 4 meters and adventitious horizontal roots 12-15 m. Life span 25-30 years.
Branches, open lax, crown poorly ramified and often trails down, flexuous.
Trunk: wood red 6-30 cm in diameter, two skeletal axis on which twisted, glabrous branches form. Leaves: compound-pinnate, silvery-pubescent.
Inflorescence: dark purple, in dense spikes or raceme borne in leaf axils. Flowers: bisexual, irregular, pentamerous with 10 stamina (9 accreted- 1 free).
Reproduction: Entomophilous. Flowering April – May. Fruit maturation May – June.
Fruit: large, linear, curved or twisted, light brown, polyspermous, dry dehiscent pod.
Seed: reniform, oblong-orbicular, dark brown with large, erect embryo without endosperm. More than 78% hard seed, dormancy Af type (exogenic). Fresh seed germination 8-12 %. Seed viability 9-12 years.
Pastoral importance: One of the main components of sand dune plant communities with Aristida karelinii, and on degraded or deflated areas with shifting sand dunes. Due to the formation of numerous adventitious roots, well able to withstand sand invasion and long-term covering. Leaves and annual growth grazed by small ruminants and camels, especially in winter during forage shortage when alkaloid content is lowest. Fruits consumed by all livestock even in summer and later. Fodder value – poor.
It has medicinal value as leaves, fruits and roots contain a large quantity of alkaloids (ammodendrin, pahicarpin), used as respiratory stimulant and diuretic (heart poison when used in large quantities). Extracts from the roots used as dye wool bright yellow. Dried plant used as insecticide. Useful for bee keeping and honey production as large dark purple flowers attract various pollinators. Wood can be used as construction material in boat building or well shafts strengthening. Frequently used in the rehabilitation of shifting sand. However, the rehabilitation result in natural conditions are low, due the high percentage of hard seeds.
Ammodendron kareliniihas the same ecology but the branches are more erect and rigid, prickly at the ends.
Haloxylon aphyllum. Common name – black saksaul (Russian – black saksaoul or saxaul. Odzhar in Turkmen). Family – Chenopodiaceae
This robust plant combines the attributes of a xerophyte, halophyte and mesophyte because it is drought tolerant, salt tolerant, and it is adapted for growth under medium moisture conditions. It can regulate its life processes to fit harsh and changing environmental conditions. Because of its adaptability and hard wood, it is well used for firewood in appropriate cold or hot deseerts.
This small tree can attain heights of 5-8 m and trunk of 20-40 cm. The trunk generally has a large, irregular base and the limbs are also of irregular form, ribbed and bent, with very thin gray or grayish-brown bark. The large branches can attain the same diameter as the main trunk. Instead of leaves, the plant uses thickened leafstalks – cladodes.
Black saksaul is found in temperate deserts of Central Asia from western China and Mongolia to the Caspian. Also in the hot deserts of Middle East, Asia Minor, North Africa. It often occurs naturally on heavier soils than white saxaul.
In 19th – beginning of 20th century, Saksaul wood widely used as a primary material for charcoal and locomotives and also basic fuel for local population (black saksaul wood comparable in effectiveness to brown coal). The wood is very hard and brittle.
The trees take 5-7 years to form their open, irregular canopy of foliage and flower and set seed abundantly from age 7 onward. Stabilizing desert: black saksauls is cultivated on large tracks to combat wind erosion and halt desert creep. Plantings are carried out in primary forests, especially where soil protection and water conservation are important. Forage: The foliage is grazed by livestock and the tree is planted in grassland to raise the forage yield. It is also being widely planted for shelterbelts to protect grazing lands in the North Caspian area.
Environmental Requirements: Black saksaul withstands burning hot summers +50C and subfreezing winters -35C. It grows mostly at low altitudes in Central Asia. The tree survives in some areas with less than 100 mm annual rainfall. Its taproot grows vigorously during the first years of life and penetrates soil strata as deep as 7 m to find moisture. Its seeds germinate as the snow starts melting; the roots elongate so rapidly that they keep the pace with the moisture as it sinks into the soil. The species is native to desert soils poor in humus and nutrient and rich in salts (chlorides and sulfates).
Planting stock consists of year old seedlings with an open and closed root system of the taproot type, with a height above ground of not less than 50 cm. The planting norm is 1,000 per hectare, with survival rate 60-80 %. The seeds of black saksaul harvested in November after the first frost. Storage of seed until the second silvicultural season is possible in hermetically sealed polyethylene packets with a seed moisture of 4 %. Black saksaul have excellent ability to compete with weeds. Although many insects affect black saksaul and great damage can be done by fungi, the wood production is usually relatively unaffected. It is not pioneer sand stabilizer, sowing and planting on moving dunes result in low survival.
The salt tolerant, extremely drought resistant tree. It lives in sand dunes. A tall shrub or small, gnarled tree with joined, brittle stems, up to 7 m high. It has stout, rugged stem light gray bark. When covered by drifting sands the lower part of the trunk sends out horizontal auxillary roots. They can reach several meters long before turning downward to reach 1-2 m in depth. The tree often branches close to the ground, especially when the plant is stressed. In sandy areas it often becomes bushy and grows only 1.5- 2.5 m tall. Instead of leaves, the plant has leathery cladodes – flattened leaf stalks.
White saksaul is native to the Sinai, Israel, Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia. In Central Asia and Mongolia, it grows primarily in the same geographical zones as blacl saksaul. It forms stands on sand hills and sand ridges.
The wood is excellent fuel and in thermal efficiency compares favorably with bituminous coal. It burns down to long smoldering cinders. It is also used extensively for making charcoal. The foliage is used as forage for camels and sheep, particular in winter. The shoots have a good nutrient content. The ability of the lower part to establish new roots when covered by sand makes this an excellent plant for stabilizing sandy areas.
This desert tree is less resistant to cold than black saksaul but it is more drought resistant and can be found in the areas with less 100 mm annual rainfall. It grows in heavy, loose, wind borne sands and will not grow well where the sand is powdered and compacted. It has a higly developed root system and is able to obtain moisture from a large area and from depths of 5-6 m. It is known to grow on dunes as high as 40 m. It is less salt tolerant than black saksaul. Young plants and new shoots can not tolerate soil salinity higher than 1 %, but mature trees can endure 5-6 % salt in the groundwater.
Seeds are extremely small and light and do not keep well in storage; they must be sown while fresh. Young plants can be smothered by weeds, but litterfall salinizes the soil beneath the canopy of mature trees and win the competition.
is shrub or small tree 1-3 m high; usually densely papillose when young, then glabrescent. Stem loosely branched, up to 5 cm at base, with smooth gray bark; woody branches erect to ascending, soon turning milky white. Terminal and subterminal annual shoots very long, erect, in upper part producing loose spikes; lateral shoots much shorter, with more condensed leaves and flowers. Leaves semi-terete to terete, straight, ascending, the longest often pendant, in lower part 3-5 cm X 0.5-1.5 mm, in upper part shorter, apiculate, basal constriction 1-1.5 mm long. Bracts spreading, leaf like 3-15 mm, at base with hyaline, sometimes ciliate margins, always much longer than bracteoles and tepals. Bracteoles cucullate, ovate or circular in outline, usually apiculate and obtusely keeled in upper part, with wide hyaline and ciliate wing like margins embracing the flower, 1.2-2 X 3.5-4.5 mm, 1/3-1/2 as long as tepals. Tepals triangular to ovate, in upper part often ligulate, 3.5-4.5 mm, the outer 17.7-2.5 mmwide, 7-11 veined, without midrib in upper part, the others 3-5 veined, the hyaline margins up to 2/3 ciliate, apex rounded or apiculate, back without distinct green blotch, warty to papillose, transverse line at 1/7-1/10. Anthers 2-2.5 mm long, divided up to 1/2; appendage 0.4-0.5 mm long, narrow triangular, flat, smooth; filaments linear, 3 X 0,3 mm; disc lobes semi circular, 0.4 mm long, densely papillose. Style conical, 1-1.5 mm long; stigmas 2, recurved, 1-1.2 mm long, flat up to apex, 0.3-0.4 mm wide, inner side short and densely papillose, red. Fruiting perianth 14-18 mm diameter, translucent, 2 inner wings much narrower, linear to spathulate; tepals above the wings first incurved and forming a broad, indurated, circular bulge, then more or less recurved, often forming an open funnel. Utricle 2-3 mm diameter, with slightly hardened cap; horizontal.
Florescence September – October
Holotype: Turcomania, G. S. Karelin
Salsola richteri is an obligate psammophyte and a most conspicuous component of semi stabilized and fixed sand dunes. Distribution: Southern part of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tadzhikistan, Central and Eastern part of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistani Baluchistan.
The species can be easily distinguished from related Salsola arbuscula by its taller growth, the long, delicate leaves, the bracteoles being much shorter than the flowers, and the larger fruits with very fine, translucent wings. Used as camel fodder, fixing of shifting sand fields.
Other Salsola related species:
Salsola paletzkiana Litv(Cherkez, Solyanka Paletzkogo), small tree 3-5 m. Psammophyte in Central Asia.
Salsola gemmascens(Djertezek, Solyanka pochechkonosnaya), perennial shrub 15-35 cm, halo-xerophyte. Prime colonizer on takyr like or compacted sandy, gypseous more friable soils, taky soils developed on ancient alluvial deposits of floodplain near riverbed in Central Asia, residual salt-marshes (solonchak alkaline soils) and heavy clay or loamy gypseous soils in southwestern of Kyzylkum, Minbulak depression and various areas of desert in Kazakhstan.
Salsola lanata Pall(Boz-saran in Uzbek, Kush gezy in Turkmen, Solyanka sherstistaya), annual, succulent, pale- colored , herbaceous plant 10-60 cm. Anemophilous, entomophilous. Halophyte. Occurs on salty crusts on edges of salt marshes solonchaks, on clay and gypsum deserts, on takyr and saline sandy soils in Aral- Caspian regions, Amu Darya and Syr Darya valley, Kyzylkum, Karakum, Afghanistan, Iran, China and Mongolia
Salsola rigida Pall(Kevryk, solyanka koryavaya), perennial shrub 15-70 cm, polymorphic, friable, much branched from base, life span 7-25 years, root system 1.5- 7 m. Xero-halophyte, gypsophyte. Occurs on grey-brown soils, clay, gravelly solonchak desert, flats and takyr. Found as single plants or in dense stands. Spread in Middle and Central Asia, Caspian region, Caucasus, Iran, Afghanistan and in China.
Salsola sclerantha CAM (Shora, peshmek, Solyanka hryashetsvetnaya), annual plant 10-45 cm. Halo-xerophyte. Occurs on compacted and grey-brown sand, weakly saline, loamy clay or seldom on stony areas, as single plants or in patches of many plants in desert plant communities. Middle and Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan
Tamarix hispida Willd. Halophyte- Phreatophyte. (Yulgun in Uzbekistan, Ilgyn in Turkmenistan, Djingil in Kazakhstan, Гребенщик)
Small tree or large bush 4-6 m in height, microphyllous, polymorphic with reddish bark. Deep root system 6-8 m deep, with rhizomes and suckers. Stem: aerial branches strongly ramified, grey-brown, densely covered with hairy layer. Leaves: filamentous (appear articulate), small, scale like, alternate without hairy stipules. Flowers: bisexual; actinomorphic, small, compound perianth; often assembled into bright purple spikes or racemose inflorescence. Developed nectar disk at base of petals, 4-10 stamens, varies, accreted at base. Anthers ovoid oblong with pointed appendage, introrse by longitudinall cracks. Pollen grains 2-celled. Ovary superior with numerous ovules. Ovule anatropous, bitegmic, crassi-nucellate.
Reproduction: Sexual and vegetative. Entomophilous and anemophilous. Flowering June – September on second year branches. Fruit maturation August – October but open only next spring. Fruit: capsule many seeded, conical, loculicidally dehiscent.
Occasional grazing by small ruminants and gazelles, more readily accepted by camels and cattle. Useful fuelwood in saline environment (easy restore vegetation after cuttings). Sand binder used for reforestation and sand dune fixing on high saline water table. Source of tannins. Folk medicine use young leaves as a treatment for respiratory disorders, rheumatism and arthritis. Bark and roots used to treat gastric disturbances and disorders of the mouth.
Habitat: Sandy to clay saline soils, on solonchak. Leaf shedding is important as leaves contain salt that induces soil sterilization and stabilization under trees or bushes. Common on river banks, terraces, saline flats and takyr, and on sand duneson a high saline water table. Wind resistant. Spread in Southwestern Europe to Central Asia, North Africa, Near and Middle East. Naturalized in many semi arid and arid countries with Mediterranean climate.
Convolvulus divaricatus (Ak-Kert in Turkmen, вьюнок растопыренный партек) Psammo-xerophyte, occurs on sandy flats or gypseous soil
Perennial shrub 30-90 cm high, greyish, woolly, small hemispherical. Pivotal woody root 2-8 m in depth or more. Stem – strongly branched, prostrate and trailing from base, decumbent or ascending, densely pubescent mixed with long hairs. Leaves – alternate, small, almost sessile, reduced to scale, highly pubescent with glandular hairs; rarely lobed or pinnately lobed with serrate margin. Lower leaves – linear- lanceolate or oblong; upper- sessile, apex obtuse to acute, oviform-lanceolate, rounded or attenuate at base. Flowers: bisexual; actinomorphic, large, funnel-shaped campanulate, yellowish or pink-white, pentamerous, assembled in a terminal dichasium by 1 or 2, 3 clusters. Perianth compound, 5 oviform-lanceolate, densely villous sepals and 5 lobed corolla 10-15 mm long with accreted petals, bell, funnel-shaped, tubular or folded; 5 stamens attached to corolla tube base with well differentiated nectarium. Anthers ovoid lengthened, opening introrse by longitudinal cracks. Pollen grain 2-celled, 3 pores. Style with 2 linear cylindrical stigmas. Ovary superior with 1-2, rarely 4, anatropous, unitegmic, tenui-nucellulate ovules.
Reproduction: Entomophilous. Flowering May- June. Fruit maturation September – October. Fruit – capsule, sometimes opening with a false crack. Seed – incurvate embryo with folding cotyledons, surrounded by hard cartilaginous layer of endosperm. Seed coat water impermeable. Dormancy Af type (exogenic). Germination low.
Pastoral importance: Well grazed by camels, sheep and goats in winter and early spring but not eaten from middle of summer until autumn.
As a medicinal plant used as a treatment for constipation and urological disease.
It is sometimes used for fixing mobile sand and small dunes
Convolvulus hamadae (smaller, semi shrub 15-35 cm, gypso-xerophyte. Occurs on gravel and loamy sand flats)
Perennial parasitic plant 60-100 cm in height. Long underground vertical stem connected to roots of host plant. Flowers: yellowish, inconspicuous on short peduncle, assembled in long pyramidal spiked inflorescence emerging from sand on robust stalk. Calyx 5 lobbed. Scales of flowers, bracts and calyx segments glabrous. Corolla 30-40 mm long, yellow and blue on lower surface. Ovary glabrous with incurvate style.
Flowering May- June. Fruit – Capsule, 2-3 folding. Long underground, tuberous whitish stem rich in alkaloids, which are collected for traditional medicine for treatment of gynaecological, and urological (kidney) problems.
It occurs on sand dunes, most often in northwestern Kyzylkum and northeastern Karakum. Parasitic mostly on roots of Calligonum species.
Perennial shrubs 1-3 m high (sometimes up to 3-4 m), life span 25-30 years, pivotal root system to 2 m in depth, superficial lateral roots 10-30 m, 2-8 cm in diameter, microphyllous, branched from base. Old branches light gray or yellow gray, often longitudinally splitting; herbaceous branchlets of current year gray- green; joints 1-4 cm. leaves linear circa 2 mm; ocrea united with leaf. Flowers 2 or 3, at leaf axil. Tepals reflexed in fruit, purple, ovate, 2-3 mm. Fruit yello-green, red-brown or red when young, becoming light yellow, yellow-brown or red-brown, subglobose, 1-3 cm in diameter. Achenes ellipsoid, coiled, prominently ribbed; bristles dense, 2 rows per rib, slightly flat at base, separate or somewhat united, 2-3 forked bellow middle, then repeatedly 2-3 forked, spiniform, stiff; apically spreading.
Florescence April- May, Fruit: May- June. Begin Fruiting at 3-5 years old.
Found in Gansu, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan
Sand fixing, fuel and ornamental plant. One of the best for sand dune environment. In spring and beginning of summer, green branches and fruits consumed by all livestock; in autumn and winter, fruits and old green stems preferred. New spring shoots contain 16 % protein and are rich in sugar. Plant organs contain 10-13 % tannin.
Other Calligonum related species:
Calligonum arborescens (Ok kondim, Кандымдревовидный) Psammophyte. Perennial woody shrub or small tree up 2-3 m high, with almost erect branches. Flowers: light pink; anthers purple. Well grazed by all livestock. Roots are rich in tannins 1.5%. Strong sand binder. Source of fuelwood. Occurs on mobile sand and sand dunes mixed in Haloxylon- Ammodendron plant communities. Found on Irano- Turanian region, Middle and Central Asia (Fergana valley).
Calligonum junceum (Okgjuzgun, Кандымситниковый)Psammophyte. Perennial, low shrub 35-80 cm, less often 110 cm, with spreading and strong branching from base. Excellent fodder plant for all livestock. Grows on rocky slopes, limestones, gravelly sand and clay plains. Occurs separately from other arid species of Calligonum. Distribution: in Central Asia – Aral- Caspian, Balkash regions, in Kyzylkum and Karakum deserts, Tien Shan, Mongolia, China.
Calligonumleucocladum (Ok Juzgun, Кандымсветлокорий)Psammophyte. Occurs on mobile and semi-fixed sands. Perennial shrub, old branches have light grey bark. Flowers – at 1-2 in axils of branchesd. Anthers bright red. Excellent fodder plant for all livestock. Found in Balkash, Aral regions, in Kyzylkum and Karakum deserts, in China
Calligonum microcarpum (Juzgun, Кандыммелкоплодный)Psammo-xerophyte. Perennial shrub up to 1 m, with pendulous leaves and dense bud covers. Bark greyish to reddish. Flowers – small, numerous, white-green. Young stems and fruits well grazed by all livestock in spring and winter. Potential for range improvement of sandy deserts. Endemic of southern Central Asian desert.
Ephedra strobilacea (Karadzha borjok in Turkmen, Kizilcha in Uzbek, Хвойникшишконосный- эфедракрылатая). Psammo-xerophyte.
Evergreen shrub 1-2 m high, dioecious, erect or hanging, with deeply penetrating 10-15 m and spreading root system. Life span 50-100 years. Stem: whip like, slender, green, fleshy and articulate, bark woody, grey. Leaves: opposite or in whorls 3-4, about 2 mm, scale like, fused at base. Flowers: in small cones: male at tips of branches subtended by ciliate bracts; perianth 2 lipped, staminal column with 3-4 sessile or short stipitate anthers: female cones 1-3 seeded, solitary or groups of 2-3, subtended by 2-4 pairs of bracts. Ovule with scarious or fleshy bracts becoming woody when seed matures.
Reproduction: dioecious. Sexual and vegetative (rhizomes). Flowering in May. Fruit maturation June – July. Fruit: dry, winged 6-7 mm, papery, fleshy yellow-reddish with scale bracteoles. Seed: surrounded by fleshy coat, with woody tegument; endosperm and embryo developed. Dormancy A2-B1 type, dark sentative, at 20 C temperature - germination is 20-40 %.
Good energy providing forage for all livestock including young animals. In summer, when allthe ephemeres have dried out, it is well consumed by goats, sheep and camels. In autumn- winter, it is the main fodder resource, particular after snowfall. Palatability is lowered when Haloxylon and some species of Salsola dominate the plant communities.
Medicinal use: Alkaloids of ephedrine groups used for regulation of nervous system, increasing blood pressure, treatment for rheumatism and gastric problems, bronchial asthma and cardiovascular disorders.
Sand fixing plant. However, its use in range improvement is not always successful due to severe insect damage to seed. Occurs on fixed and mobile sand as single plants mixed with Haloxylon, Salsola richteri, some ephemeroid and annual plants. Stand and grow even when partially buried on shifting dunes. Distributed in Central Asia, eastern Mediterranean region, Northeastern Africa, Syria to Arabia.
Perennial shrub 60-160 cm high, woody and strongly branched at base. Pivotal root system 2-3 m in depth. Stem: annual, numerous, herbaceous, glabrous or poorly pubescent. Leaves: simple, reverse cordate 4-20 mm long and 4-15 mm wide. Leaves at top: silvery pubescent on both surfaces, bidentate at top, entire. The secondary leaf generation in autumn is characteristic for this plant. Stipules free, triangular lanceolate. Flowers: bisexual; solitary in axil of upper leaves 2-5 mm long on hanging peduncle; zygomorphic, pentamerous pink-red with fused tubular campanulate sepals; 10 stamens (9 accreted and 1 free). Ovary superior with single carpel.
Reproduction: Sexual or vegetative (suckers). Entomophilous. Flowering April- May. Fruit maturation May – June. Fruit: large inflated pod 3.8-5 cm, pale brown, dry, dehiscent, swollen, bubble or egg-shaped, oval ovoid, on short peduncle, polyspermous 3-5 reach maturity. Seed: ovoid- orbiculate or reniform 5.1-6.3 mm, pale brown or light green, with smooth and lusterless spermoderm. Dormancy Af type (exogenic). Seed longevity 8-9 years.
Not grazed or consumed by livestock. Frequently present on sandy soil, rarely on clay saline soils, on the edge of takyr. Endemic of Middle Asia.
Peganum harmala. Psammo-xero- halophyte. (Yuzarlik, Izarlik – Turkmen, Issirik, Adraspan, isfent, Hazarasband – Uzbek and Kazakh, Hazorispand in Tajik, Гармалаобыкновенная, могильник, дикаярута. Also known as wild rue, Syrian rue, African rue (not related to rue) or harmel
Perennial, short hemispherical herb or shrub 30-50 cm, contrasting green, glaucous, with woody base, strong characteristic smell. Strong pivotal root system to 180 cm deep. Stem: numerous, twisting or erect, glabrous much branched from base. Numerous leaves 3-8 cm, sessile, opposite, glabrous, fleshy, blade irregularly pinnate-sected; lobes linear, entire, acute. Stipules 1-2 mm, subulate. Flowers: bisexual; large 2-4 cm, white yellow, regular, pedicelled, solitary or paired in terminal cymose inflorescence. Sepals 1-1.5 cm, narrowly linearsometimes with small lateral lobes; 12-15 stamens dilated at base, inserted in whorls 3-5 in 3 rows at base of cup-shaped disc. Pollen grain 2-celled and 3- colporate. Ovary superior, 3 locular, globose with numerous ovules. Stigmas: lobed on short style.
Reproduction: Sexual. Entomophilous. Flowering May – July. Fruit maturation August – September. Fruit: dry loculicidal or dehiscent capsule 5-8 mm, pale brown, sub-globose.
Usually growing in temperate deserts, in Central Asia and Mediterranean regions, Spain, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia, India, Israel and in Russia. In some countries, it is considered as poisonous or noxious weed because eating it can cause livestock to sicken or die. In Central Asia, Middle Eastern and Northern Africa it is popular in folk medicine.
The plant contain the alkaloids, including seeds, are hallucinogenic. The plant is popular in Persian cultural traditions, mentioned in ancient Persian Zoroastrian text as Avestan Haoma (Divine Plant). In Central Asia countries, Turkey it is popular for folk traditions to burn it or strung and hung in homes or in vehicles as protection or during the weddings. In folk medicine used also as an analgesic, emmenagogue, abortifacient and anthelmintic agent.
Perennial, ephemeroid large herb 25-60 cm, robust with woody base and large leaves. Root well developed, bulbiferous. Stalk: scapose, reddish, strong, furrow shaped, hollow, 40-50 cm long. Leaves: up to 100 cm wide, long stalked, entire, alternate, flat on ground, large blade 90-110 cm wide, palmate, prominently nerved, about 305 on plant, radial, orbicular in basal rosettes; upper surface of leaves glabrous; lower surface has dense short hairs. Flowers: bisexual; pale yellowish or red, assembled 2-3, forming large, branched, scapose, terminal spike with spherical inflorescence 30- 50 cm in diameter. Perianth 3-6, greenish, free.
Reproduction: Sexual. Flowering April – May. Fruit maturation May. Fruit: nutlets, triquetrous dark red-brown with broad papery wings.
Excellent fodder plant; large succulent leaves and young inflorescences well grazed by all livestock. When abundant, camels can manage without water for 4 days up to 2 weeks. Fresh leaves are rich in sugar up to 6 %. Often collected and used for silage with the addition of straw. Roots and fruits contain valuable tannins and coloring substances orange- red used for processing skins. In traditional medicine used as a treatment for gastric diseases (purgative); tincture from fruits and roots used as blood coagulant (stauncher).
Occurs in patches of many plants on sandy soils and fixed sand dunes; also on grey-brown sandy soils, sierozem and occasionally on saline flats. Often found in association with Artemisia, Haloxylon and Salsola arbuscula plant comminuties. Distributed in Middle and Central Asia (Irano- Turanian region).
Other species: Rheum tataricum
Perennial shrub, life span 8-12 years. Tap root system up to 2.5 m, with numerous adventitious roots. Early leaf shedding June – August, and accelerated reproductive stage. Stem: thick angular, lignified, lowered, covered by dark grey bark. Annual branches 13-28 cm long, pale white or light grey, numerous, erect to spreading from base. Leaves 2-6 cm, upper with 1 leaflet, lower with 3-5 short petiolate, retuse. Leaflets elliptic-lanceolate, slightly acuminate, 1-5 cm long and 3-7 cm wide, densely pubescent. Stipules 2 – 2.5 mm, membranous, broadly triangular, accreted with base of petiole. Flowers: short pedunculate, purple-violet, solitary along branches, assembled in loose large spikes 1.5-2.2 cm. Calyx campanulate 3.4-4.5 mm long, densely pubescent , teeth lanceolate linear, 3-4 times shorter than tube.
Reproduction – sexual. Entomophilous and self-pollination. Flowering April- May. Fruit maturation May- July. Fruit: dry, dehiscent, membranous, 2- loculate, monospermous, long, wooly, oblong-ovate pod 8-12 mm with short nose at end. Seed: ovate-orbicular to elliptic 2.9 mm long – 1.4 mm wide, reniform, light green or greyish –yellow.
In mixtures with species of Convolvulus, Carex, Haloxylon, Calligonum, it is grazed all year round by sheep and camels.
Occurs on deep sand and sand dunes; co-colonizer of woody shrubs – Carex or Carex- Haloxylon plant associations on fixed or shifting sand with deep water table.
Endemic of Middle Asia – Karaku, Kyzylkum, delta of Amu Darya, Sundukli sands.
Other species of Astragalus:
Astragalus alopecias Pall (Kiyikpanja – Uzbek, Patlak – Turkmen, Astragal lisovidnyi, singren)
Astragalus villosissimus Bge (Singren, Astragal kosmateyshii)
Astragalus centralis (A.kisylkumi Boriss)
Astragalus filicaulis Fish. Et Mey. In Karakum.
Astragalus scleroxylon Bge.
Perennial ephemeroid, small plant 7-30 cm, grass like, herbaceous. Spring- summer growth period 67- 210 days. Densely tifted plant with basal black rosette of leaves. Main roots have numerous adventitious roots growing 60 cm depth (in Kyzylkum to 1.4 m); lateral roots extend 15-30 cm. Stem: 3-edged, glabrous. Leaves: alternate, sessile, rough with wide and rolled black sheath at base and narrow parallel veined leaf plate. Flowers: unisexual or bisexual (most common); small, sessile, at the axil of two abreast bract leaves. Inflorescence: terminal, compound spike on 3-7 assembled in compact black head. Perianth strongly reduced; 3 stamens, seldom 2 or 1, yellow. Pollen grasin 3 celled. Ovary superior with one anatropous, crassi-nucellate, bitegmic ovule.
Reproduction. Sexual and vegetative (suckers). Usually, wind pollinated plant. Flowering March – beginning of May. Fruit maturation May- June. Fruit: nutlet, indehiscent with woody fruiting body, enclosed in hulled brown sack. Seed: small, fine, well developed embryo and endosperm (nuclear type). Dormancy B1- B3 type, deep- intermediate endogenic. Germination rate is very low. Seed viability 2-3 years.
Excellent forage and one of the most reliable spring forage plants, with high calorific value in winter- spring. Flush of vegetation occurs at the end of February- April when spring starts.
Other species: Carex physodes
Alhagi camelorum, Alhagi pseudalhagi (camelthorn, Caspian Manna, верблюжьяколючка). Xero-phreatophyte
The shrub 50 – 100 cm, with strong root system, deep to 2 m , collecting the water from near water table, adventitious roots may extend to 5 m or over, giving the new shoots from parental plant. One of the most valuable forage plants for camels, sheep, lambs and cattle all year round. Young stems, leaves, fruits and seeds are considered a fattening feed. Fruits are eaten by large herbivores, especially cattle and horses. Collected intensively by farmers for haymaking and silage at flowering time; used as part or pure concentrate granular feed. Hay considered to be as good as the best cereal straw.
Medical plant used for anti-diarrhoeal, antiseptic, diuretic properties or treatment for respiratory illness. Good sand fixing and wind break plant. Collected for fuel and construction material. Roots contain rubber, sugar, tannins, resins and wax.
Present in sandy desert and foothill zones, moist wasteland, on the banks of dry river beds and low wet lands, and abandoned cultivated land. Often grows on heavy soils. Tolerates some salinity and a saline water table.
Found in Central and East Asia, southern part of Russia, Iran and eastern Mediterranean region.
is perennial herb 25-30 cm. Stem is erect or ascending, branched from base, densely pubescent, with ribs and flaking white bark; branches crowded. Petiole short 3-5 mm, white pubescent; leaf blade grey-green, oblong-elliptic to oblong or ovate 1-2 X 0.5-1 mm, abaxially soft pubescent, adaxially scabrous, densely appressed hirsute and hirtellous, base rounded to broadly cuneate, margin subrevolute, apex obtuse to acute; lateral veins 2 or 3 pairs. Cymes terminal and auxillary, scorpiod 1-2.5 mm wide, pubescent, ebracteate. Flowers sessile. Calyx 1.5-2 mm, parted nearly to base, densely grey pubesecent outside, glabrous inside; lobes narrowly ovate or oblong. Corolla white, tubular, 2-3.5 mm, base circa 1 mm wide; limb circa 1 mm wide, densely antrorse pubescent outside, glabrous inside; lobes orbicular, margin crispate.
Filaments extremely short, inserted above middle of corolla tube; anthers ovate circa 0.5 mm. Ovary ellipsoid, glabrous. Style circa 1 mm, glabrous; stigma short conical 0.5-2 mm, glabrous, base ringlike. Fruit ellipsoid, divided at maturity into 4 one-seeded mericarps; mericarps ovate 2-3 mm densely villous. Flowering and fruit maturation in August.
Occurs on dunes in Chinese N. Xinjiang, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan
Perennial large, loose bunchgrass 80-150 cm high and up to 100 cm in diameter. Life span 10 years. Tough, filamentous, superficial root system, able to capture all surface moisture from sand dunes. Horizontal roots, with underground stems – suckers extend 15 m from bunch. Specific ability to convert aboveground stems 1 – 2 year old into suckers when covered by moving sand. Roots are protected by formation of sandy sheath or sand aggregated tube formed by secretion from hairs on roots. Stem: densely branched from bunch base, glabrous. Leaves: narrowly linear, wide at base, becoming rolled and spiky at tip; surface has dense spiny hairy layer. Inflorescence: open loose spike; base more or less covered by sheath of top leaf. Flowers: without perianth. Vegetative growth begins in April.
Reproduction. Sexual. Rarely vegetastive with suckers. Entomophilous or anemophilous. Flowering: June. Fruit maturation: end of June; July- August in northern area. Fruit: indehiscent, dry, hard kernel, pale yellow, with fruiting body closely attached to seed coat. Seed: large, well differentiated embryo, at the base of seed with abundant starchy endosperm. Dormancy A2-B1 type, intermediate endogenic. Light sensitive. Seed longevity 7-9 years.
Most important in sand dune formation; an early colonizer of plant associations and formationson shifting dunes. Considered a poor fodder plant. Hardly grazed, even when green, but used more in late autumn and winter. Well consumed by all livestock when collected as hay before flowering or after being softened by rain and snow late in autumn or beginning of winter.
Aristida pennata Trin(Urkochi selin, Триостницаперистая) Perennial bunch grass 40 cm high, 2-25 cm in diameter, horizontal roots 5-6 m. In Central Asia, Caucasus, western Siberia, Iran, China.
Ferula foetida (family Apiaceae, Ferula assa – foetida, Gian fennel, Ferula vonyuchaya, Sassyk kavrak)
Herbaceous, monocarpic perennial, with a large, oval, fleshy root up to 15 cm in diameter. Stem thick 1- 1.2 m high, upper portion branching and forming a dense globose panicle. Leaves mostly glabrous above, more or less soft villous beneath, senescing early; basal leaves short petiolate with broad blade, ternate with bipinnatisect lobes, lobules decurrent 15 cm long an 5 cm wide; lower leaves alternate; upper leaves smaller and becoming reduced to sheaths. Inflorescences compound umbels; terminal umbel sessile or on a reduced peduncle, spherical 15-20 cm wide; lateral umbels on long peduncles. Petals light yellow, almost cream colored. Fruit a schizocarp with 2 one-seeded mericarps; mericarps flattened, pubescent, 1.6-2.2 cm long and wide. Ovary and fruit pubescent. Seeds have an extremely objectionable, persistent odor. Flower in March- April, fruits in April – May. Reproduction by seeds. Habitat – adur zones, plains in foothills, on stone-clay soils. Distribution in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan. Found as single individuals.
Used in Central Asia folk medicine since ancient times, as an anticonvulsant, vermifuge and to treat some nervous diseases. The gum-resin used in Chinese medicine as a restorative and tonic for hysterics, neurasthenia and vegetative neurosis and to treat some skin diseases and common colds, as an expectorant and anticonvulsant, and mixed with other drug substances to treat lung tuberculosis, exudative diathesis, lymphadenitis and osteitis. Avicenna used this plant to treat tumors, jaundice and other liver diseases, as well as stomach, kidney, spleen diseases and as a diuretic and hemostatic for uterine bleeding.
Ferula litwinowiana (family Apiaceae),a low hairy herbaceous perennial with numerous small triangular pinnately cut leaves and inconspicuous flowers in compound umbels. Native to the Transcaspian region)
Perennial herb 15-40 cm high, with flat-spherical tuber, 3 cm in diameter. Leaves basal, light green, entire, oblanceolate to elliptic, the base wide-cuneate, sheathing, petiolate. Inflorescence a spadix; spathe tube 4-7 cm long, spathe blade ovate or oblong, inside velvety black-violet; spadix appendix 5-7 cm long, cylindrical, black-blue. Fruits subglobose berries, 1-2 seeded. Inflorescence produces the odor of rotten meat. Flowering and fruits in April – May. Reproduction by seeds and tubers. Habitat: the adyr zone, loess slopes of hills, on dry, shallow-soiled slopes with rocky debris. Found as single individuals.
The powered tubers used as an analgesic to treat rheumatism, used internally to treat stomach aches, abdominal pain, internal diseases, dysentery.
The tubers contain poisonous saponins, traces of alkaloids and starch. The spathe contains pigments. The leaves and tuber contain a number of different lipids. The leaves contain carotinoids: neoxanthine and carotene.
An extract of the tubers had strophantine like action on the heart.
Annual ephemeral herb 5-30 cm high. Stem: glabrous ascending or erect, branchy from base. Leaves: bottom – sessile, dense, white woolly on under surface; middle and upper – on short petioles. Alternate, dentate on margins, oblong-lanceolate 2.5-7 cm long and 0.2-1 cm wide, without stipules. Flowers: bisexual; heads radiate, usually in friable panicle when dry or in corymbose clusters 3-5 or numerous, heterogamous. Involucral bracts 1-seriate. Ray florets flattened, female; disk florets tubular 3-8 mm in diameter, yellow. Pappus of simple hairs.
Reproduction. Sexual. Entomophilous. Flowering March- May. Fruit maturation May- June. Fruit: achenes 3-5 mm long, narrow, cylindrical, ribbed without beak. Seed: indehiscent monospermous with erect, well differentiated embryo without endosperm. Dormancy B1 type.
Grazed by livestock in spring, both as pasture and hay. Contains alkaloids: senetsin and senetsifolin. Liquid tincture and extract from aboveground organs used for regulation of blood pressure as well as a treatment for gastric and mental disorders.
Occurs mostly on sands but rarely on rocky-gravelly soils; occasionally as a weed in crops on sierozem. Grows as single plants or in patches. Distributed in Central Asia, Caucusus, Siberia, Mongolia, Western China, North Africa, Middle East.
plants 2-40 cm high,densely papillate- hispidulous. Stem much branched, slender; branches opposite, oblique, straight, thin, terete or obscurely ribbed. Leaves opposite, sessile, green, acicular, straight or slightly arcuate 5-10 mm, base slightly expanded, margin membranous. Inflorescence of axillary, globose, usually numerous-flowered glomerules, pilose; bract 1 and bractlets 2 per flower; bract of the same shape as leaves; bractlets yellow white, stiffy acicular shorter than leaves, glabrous, base expanded, appearing ovate or suborbicular. Flowers bisexual. Perianth segments 5, onlong-lanceolate, membranous, perianth below wing slightly thickened, distal part incurved and enclosing utricle; wings unequal, dry membranous, margin erose. Filaments not exserted, short; anthers ovoid to cylindric, apex obtuse or acute, without an appendage. Utricle 1-1.5 mm in diameter; pericarp light brown. Enbryo yellow-brown.
Occurs on dunes. Distribution: North Xinjiang, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Afghanistan.
Deciduous tree 15-20 mm high, with erect or slightly twisting trunk up to 50 cm in diameter. Crown wide spreading with brownish grey bark. Stem: glabrous, yellowish brown. Buds oviform 5-7 mm. Leaves alternate, undivided, broad, longer petiolate; dimorphic; entire, broadly rhombic orbicular 2-4 cm long, 4-6 cm wide, upward, entire or irregularly toothed, slightly pointed or grooved at tip. Catkins appear before leaves, pendulous. Perianth cup-shaped, many toothed; male flowers up to 2 mm long, long pedicelled in compact catkins; 12-14 stamens; anthers ovate, dark brown with free filaments. Female catkins 5-6 cm long, dense, wooly with single ovary.
Reproduction – sexual and vegetative (suckers). Anemophilous. Flowering April. Fruit: large, ovoid-oblong capsule, narrow at top, 6-10 mm long, opening by 2 slits.
Riparian. Occurs in tugai forest, river banks, springs, along Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers. Moderately salt tolerant. Often mixed with Populus diversifolia in tugai; forms dense groves along the rivers in highlands 350- 1950 m. Distributed in Central Asia, southern Kazakhstan, Iran and western China
Other Populus species:
Populus litwinowiana Dode
Distinguished by high assimilation to the desert conditions, protective coloring of animals, rather poor species composition compared to other zones, and prevailing nocturnal animals.
The very important factor for animals is the desert climate, in particular the long hot period of a year, a short, usually cold winter and availability of fodder in all seasons of a year (but not equally in all seasons). The fauna of the Central deserts is typical of the Turan Depression, and it has many common species with Middle Asia, north and Central Africa. The quantity and composition of species in different parts of the desert depend on difference of natural environment. Very specific is the fauna of river valleys where apart from the desert species you can find animals peculiar of dense tugai thickets and water bodies. There is also the fauna of oasis and settlements. Thus, the Amu Darya valley numbers - 211 bird species, while the Western Karakums – 118 species. The river valleys are the habitat for over hundreds of nestling birds, the desert 20 - 30 species.
The animal world has two main complexes: fauna of sandy areas and fauna of areas with compact soils – clays and crushed stone. The animal world of sandy shrub deserts is most rich. The takyrs and solonchaks are nearly lifeless.
The most typical mammals found here are:
Roofed – gazelle (everywhere);
Predatory – corsac fox, wolf, dune cat (endemic), steppe cat, caracal;
Rodents – midday gerbil, Libyna jird, thin-Toed ground squirrel (in sandy areas), yellow gopher (in clay deserts), numerous jerboa - smaller, hairy-footed, comb-toed (endemic) and other;
Insectivorous – sand shrew and long-eared hedgehog; bats are distributed sporadically.
The reptile population is rich and quite specific:
Snakes – carpet viper (poisonous) arrow snake, sand boa and others;
Lizards – toad agama (long eared, sand, takyr).
Among the insects, the most extensively represented are the coleopterous (darkling beetle, leaf-horned and others), flies, ants, termites (several species). Quite frequently met are solifugae and scorpions. The fauna of ticks is quite diverse.
Hoofed mammals;Koulan (Persian onager)
Goitered gazelle (Black – tailed gazelle)
Bezoar ibex (Persian ibex)
Dune cat (sand cat)
Rodents (gnawing animals):
Long-clawed ground squirrel (gopher)
Giant day jird
Insect eating mammals;desert hedgehog
Fresh water turtle
Big-eared toad agama
Arrow snake (psammophis lincolatus)
Transcaspian saw-scaled viper
Black-bellied sand grouse
Pi-tailed sand grouse (Pintail)
Saxaul desert jay
Wild duck (mallard duck)
Eurasian gree-winged teal
The great cormorant
Fresh water catfish, wels
- Seven-spot ladybird
- Sand Owlet moths (noctuid moths)
- The hairy-footed flower bee
- Hawk moths
- Common yellow swallowtail
- Buprestid beetles (Poplar buprestid)
- Lyreman. Tibicen linnei (Cicadidae. Cicada)
- Antlions – antlion lacewings, doodlebugs (Myrmeleontidae)
- Polyphylla fullo – Beetle (Melolonthinae)
- Assassin flies (Asilidae, the robber fly family)
- Sand wasps (Sphecidae)
- Blister beetles (Meloidae)
- Anthia mannerheimi Ground beetle (Anthiinae)
- Scarites – Ground beetle
- Calosoma sycophanta – forest caterpillar hunter (Carabidae)
- Acrida – nosed grasshopper (Acrididae)
- Polyphaga pellucida – sand cockroach
- Caspian darkling beetle (Tenebrionidae)
- Scarab – dung beetles (Scarabaeidae)
- Opatrum sabulosum (Tenebrionidae)