Sary-Chelek reserve, the only
biosphere reserve in the Central Asian mountains, is located on the
southern slopes of the Chatkal ridge. Its landscapes are beautiful and
multifarious. Piedmont steppes and ridges with snow-covered peaks,
turbulent rivers and still marshes, mountain lakes with diverse rocks,
flower-filled valleys, mountain taiga and alpine meadows - all combine
to make an unforgettable impression.
The small reserve territory (23,900 hectares) is ringed by the Chatkal
mountain ridge some of whose peaks tower more than 4000 m above sea
level. The ridges and the valleys separating them run almost parallel
with each other. The relief of the Middle Mountains is relatively
smooth, but even here steep edges, jagged peaks and narrow gorges are
visible. The lower part of the mountain range looks like a strip of
small rolling foothills, interspersed with ravines and valleys.
The fast-flowing Khodja-Ata River starts at the western edge of the
reserve and runs through the whole territory, creating picturesque
waterfalls in places. The river and its various tributaries flow for
twelve to fifteen km through deep gloomy gorges. In the northern part
of the reserve at an altitude of 1940m above sea level lies the
Sary-Chelek lake. To the south-east are a few smaller lakes: Kyla-Kol,
Iri-Kol, Chocha-Kol and Krugloe (meaning round). All the lakes were
formed due to a subsidence in ancient times, which blocked the river
like a dam. Sary-Chelek, the largest lake, spreads for 7.5km from
north-west to south-east. The mountain ridges with variously colored
rocks encircle the lake and are reflected in its calm waters.
climate in Sary-Chelek reserve is relatively damp and gentle in
comparison with other continental and windswept regions of Southern
Kirghizia. The mountain walls protect the territory from the cold north
wind so winter temperatures are higher than in the valleys. In the
summer conversely the temperature here is lower than in the valleys.
Such conditions: a moderate climate, abundant precipitations and
heightened air moisture are very favorable for many heat-loving plants.
The variety of altitude, climate, light and soil is the reason for the
richness and diversity of colors of the flora. About 800 species of
vascular plants can be found here.
At a height of about 2200m above sea level the mountain taiga begins.
The main plant growing here is the Shrenk fir (picea schrenkiana), but
silver fir (abies semenovii), maple (acer turkestanicum), juniper,
birch (betula procurva), as well as different bushes (eg spiraea,
currant) can be also found in some gorges and mountain slopes.
Bushes create impassable thickets, in which the Exochorda (Exochorda
tianschanica) prevails. There are thirteen types of dog-rose on the
High up grassy meadows lie in amongst the forested areas. The
sub-alpine meadows are very beautiful during the flowering season, when
the dense colorful carpet of geraniums and other plants can be seen
from miles around. Further up between the rocks and taluses lie the
Unfortunately today you rarely see argali , the
mountain ram, on mountain plateau meadows, overgrown with wormwood,
wild oats or fescue. Its numbers have dwindled due to poaching and
distant-pasture cattle breeding, which was popular on this territory
The ounce or snow leopard, which is extremely rare, lives in the alpine
zone of the Chatkal ridge. This skilled predator is very cautious; you
will hardly ever find its tracks among rocks, taluses and stones, and
it takes care to leave the remains of wild mountain goat and argali,
its favorite prey, far from the den. Like any cat, the snow leopard is
very dexterous: when threatened or in full pursuit, it can leap as far
as ten meters.
Very interesting ancient trees can be found in the reserve. For example
the Turkestan juniper is 2000 years old and it has been known to live
even longer. Obviously these trees have preserved traces of terrestrial
and astrophysical phenomena of the past years and the scientists can
glean a great deal of information on the history and growing conditions
of such plants by studying these venerable old trees. Tian Shan is
young in geological terms and the orogeny is still in process. Instant
change processes, such as those leading to natural disasters
(earthquakes, mudslides, avalanches), and prolonged processes (eg
erosion, cryogen) change the biogeocenoses, cause rockfalls, and
destroy top-soil. Such vulnerability of natural resources requires us
to fight against soil erosion by regulating the surface run-off and
ensuring that farming methods work in harmony with the features and
rules of natural development. In the meantime all negative processes
that take place in the mountains are as a direct result of human