Central Asian northern desert

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The Central Asian northern desert is an ecoregion in the deserts and xeric shrublands biome, located in the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan


The Central Asian northern desert occupies southern Kazakhstan and most of Uzbekistan, and largely corresponds with the desert known as the Kyzyl Kum. This ecoregion experiences a typical cold desert climate; January mean temperatures range from −10 °C (14 °F) to −15 °C (5 °F), while July means range from 24 °C (75 °F) to 26 °C (79 °F). On average, precipitation ranges from 100 millimetres (3.9 in) to 150 millimetres (5.9 in) annually. The topography of this ecoregion is varied, featuring salty "solonchak" deserts with a great number of salt flats, clay deserts, rocky deserts, and a small area of sandy desert in the southern portion of the region.


The vegetation of this ecoregion is dominated by shrubs and semi-shrubs, with a variety of different species adapted to the different soil types found in it. Clay deserts support communities of Anabasis salsa, Salsola orientalis, and the Artemisia species A. terrae albae, A. turanica, and A. gurganica. The stony deserts support mainly Salsola arbusculae formis and Nanophyton erinaceum, while the "solonchaks" support the semi-shrubs Ceratoides papposa, Artemisia terrae albae', var. massagetovii, A. santolina, and A. songarica, shrubs such as Calligonum aphyllum, Ephedra lomatolepis as well as grasses such as Agropyron fragile.


Mammals of the Central Asian northern desert include the long-eared hedgehog (Hemiechinus auritus), Tolai hare (lepus tolai), various species of gerbil and jerboa, saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica), steppe polecat (Mustela eversmanni), goitered gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa ), onager (Equus hemonius) and suslik (Spermophilus spp.).

Birds of this ecoregion include wheatears (Oenanthe isabellina, O. deserti), desert warbler (Sylvia nana), brown-necked raven (Corvus ruficollis), the endangered houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata), black-bellied sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), steppe eagle (Aquila rapax), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), and the saker falcon (Falco cherrug).

Numerous reptiles can be found in this ecoregion, including numerous Agama lizards, Rustamov's skink gekko (Teratoscincus scincus rustamovi), Chernov's snake-lizard (Ophimorus chernovi), Ferghana sand lizard (Eremias scripta pherganensis), desert monitor (Varanus griseus) and the Central Asian cobra (Naja oxiana).

The invertebrate fauna of this ecoregion is quite rich, especially in the sandy deserts, supporting a variety of grasshoppers, beetles, butterflies, termites and ants.

Conservation status and threats[edit]

The conservation status of this ecoregion is listed as "Vulnerable", and the main threats to its integrity are conversion of habitat to farmland, over-hunting and poaching and the use of plants for firewood and silk production. Protected areas include the Barsa-Kelmes reserve on an island in the Aral Sea, the Kaplankyr reserve, the Ustyurt reserve, and the Altyn-Emel National Park in Kazakhstan.


Afghan Mountains semi-desert Afghanistan
Alashan Plateau semi-desert China, Mongolia
Arabian Desert and East Sahero-Arabian xeric shrublands Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
Atlantic coastal desert Mauritania, Western Sahara
Azerbaijan shrub desert and steppe Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran
Badkhiz-Karabil semi-desert Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Baluchistan xeric woodlands Afghanistan, Pakistan
Caspian lowland desert Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan
Central Afghan Mountains xeric woodlands Afghanistan
Central Asian northern desert Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan
Central Asian riparian woodlands Kazakhstan
Central Asian southern desert Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Central Persian desert basins Afghanistan, Iran
Eastern Gobi desert steppe China, Mongolia
Gobi Lakes Valley desert steppe Mongolia
Great Lakes Basin desert steppe Mongolia, Russia
Junggar Basin semi-desert China, Mongolia
Kazakh semi-desert Kazakhstan
Kopet Dag semi-desert Iran, Turkmenistan
Mesopotamian shrub desert Iraq, Jordan, Syria
North Saharan steppe and woodlands Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Western Sahara
Paropamisus xeric woodlands Afghanistan
Persian Gulf desert and semi-desert Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates
Qaidam Basin semi-desert China
Red Sea Nubo-Sindian tropical desert and semi-desert Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
Rigestan-North Pakistan sandy desert Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan
Sahara desert Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Sudan
South Iran Nubo-Sindian desert and semi-desert Iran, Iraq, Pakistan
South Saharan steppe and woodlands Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Sudan
Taklimakan desert China
Tibesti-Jebel Uweinat montane xeric woodlands Chad, Egypt, Libya, Sudan
West Saharan montane xeric woodlands Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Niger