The Hills Are Alive
Forming the northernmost flanks of the Hindu Kush Mountains in central Asia, the Badkhyz-Karabil Semi-Desert ecoregion is made up of hilly plateaus carpeted with savanna and groves of wild pistachio. The ecoregion contains a remarkable amount of plant diversity, hosting more than 1,100 species of vascular plants--about 75 of which are endemic. What’s more, the ecoregion contains key populations of kulan and goitered gazelles, as well as a variety of bird life.
The Badkhyz-Karabil ecoregion landscape is highly eroded, with large ancient valleys and basins. Temperatures in the area can vary widely throughout the year, with a maximum of 116° F (47° C) and a minimum of -26° F (-32° C) having been recorded. Almost all of the region’s precipitation falls in winter and early spring, leading to an early and short growing season that’s followed by drought from May to October. While pistachio forests were originally abundant, grasslands now form the dominant vegetation.
The ecoregion supports at least 40 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, and 34 species of reptiles. The Badkhyz Nature Reserve contains one of the only populations of Transcaspian urial (a kind of wild sheep), which numbers about 1,000 but is declining. The onager (a kind of wild ass), on the other hand, is rebounding due to breeding and reintroduction programs at the reserve. Other species that can be found here include the striped hyena, short-toed eagle, golden eagle, and the caracal--a cat with long slender ears.
Cause for Concern
Most of this ecoregion is used for pastures, where intensive grazing occurs. Pistachio forests are largely cut and fragmented by local human populations. The urial is threatened by local hunters as well as foreign trophy hunters. Research and conservation organizations exist but are not equipped to tackle the region’s environmental troubles. There are nature reserves within the ecoregion, yet their condition is in decline as a result of poor funding.
For more information on this ecoregion, go to the World Wildlife Fund Scientific Report.All text by World Wildlife Fund © 2001