Protection of cold deserts in Central Asia

Tree in the desert

A shot from the road in the Taklamakan desert showing an irrigated section to establish protective growth. Photo: Mike Locke/flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The cold deserts in Central Asia extend from northern Iran through Central Asia to Mongolia, covering an area of 2.5 million square kilometres. Deserts such as the Gobi, Taklamakan, Karakum, Kyzylkum and Muyunkum are important areas for migration, among others for hoofed animals, and host a unique array of flora and fauna, perform a range of ecosystem services including serving as grazing grounds, and are an important carbon sink. However, these deserts are under threat from excessive timber extraction and overgrazing, and are increasingly unable to fulfil key ecosystem functions. In addition, there have not been adequate efforts to establish protected areas and place larger areas under nature conservation in the countries of this region. 

A recently launched International Climate Initiative (IKI) project will help to improve protection of this exceptional region and provide support to Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and the regional Central Asian Desert Initiative (CADI). As part of a cooperative arrangement, research institutions in China and Iran will also receive assistance.

The project aims to introduce a sustainable land-use planning strategy, designate new protected areas and World Heritage sites, provide capacity building, promote scientific cooperation and strengthen regional cooperation. The focus is on protecting the biome and improving the living conditions of the local population.

The project is being implemented by the University of Greifswald, the Michael Succow Foundation and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) with EUR 3.3 million in funding from the German Federal Environment Ministry.