Taxkorgan Nature Reserve

Taxkorgan Natural Reserve was established in 1984 over the terrain of 4000 km2 in the southwest corner of China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region; it is where the borders of China, Pakistan, USSR, and Afghanistan meet. The reserve is mountainous, about half of it lies at 4500 m and above, including the northern flanks of the Karakoram, the western edge of the Kunlun, and eastern rim of the Pamir mountains. The southern boundary follows the Pakistan border eastward until just past K2 (Chogali), at 8611 m- the world's second highest peak. In this part, the reserve is contiguous with Pakistan's Khunjerab National Park. The southeast portion of the reserve is very remote and only a few foreign expeditions have penetrated it, whereas the west has been an international travel route for centuries. Basically flat and in places more than 5km wide, the Taxkorgan Valley (the Taghdumbash Pamir on old maps) was part of the ancient Silk Route that continued to the Chalachigu Valley, and over the Mintaka Pass into Pakistan. Since the late 1960s a highway has connected China and Pakistan via the Khunjerab Pass, a route opened to tourism in 1986. The northern and northeastern reserve boundary is traversed by various tributaries of the Yarkant (Yeeheng) River.

General Information:

Landscape: Karakoram-Pamir Protected Area Type: Strict Nature Reserve
Established Year: 1984 Area: 14000 sq. km.

Geographical Features:

Country:
District(s):
Latitude:
Min: 17.287706 Max:
Longitude:
Min: 58.583677 Max:
Altitude:
From: 3000 meter To: 8611 meter
Average rainfall (m): Only 75.4 mm of precipitation, 81% of it between May and September
Climate: Conditions are cool and dry. Mean monthly minimum temperature at Taxkorgan Town (3,090m) to the north of the reserve was -16°C to 17°C during the coldest months of December and January in 1984, and mean daily maximum reached 22-23°C during the warmest months from June to August. Only 75.4mm of precipitation fell in 1984, 81% of it between May and September (Schaller et al., 1987).

Biodiversity Features:

Province: Himalayan Highlands
Biomes: Eurasian High Montane
Vegetation: Much of the terrain is too high or arid to support much vegetation. Below 3,000-3,200m there are usually cliffs, screes, sand and silt, a desert that is so dry that few plants survive except along streams. The only native trees are found in low-lying valleys: willow Salix and tamarisk Tamarix below 3,400m, and cottonwood Populous and birch Betula below 3,300m, a few being as tall as 10m. At 4,400m, near the upper vegetation limit, plants grow mainly along seepages and rivulets, and at 4,500m bare rock dominates, although hardy species of Rhodiola, Saussurea and Tanacetum may occur as high as 4,600-4,700m. Vegetation has been greatly modified by human and livestock use (Schaller et al., 1987).


Socioeconomic Features:

Community Structure: Part of the Silk Road, an ancient travel route, follows the Chalachiga Valley along the northern border of the reserve and over the Mintaka Pass into Pakistan. The Karakoram Highway, completed in the 1960s, now follows this route.
EthnicGroup: Kyrgyz and Tajik community
Natural Heritage: Part of the Silk Road, an ancient travel route, follows the Chalachiga Valley, along the northern border of the reserve, and over the Mintaka Pass into Pakistan. The Karakorum Highway, completed in the 1960s, now follows this route.
Cultural Significance:
Livelihood strategies: In 1985, four communes and a breeding farm, totalling about 7,750 Kirgiz and Tajik people with 70,000 head of livestock, used the reserve at least seasonally. About 80% of the livestock is sheep and goats and the rest comprises donkeys, horses, cattle, camels and yaks. Where land is flat and irrigation possible, barley and a few other crops are grown.


Conservation Management:

IUCN Category: IV - Habitat/Species Management Area
Area of land and/or sea subject to active intervention for management purposes so as to ensure the maintenance of habitats and/or to meet the requirements of specific species.
Management Authority:
Park Head Quarter: Xinjiang, China
Conservation History:
Conservation Challenges: Taxkorgan cannot become a viable reserve until the activities of human residents and their livestock are modified, and hunting is controlled. Overgrazing by livestock and the removal of shrubs and trees for fuel wood has greatly reduced the carrying capacity of the land, and turned low-lying slopes and valley flats into desert. Traditionally, ibex, blue sheep and marco polo sheep were hunted to supplement the diet, but this has intensified with the construction of the Karkoram Highway. Predators, particularly wolves and snow leopards kill large numbers of livestock (partly a reflection of depleted wild ungulate populations) and are in turn killed in retribution.
Conservation Efforts:
Transboundary Features: Taxkorgan and the adjacent Khunjerab National Park in Pakistan constitute one of the most important wildlife areas in the mountains of Asia. Their establishment provides the foundation for an international peace park in the region. Taxkorgan has important populations of large ungulates and carnivores, notably Marco Polo sheep and snow leopard
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