Eurasia and North Africa are traversed by the largest and most complex continuous belt of arid lands on earth. It comprises an entirely interconnected ensemble of different landscapes and ecosystems, each with a rich variety of plant and animal species. From deserts, steppes and deciduous forests, from alpine meadows to tundra, almost all of the main types of terrestrial ecosystems are represented.
Eurasian arid lands still remain largely unfragmented and thereby provide an important refuge for many threatened migratory species. Large mammals such as the Bactrian camel or the Saiga antelope cover large distances during their migrations and are directly dependent on interconnected and intact steppe ecosystems for their survival. Several of these aridland species are already included in the Appendices of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).
In 1993, CMS first addressed the importance of arid lands for migratory species by initiating an Action Plan for the conservation of the Sahelo-Saharan Antelopes. This project has shown that arid lands are a privileged domain of activity for CMS. The Convention has, over the years, acquired a considerable experience in addressing the highly specific requirements of their environment and their fauna. The central Asian mammal fauna is a natural extension of its North African counterpart.
In order to emulate the success of the Sahelo-Saharan project in similar biotopes in Eurasia, the ninth Conference of the Parties adopted Recommendation 9.1, which pursues the Central Eurasian Megafauna Concerted Action and associated Cooperative Action. This initiative was envisaged to cover all threatened migratory large mammals of the temperate and cold deserts, semi-deserts, steppes and associated mountains of Central Asia, the Northern Indian sub-continent, Western Asia, the Caucasus and Eastern Europe.
The initiative will include an Action Plan and status reports for all species concerned, and will initially be centred on the following species
- Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus), Yak (Bos grunniens), Snow leopard (Uncia uncia), Bukhara deer (Cervus elaphus bactrianus), Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), for the Concerted Action (listed in Appendix I);
- Onager (Equus hemionus), Persian gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), Mongolian gazelle (Procapra gutturosa)and Saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) for the Cooperative Action (listed in Appendix II).
The Recommendation also encourages Range States and other interested Parties to prepare the necessary proposals to include in Appendix I or Appendix II of the Convention threatened species that would benefit from the Action.
Read more about the Concerted Action on Eurasian Aridland Mammals here.
For further information, please refer also to the 16th Scientific Council Meeting, in particular the Report of the Working Group on Terrestrial Mammals.
CMS Side Event highlights steppes and deserts of Eurasia as a refuge for migratory species
In order to raise the profile of Eurasian aridlands and to highlight their importance for migratory species, CMS hosted a side event at the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on 27 October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan. Under the title "Steppes and Deserts of Eurasia: A Refuge for Migratory Species", CMS representatives and a panel of experts highlighted the threats faced by migratory species in Eurasia, such as the Saiga antelopes and other mammals, but also the Siberian cranes, waterbirds and raptors. The experts outlined current activities and avenues for future conservation.