Cold Winter Deserts of Turan nominated as UNESCO World Heritage Site

Author: Christian Welscher, Greifswald University, Central Asian Desert Initiative.

After more than two years of intensive preparation, in late January theree CMS Parties Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan submitted their transnational nomination of the Cold Winter Deserts of Turan as a World Natural Heritage Site to the UNESCO in Paris. The Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the Cold Winter Desert of Turan is justified by the significant ongoing ecological and biological processes in the cold winter deserts (criterion ix), as well as their importance as habitat for globally threatened animal and plant species (criterion x).

The nominated transnational site covers a total area of 3.4 million hectares and includes a total of 15 components from seven protected areas of the three countries. This area provides habitat for five CAMI species: Argali (Ovis ammon), Asiatic Wild Ass (Equus hemionus), Goitered Gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), Saiga Antelope (Saiga tatarica) and Urial (Ovis vignei arkal).

The joint nomination shall strengthen the transboundary cooperation for the conservation of these species. Under a newly concluded Memorandum of Understanding, that is part of the nomination, the three states agreed on transnational mechanisms for the management and protection of the nominated site. A monitoring system for the nominated components and a regular exchange of results between the Parties are also to be established.

If the nomination is accepted,  Turan will become the first World Natural Heritage Site in the category of cold winter deserts. A recent thematic study by IUCN emphasizes that this biome that is so far not represented among World Heritage Sites has the potential to be included.

The technical preparation of the nomination was supported by the Michael Succow Foundation within the framework of the Central Asian Desert Initiative (CADI), financed by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV).

Last updated on 04 April 2022