1. Main
  2. Learn
  3. Life
  4. Environment

UNESCO adds Kazakhstani site to list of biosphere reserves

Barsakelmes Natural Reserve in Kazakhstan. Photo courtesy of zapovedniki-mira.com Barsakelmes Natural Reserve in Kazakhstan. Photo courtesy of zapovedniki-mira.com

A Kazakhstani site has been added to the UNESCO list of protected biosphere nature reserves, Tengrinews reports.

BarsaKelmes, a Kazakh name that literary means If You Go There You Will Not Return, was once an island in the Aral Sea.

According to unofficial sources, access to the island was strictly limited since it was a site for developing and testing of biological weapons - a twin-site of Vozrozhdeniya Island (also known as Renaissance or Rebirth Island), famous in the USSR for its biological experiments.

The island was located 180 km to the south-west of Aralsk town. In the 1960s the area made 23x7 km. In summer 2009 the island or even a semi-island ceased to exist because of the extensive shrinking of the Sral Sea.

 According to official sources, the island was discovered in 1848 and in the 1920s it because home to a fur farm breeding ... ground squirrels. Ten years later the island was declared a national natural reserve tasked with protection of the population of kulans (Equus hemionus) brought there from neighboring Turkmenistan (than the Turkmen Republic). The reserve was known as one of the territories most closed-off for visitors.   

Several decades has passed since the island's prime. The area is no longer a Soviet Union domain and there is no Aral Sea around the 'island', with only stray winds lifting up the dust and carrying it and whatever horrors used to dwell in the area miles away.

Besides, allegedly being a site of biological experiments, BarsaKelmes is made special by its ecosystem containing an unusual array of animals and plants that got preserved thanks to the isolation of the territory. A steppe cheetah thought to be extinct is one of them.

Currently there is a national natural reserve called BarsaKelmes Reserve in the area. 

According to UNESCO, the biosphere reserve is situated in the Sahara-Gobi Desert zone of the Aral Sea basin. The Aral Sea region is a priority area for wetland conservation and several bird migration routes converge over the region. The territory of the proposed biosphere reserve is a valuable site to preserve the biodiversity of the Aral Sea. It numbers approximately 2,000 species of invertebrates, 30 mammal species, 178 bird species, and 20 reptile species. The reserve also includes four nomadic Kazakhs medieval archaeological sites that were part of the Silk Roads.

The International Co-ordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme of UNESCO added 20 sites to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves during its meeting in the capital of Peru on 18 and 19 March. The newly adopted sites include 18 national site and one transboundary site shared between Spain and Portugal. The Council also approved 9 extensions to existing Biosphere Reserves. Following the withdrawal of two sites at the request of Austria, this brings the total number of biosphere reserves to 669 sites in 120 countries, including 16 transboundary sites.

In Canada, the Tsa Tue area in the country's Northwest Territories that includes the last pristine arctic lake was added to the list, as was the Beaver Hills region of Alberta, which has a landscape formed by a retreating glacier, AFP reports.

Britain's Isle of Man, located in the Irish Sea in a biologically diverse marine environment, and Mexico's Isla Cozumel were also selected for the network.

And in Portugal, the entire Island of Sao Jorge, the fourth largest in the Azores Archipelago, was designated a reserve in addition to the Tajo River region between Portugal and Spain.

The list of new UNESCO biosphere reserves also includes sites in Algeria, Ghana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines and Tanzania.

Of the hundreds of locations on the list, 16 are sites that stretch across more than one country. Spain is the country with the largest number of registered reserves. 

During the meeting, nine extensions to existing biosphere reserves were also approved. 

Nobel prizewinner proposes a new city in KZ
New abnormal snowfalls expected in Kazakhstan
Huge glacier retreat triggered in 1940s
Hyperloop construction begins in Las Vegas
"Moonlight" to top Spirit Awards nominations
Oil prices fall due to investors uncertainty
New dwarf galaxy discovered around Milky Way
Kanat Islam becomes a top ten WBO boxer
World oil prices continue to rise
Kazakhstan expects warming - Kazhydromet
Merkel to seek fourth term as chancellor
Sale of Tintin drawings set to break records
US, EU stocks fall as markets focus on dollar
Pacific leaders urged to defend free trade
EU warns eight nations on budget deficit
Universiade-2017: Athletic Village is ready
Bob Dylan can't make Nobel ceremony
Messi will never leave Barca - club president
Google, Facebook take aim at 'fake' news
Aerosmith announces Europe 'farewell' tour
Putin, Trump to normalise US-Russia ties
At least 10 hurt in southern Turkey blast
6.2 quake hits western Japan
OPEC agrees shock oil output cut
Israeli ex-president and Nobel laureate Peres dies
Germany blocks WhatsApp data transfers to Facebook
32,000 arrested in Turkey coup probe
Youth to the fore as Milan fashion week opens
Xenophobia threatening peace in eastern Germany
Four-in-10 Japanese are virgins: poll
Sweden re-militarises Baltic island of Gotland
China to launch second space laboratory: Xinhua
More than a billion stars mapped in Milky Way: ESA
Boxing: Golovkin eyes Saunders after stopping Brook
Kazakhstan shifts PM to security chief
Oil prices gain despite rising OPEC supply forecast
US to give Philippines military planes
Singapore wages war on Zika-bearing mosquitoes
Italy quake death toll nears 250
Viral photos add fuel to French burkini debate
18 dead as Italy struck by powerful quake
Japan's first lady visits Pearl Harbor
Pokemon's a no-go on Bangkok's roads
July was Earth's hottest month in modern times
Pakistan rock climbers scale new heights