Naurzum Field Research Station

Temperate Eurasia is home to many hundreds of vertebrate species, a large number of which are considered threatened or endangered. Widespread development in ecosystems throughout Europe and much of China have reduced the population size of most of these species to such an extent that central Asia is the remaining stronghold for many vertebrate populations. Furthermore, in spite of the environmental importance of this region, biodiversity conservation there is poorly developed and generally underfunded. This proposal addresses the problem of present and future biodiversity conservation in central Asia from several perspectives. Our program is focused on three primary goals: research, conservation and education. To achieve these goals we will establish an international biological field station associated with a nature reserve in northern Kazakhstan to provide (a) avenues for international collaboration in research, conservation and conservation; (b) logistical support and institutional associations for international researchers, conservationists and educators; (c) training, financial support, and collaboration and exchange programs for local scientists and students. We will also assist in the development of conservation management programs at the nature reserve through training programs and international exchange programs for land managers, scientists and administrators.

Established in 1931, the Naurzum Zapovednik (National Nature Reserve) is and has been one of the premier sites for research and conservation in the former Soviet Union. The exceptional diversity of its landscapes, with variable steppe, forest and wetland components, and its relatively pristine habitat and low human population density, have created a near-ideal environment for an exceptional vertebrate species diversity of more than 350 species. As an example, nearly 290 species of birds have been observed in the small 100 x 100 km area in and around the Zapovednik; this compares favorably with the 750 or so species that can be found throughout all of Europe. In short, the area of the Naurzum is one of the most exceptional areas of biodiversity in the northern hemisphere and one of the few remaining grassland landscapes, worldwide.

At present, the Naurzum is the site of some of the most active conservation and research programs in Kazakhstan. However, although this area is crucial to Eurasian biodiversity conservation, research at, and management of the reserve are generally based on low-technology Soviet-style solutions, and are under-funded, under-staffed and face immense logistical difficulties. The program we propose will address these issues and  will promote top-flight scientific research and conservation that can be applied to land management through development of an active international research program that mandates training and exchange opportunities for local park staff, scientists and students.

We will begin this project by developing an international biological research station based in Karamendy (formerly Dokuchaevka), where the Naruzum Zapovendik is administrated. The field station will be closely allied with the Zapovednik and with the Kostanay Pedogogical University. The biological station will be modeled after the Estacion Biologica de Donana, in Sevilla, Spain, which has close associations with research and educational institutions. The specific goals of the research station will be as follows:

  • provide logistical support for local and foreign biological field researchers, conservationists and educators
  • provide opportunities for foreign and local researchers to conduct top-quality collaborative research and to develop modern conservation and education programs
  • provide training opportunities for local and foreign students, including foreign and local undergraduates to complete summer research projects
  • where appropriate, provide financial support for training and research, especially for Kazakhstani scientists and students
  • provide exchange potential, by bringing outside investigators to Naurzum and by bringing Kazakhstani scientists and students to Donana and other similar parks
  • provide opportunities for socio-economic studies for issues that impact the the park and northern Kazakhstan in general (ecotourism, regional planning and land management)

We will also provide opportunities for development of improved conservation management plans at the Naurzum. The specific goals of this component of our program are as follows:

  • provide management training programs for park administrators and scientists in country and out of country
  • provide exchange programs to bring those administrators to Donana Biological Station and US parks to see first hand the impact of different tourism and management practices
  • provide similar exchange programs to bring administrators from those foreign institutions and other parks to Kazakhstan so that they can participate in training activities and learn from the more pristine setting in Kazakhstan.