ⓘ Uvs Lake Basin


ⓘ Uvs Lake Basin

Uvs Lake Basin is an endorheic basin located on the territorial border of Mongolia and Tuva, a republic of the Russian Federation. The basin is part of the Central Asian Internal Drainage Basin and is named after Uvs Lake, a large saline lake situated in the western part of its drainage basin. Uvs Lake is a shallow lake with an area of 3.350 km 2. Its entire basin, which includes several smaller lakes, is 70.000 km 2.

Uvs Lake Basin may also refer to Ubsunur Hollow Russian: Убсунурская котловина, Ubsunorskaya Kotlovina, which is the western part of the drainage basin, or to over 10.000 km 2 3.900 sq mi of protected areas covering the lake and its surroundings. The hollow forms the northern part of the Great Lakes Depression, which has a surface of over 100.000 km 2 39.000 sq mi. The hollow, and most of the drainage basin, are situated in the Khovsgol, Zavkhan and Uvs Provinces of north-western Mongolia, and the Mongun-Tayginsky, Ovyursky, Tes-Khemsky and Erzinsky Districts of southern Tuva.

The basin is part of a combination of raised lands and hollows located throughout the Tannu-Ola and Altai mountainous regions. Here, the worlds most northern desert meets the Northern Hemispheres most southern tundra zone. An area of 10.560 km 2 4.080 sq mi, around three quarters of which lies in Mongolia, was designated Biosphere Reserve in 1997, and a partly overlapping zone of around the same size was designated UNESCO World Heritage in 2003. The Mongolian part of the lake and its immediate surroundings were further adopted as Ramsar wetland in 2004.


1. Geography

The Tannu-Ola mountains form the northern border of Ubsunur Hollow. Tere-Khol Lake, the only freshwater lake of the basin, lies, like Uvs Lake, on the Russian-Mongolian border. The more eastern part of the Uvs Lake drainage basin extends, in the north, to the Sengilen ridge of the Sayan Mountains, and in the east, to the basin of Sangiin Dalai Lake. The southern part of the hollow is bordered by the basin of Khyargas Lake, with the Khan Khokhii mountains separating both basins of the Great Lakes Depression. More to the east, the Bulnai mountain range forms the southern border of Uvs Lakes drainage basin. West of the Uvs Lake Basin lies the endorheic basin of Uureg Lake, bordered by the Altai Mountains. The Tsagan-Shibetu ridge separates, in part, the Uvs and Uureg lake basins. The south-western tip of the Uvs Lake Basin covers most of the Turgen Uul range, and includes the north-eastern slopes of Harhiraa mountain


2. Archaeology

According to Greenpeace, Ubsunur Hollow counts 40.000 archaeological sites from nomadic Scythians, Turks, Huns and other tribes. A number of its archaeological artefacts remain unstudied. In Central Asia, it has the highest concentration of burial mounds, constituting around half of its archaeological sites, and many of which are older than the Egyptian pyramids. Thousands of rock carvings and stone sculptures remain from medieval settlements and Buddhist temples.

Archaeological searches carried out in 2007–2008 on the Por-Bazhyn ruins, which are situated on an islet in the Russian part of Tere-Khol Lake, suggested that the enclosure was built around the middle of the second half of the 8th century, under the Uyghur Khaganate.


3. Population

The population density is low in the Ubsunur Hollow. Populated almost exclusively by the nomadic Tuvan people, cattle breeders living in yurts, The lack of industry and the reliance of the inhabitants on traditional ways of life, such as nomadic pasturing, have had little impact on the landscape and have allowed the ecosystem to remain relatively free from the negative effects that human presence can impose. Both the Russian and the Mongolian parts of the hollow are home to nomadic Tuvan cattle herders, who live in yurts and make up virtually all of the population.


4. Flora and fauna

The Hollow, located on the border between Mongolia and Russia, lies at the intersection of complex ecosystems. Its area is 10.688 km 2 4.127 sq mi. The terrain includes glaciers, taiga, desert, alpine tundra, sub alpine meadows, and a vast mountain taiga areas. There are also forested steppes, treeless steppes, semi-arid deserts, and ever shifting sand dunes. It is a diversified natural habitat, producing an interaction of Euro-Siberian and Central Asian-Mongolian plant and animal life.

Due to its location on the cusp of the Siberian and Central Asian-Mongolian terrains, the flora and fauna of the hollow exhibit a high biodiversity for mid-latitudes. Animal species that inhabit both mountains and tundra, such as the Siberian roe deer, and Altai snowcock, flourish here. The endangered snow leopard is also present, as well as taiga dwellers such as the Caspian red deer, lynx and wolverine. Steppe dwellers include the Mongolian lark, demoiselle crane and long-tailed Siberian squirrel. Desert inhabitants include the bustard and midday gerbil. The bird species alone number some 359. Since the hollow is a protected area, many ancient species extinct in other regions have found refuge here.


5. Conservation instruments

In 1993 Russia protected the Tuvan parts of Ubsunur Hollow as the Ubsunurskaya Kotlovina State Nature Biosphere Reserve. In 1995 Greenpeace Russia prepared its proposal to nominate Ubsunur Hollow, in conjunction with Mongolia, as World Heritage Site, describing it as "one of the largest intact watersheds in Central Asia".


5.1. Conservation instruments Biosphere Reserve

Ubsunur Hollow Biosphere Reserve is a fragile mountain hollow or depression located on the territorial border of Mongolia and the Republic of Tuva in the Russian Federation among the mountains - Tannu-Ola Mountains, and the Altay Mountains region - part of a combination of raised lands and depressions. Here the worlds most northern desert meets the worlds most southern tundra zone.

Ubsunur Hollow Reserve Tuva was awarded international Biosphere Reserve status in 1998, as a step toward protecting Southern Siberias wilderness which contain Russias largest intact tracts of Siberian Pine and Siberian Fir-dominated ecosystems.


5.2. Conservation instruments World Heritage site

Ubsunur Hollow was nominated for inclusion in Russias second World Heritage Site the first being the Virgin Komi Forests in 1995 as "one of the largest intact watersheds in Central Asia where up to 40.000 unexcavated burial mounds and other archaeological sites can be found from historically famous nomadic tribes such as the Scythians, the Turks and the Huns." The nomination was submitted in conjunction with the Tuva Republic and Mongolia and included 75.000 square kilometres of forest and steppe and associated cultural and natural heritage. Other sites included in this first Russian listing proposal were:

  • The Virgin Komi Forests in the Russian Far East 40.000 km 2.
  • The Volcanoes of Kamchatka 40.000 km 2 including unique forests, salmon streams and volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula).
  • Vodlozero National Park including Lake Vygozero 10.000 km 2, Europes largest intact wetland and old-growth boreal forest taiga ecosystem.
  • The sources of the Ob River in the Altai Mountains 65.000 km² of mountain ecosystem of Siberia.

The Uvs Lake Basin World Heritage site, designated as 769rev in 2003, includes:

  • Tes River, Mongolia 50°28′N 93°45′E, zone between the delta at Uvs Lake and the Russian border
  • Altan els, Mongolia 49°50′N 5°0′E, sand dune region south of Tere-Khol Lake, including the Mongolian part of that lake
  • Turgen, Mongolia 49°46′N 91°22′E, mountain range south of Uureg Lake, near Turgen, Uvs.
  • Mongun Taiga, Russia 50°12′N 90°12′E, west of the Uvs Lake drainage basin.
  • Tsagan shuvuut, Mongolia 50°19′N 91°9′E, part of the Tsagan-Shibetu ridge
  • Tsugeer els, Russia 50°5′N 95°15′E, northern part of Tere-Khol Lake, and environs
  • Uvs Lake, Mongolia 50°20′N 92°53′E, bulk of the Uvs Lake zone
  • Ubsu-Nur, Russia 50°37′N 93°8′E, area at the north-eastern tip of Uvs Lake.
  • Ular, Russia 50°32′N 5°38′E, situated in the western part of the Sengilen ridge
  • Jamaalyg, Russia 50°15′N 94°45′E, west of Erzin
  • Aryskannyg, Russia 50°40′N 94°44′E, east of the previous zone, partly in the Tannu-Ola mountains
  • Oroku-Shinaa, Russia 50°37′N 94°0′E, northern part of the zone around the Tes River, adjacent to part 12 on the Mongolian side.