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Uvs Nuur Basin

Cultural criteria: ix, x
Year of inclusion in the List of World Heritage:

Ubsunur (Ubsu-Nur, Uvs-Nuur) is a quite big (70 by 80 km) shallow (up to 15 m) brine lake, situated at the border of Tuva and Mongolia, in the west part of the vast (from west to east – up to 600 km, from south to north – 160 km) and closed (i.e. blind) intermountain kettle. The north part of this kettle is the territory of Russia (Tuva), and the south one is that of Mongolia.

Transfrontier Heritage site consists of 12 odd clusters in total area of 1,069 thousand ha. In Russia there are seven clusters thereof, in total area of 258.6 thousand ha, the other five are situated in Mongolia (these are four clusters of the Uvs Nuur Nature Reserve and the Tes-Hem preserve, overall 810. 2 thousand ha).

Russian clusters are seven (of nine) clusters of the Ubsunur kettle biosphere reserve, created in 1993. These clusters are situated in different parts of the drainage basin of Lake Ubsunur that is why they prove to be quite different from one another by their natural conditions. But in whole they represent all fundamental types of landscapes typical for Central Asia.

Thus, the Mongun-Taiga cluster is situated in the highest place of the Ubsunur kettle (and the whole Tuva): it includes a high-mountain massif of the same name (3,970 m) with eternal snows and small glaciers, stony placers, areas of cold mountain tundras; Alpine severe topography predominates here. In the Ular cluster (valley of the Ular River) there are also high-altitude complexes, but conditions here are not so rigorous: these are bald mountains, mountain tundras and alpine meadows, as well as mountain taiga (park larch, cedar and spruce forests). The Aryskannyg cluster are high-altitude and mountain taiga complexes (larch admixed with cedar, pine, birch and poplar), situated in the basin of the river of the same name, on the south slope of the Tannu-Ola ridge.

The Oruku-Shinaa cluster are wetlands, reedbeds, low forest, and the Ubsunur cluster is the northeast end of the lake basin, overstepping the Russian territory, together with the boggy coast.

The Yamaalyg cluster is an extending for 10 km rocky butte with an entourage of a foothill plain occupied by dry steppe. Finally, in the Tsugeer-Els cluster one can see a real desert, with sand massifs practically not secured by verdure, as well as feather-grass and desert steppes with rocky torso mountains, imparting special picturesqueness to the area. Among pure verdure there are dwarf peashrub, wormwood sage, stemless silverweed, leban, rye lyme grass etc. Here, with an entourage of dry steppes, Lake Tore-Hol lies with pure fresh water.

Thus, Ubsunur represents the rarest case, when in a relatively small area so contrast landscapes are found, such as, on the one hand, severe taiga and glacier highlands, and a real sandy desert on the other one. Furthermore the Ubsunur deserts can be defined as northernmost in the whole Eurasia and mountain tundras as southernmost.

The general number of higher plants species growing on the Russian part of the Heritage site is over 1 thousand, thereof seven species are enlisted in the Red Book of Russia, for example, Tuvinian locoweed, Mongolian oxytrope, Altai rhubarb, feather grass.

The faunal list of the Ubsunur kettle reserve includes over 80 mammal species and about 350 species of birds. Furthermore, the Red Book of Russia includes eight mammal species (red dog, snow leopard, Siberian argali, dzeren, forest caribou, tarbagan, marbled polecat, manul) and 34 birds species (hooded crane, Dalmatian pelican, spoonbill, bar-headed goose, swan goose, Bewick's swan, osprey, golden eagle, white-tailed (sea) eagle, gyrfalcon, peregrin etc.). At the same time four mammal species (red dog, snow leopard, Siberian argali, dzeren) and 12 birds species (for example, white-tailed (sea) eagle and hooded crane), recognized rare on a global basis, also figure in the International Red Book.

Lake Ubsunur together with adjoining meadow bogs and saline serves as a place of concentration of a great number of birds of passage and waterfowl. In certain seasons one can see here a lot of gooses and ducks, as well as swans, sandpipers, herons, cormorants, gulls and tarrocks, coots and great-crested grebe etc.

Semidesert and steppe landscapes being predominant in low-lying parts of the inland kettle, are populated by a variety of animals, among which birds are the most widely represented (particularly Mongolian lark, houbara bustard and demoiselle crane) as well as gnawing animals (jerboas, sousliks, gnawer beetles etc.).

Within the mountain-tundra-forest frame of the Ubsunur kettle, besides the above mentioned very rare snow leopard and argali, the following are found as well: Siberian wild mountain goat, moose deer, caribou, maral, roe deer, musk deer, Indian wolf and red dog, brown bear, lynx, Pallas' cat, skunk bear, marten, sable, marbled polecat, tarbagan. These are also birds of all kinds – rock ptarmigan, Altai snowcock, capercaillie, fritillary, heath cock, nutcracker, griffon vulture, lammergeier, saker falcon, golden eagle, peregrin etc.

In the kettle monuments of cultural heritage are found: necropolises, rock paintings, stone statues. The most valuable from this viewpoint is the Yamaalyg cluster (to the west of the city Erzin), where ancient barrows of Scythian, Hun-Sarmat and Turkic tribes are concentrated (in whole about 300 barrows), as well as prehistoric rock paintings of the Bronze Age were found, applied on stone by red paint and representing various animals (horses, bulls, argali).