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Central Asia is the global hotspot of a nexus of resources. Land, water and food are key issues in this nexus. We analysed the status of land and water resources and their potential and limitations for agriculture in the five Central Asian Transition States. Agricultural productivity and its impacts on land and water quality were also studied. The ecological status of open waters and soils as dependent on the kind of water and land use was shown. The main sources were information and data from the scientific literature, recent research reports, the statistical databases of the FAO and UNECE, and the results of our own field work. Agriculture is crucial for the economy of all Central Asian countries and responsible for about 90 % of their water use. We found that land and water resources may provide their function of food supply, but the agricultural productivity of grassland and cropland is relatively low. Irrigation agriculture is sometimes inefficient and may cause serious detrimental side effects involving soil and water salinisation. Dryland farming, as currently practiced, includes a high risk of wind and water erosion. Water bodies and aquatic, arable and grassland ecosystems are in a critical state with tendencies to accelerated degradation and landscape desertification. Despite all these limitations, agricultural landscapes in Central Asia have great potential for multi-functional use as a source of income for the rural population, tourism and eco-tourism included. The precondition for this is a peaceful environment in which they can be developed. All major rivers and their reservoirs cross borders and involve potential conflict between upstream and downstream riparians. The nexus of resources requires more detailed research, both in the extent of individual elements and processes, and their interactions and cycles. Processes in nature and societies are autocorrelated and intercorrelated, but external disturbances or inputs may also trigger future developments. We emphasise the role of knowledge and technology transfer in recognising and controlling processes. There has been a lot of progress in science and technology over the past ten years, but agri-environmental research and education in Central Asia are still in a crisis. Overcoming this crisis and applying advanced methods in science and technology are key issues for further development. Science and technology may provide an overall knowledge shift when it comes to recognising processes and initiating sustainable development. The following chapters introduce the results of further, more detailed and regional analyses of the status of soil and water. Novel measurement and assessment tools for researching into, monitoring and managing land and water resources will be presented. We will inform future elites, scientists and decision makers on how to deal with them and encourage them to take action.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Environmental Science
Novel Measurement
and Assessment Tools
for Monitoring and
Management of Land
and Water Resources in
Agricultural Landscapes
of Central Asia
Lothar Mueller
Abdulla Saparov
Gunnar Lischeid Editors
Environmental Science and Engineering
Environmental Science
Series Editors
Rod Allan
Ulrich Förstner
Wim Salomons
For further volumes:
Lothar Mueller Abdulla Saparov
Gunnar Lischeid
Novel Measurement and
Assessment Tools for
Monitoring and Management
of Land and Water Resources
in Agricultural Landscapes
of Central Asia
Lothar Mueller
Gunnar Lischeid
Institute of Landscape Hydrology
Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape
Abdulla Saparov
Kazakh Research Institute of Soil Science
ISSN 1431-6250
ISBN 978-3-319-01016-8 ISBN 978-3-319-01017-5 (eBook)
DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-01017-5
Springer Cham Heidelberg New York Dordrecht London
Library of Congress Control Number: 2013942143
ÓSpringer International Publishing Switzerland 2014
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Origin of the Book
In 2009, during the 18th International Soil Tillage Research Organization (ISTRO)
conference in Izmir, Mekhlis Suleimenov from Kazakhstan and Lothar Mueller
from Germany came into contact and had their first few talks about soil and water
conservation and the situation of agriculture in their countries. They found some
common areas of interest, and it seemed to be worthwhile and challenging to
explore opportunities for a more intensive exchange of ideas. Abdulla Saparov,
Director of the Uspanov Institute for Soil Science in Almaty, and Gunnar Lischeid,
Head of the Institute of Landscape Hydrology at the Leibniz Centre for Agricul-
tural Landscape Research in Muencheberg, were very responsive to the suggestion
of starting to cooperate and encouraged, inspired and headed this project.
A research funding initiative by the German Federal Ministry of Education and
Research (BMBF) provided the framework, and our submission was confirmed. In
September 2010, the project KAZ 10/001 ‘‘Novel Measurement and Assessment
Tools for the Monitoring and Management of Water and Soil Resources in
Agricultural Landscapes of Central Asia’’ got started. The International Bureau of
the BMBF escorted and administered the project. Over a period of two years,
funding has been provided to support short visits by experts, exchanges by young
scientists, a workshop in Almaty and the publication of this book. The duration of
the project was not enough for extended joint experiments but was sufficient to
gain an impression and basic understanding of the status and achievements of
research, and of the great potential benefits that longer lasting cooperation would
Purpose of the Book
This book is intended to be a source of information for all those dealing with its
subject: methods for the characterisation and wise utilisation of water and land
resources in Central Asia. There are indications that existing methodologies do not
meet international standards and current resource use is not sustainable. The book
is to help improve this situation and initiate sustainable developments in Central
We advocate the role of science and technology in improving our understanding
of ecosystem processes and creating monitoring and controlling mechanisms.
Reliable data based on advanced, internationally proven and acknowledged
methods are required. This implies the exchange of knowledge and the transfer and
joint advancement of methods in the scientific community.
The main intended innovation of the book is its focus on methodologies, not on
results and facts. Scientific tools will be proposed for measuring, evaluating,
modelling and controlling processes in agricultural landscapes. Their application
will create a knowledge shift and synergetic effects leading to practical results and
conclusions. The book shall act both as a milestone by offering novel tools and
ideas, and as a cornerstone by creating lasting research cooperation between sci-
entists and institutes of Eurasia.
Our addressees are people dealing with the development and conservation of
land and water in a vast region, where these valuable resources have often been
handled wastefully in the recent past. The book mainly addresses scientists,
planners, teachers, students and decision makers. It is intended to be a source of
information and inspiration for all readers who feel responsible for initiating the
sustainable use of resources in Central Asia. This shall help to prepare a secure and
better future for the young generation growing up, by preserving the capacities of
terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
Content and Structure of the Book
The book offers a broad array of methods to measure, assess, forecast, utilise and
control land and water resources: laboratory and field measurement methods,
methods of resource evaluation, functional mapping and risk assessment and
remote sensing methods for monitoring and modelling large areas. It contains
methods for data analysis and ecosystem modelling, methods for the bioremedi-
ation of soil and water and the field monitoring of soils and methods and tech-
nologies for optimising land use systems.
The book has 43 individual chapters in three sections and eight thematic
clusters. In order to focus on the scientific value of individual chapters and the
expertise of their authors, the editors have decided to keep the structure on a
flat level of hierarchy and to allocate the chapters to three parts only. Part I,
Environmental and Societal Framework for the Monitoring and Management of
Land and Water Resources, shall provide an overview of issues related to land and
water in Central Asia and prepare the reader for an understanding of the metho-
dological chapters presented in the subsequent two sections. Part I contains
6 chapters analysing the current status and trends. Part II, entitled Novel Meth-
odologies for the Measurement of Processes and Assessment of Resources and
vi Preface
Part III, Applications and Case Studies, shall provide information about novel
methods and give examples of their practical use. Methods that are not yet well
known in Central Asia but may have a particular novelty and potential importance
are presented in Part II, whilst other new methods and solutions are given in part
III. A fourth section, Executive Summary and Conclusions, allocates all individual
chapters to thematic clusters, reviews them and makes proposals for how they can
be applied.
Authors, Readers and their Responsibilities
The authors are inventors and activists behind novel methods, as well as being
innovative and experienced scientists. Most of them come from Kazakhstan,
Germany, Uzbekistan and Russia, others from different regions of the globe. Not
all the authors took part in the project. Many of them were invited to contribute an
article afterwards because of the relevance and novelty of their approaches.
Possible divergences between the findings, conclusions and statements of some
individual authors are natural. They do not necessarily need to coincide with the
particular opinion of the editors. The authors are free to highlight and point out
aspects of their study from their typical, individual perspective. The transliteration
of local names for rivers, cities or other geographical items or units may also differ
from chapter to chapter. All statistical data given in the various chapters of this
book may include slight uncertainties, biases and inconsistencies. The editors have
made no attempt to harmonize them because this is natural and reflects the dif-
ferent sources and local and temporal scales of the data.
The editors are hopeful that readers will gain sufficient information and
inspiration for their own work from this book. However, it is not a cookbook with
clear recipes. Readers will become aware of the inconsistencies and deficiencies of
some approaches when it comes to measuring and assessing processes in complex
ecosystems. They are encouraged to find their individual optimum when drawing
conclusions and acting imaginatively.
In some chapters, trade names are used to provide specific information.
Mentioning a trade name does not constitute a guarantee of the product by the
authors or editors. Neither does it imply an endorsement by the authors or editors
of comparable products that are not named.
One brief remark on the book’s language. Our aim of providing standard sci-
entific English throughout the book could not be ensured for some chapters. Some
constraints restricted this. Despite those deficits we decided to include these
chapters because of their relevance and novelty. Though the English is imperfect,
in our opinion the content is a valuable contribution to the book. We believe it is
preferential and more useful to reach out to some important potential readers in the
region by also providing the titles, summaries, figure captions and table headers in
Preface vii
Russian. This information will be available as extra material. Readers feel free to
contact the chapter authors or the editors.
Müncheberg and Almaty, May 2013 Lothar Mueller
Abdulla Saparov
Gunnar Lischeid
Painting Teris-Asjibulak
Teris-Asjibulak is a small village and correspondent water reservoir (Tepc-
Aib,ykarcroe doloxpaybkboe) about 50 km SW of Taras, Kazakhstan. It
was built mainly for irrigation purposes in 1962. The view is from the outlet
of the reservoir in south direction towards the Alatau mountain range in
Kyrgyzstan where the water comes from. The painting shows a midsummer
scene in a typical medium-term dry period. Water shortage occurs since
some years. Dry agricultural lands and semi-aquatic vegetation which grew
up in the former aquatic area form red–brown belts. Painter: Ute Moritz,
2012. She dedicated the painting to this book edition. Material is oil on
canvas. Original size 70*50 cm.
viii Preface
Many people and institutions have supported this publication. We would like to
thank the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research for the project
funding. The International Bureau of the BMBF, Dr. Kirsten Kienzler (Bonn),
managed and controlled the project with expertise and prudence.
Dr. Ralf Dannowski, Dipl. Ing. Ralph Tauschke and Dipl. Ing. (FH) Heike
Schäfer (Müncheberg) provided editorial support. Many authors of the book and
also Dr. Olga Rukhovich (Moscow) and Prof. Dr. Aleksandr Syso (Novosibirsk)
served as reviewers of certain chapters. Mrs. Anne Koth (Dresden), Mrs. Theresa
Gehrs (Osnabrück) and Dr. Dmitry Balykin (Barnaul) supported the language
Dipl. Ing. (FH) Ute Moritz dedicated her painting ‘‘Teris Asjibulak’’ to this
book edition.
Prof. Dr. Jutta Zeitz (Berlin), Dipl. Ing. Igor Klein (Oberpfaffenhofen), Dr. Rolf
Sommer (Nairobi), Dr. Eddy de Pauw (formerly in Aleppo), Dr. Konstantin
Pachikin (Almaty), Dr. Azimbay Otarov (Almaty), Prof. Dr. Tobias Meinel
(Astana) and Dmitry Chistoprudov (Moscow) provided additional photos and
The Springer publishing house ensured that the editoral and printing process
was smoothly managed and completed.
The editors would like to thank all the contributors for their support and
Part I Environmental and Societal Framework for Monitoring
and Management of Land and Water Resources
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia, Their Utilisation
and Ecological Status .................................... 3
Lothar Mueller, Mekhlis Suleimenov, Akmal Karimov, Manzoor Qadir,
Abdulla Saparov, Nurlan Balgabayev, Katharina Helming
and Gunnar Lischeid
Soil Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan: Current Status,
Problems and Solutions ................................... 61
Abdulla Saparov
Long-Term Monitoring and Water Resource Management
in the Republic of Kazakhstan .............................. 75
Tursun Ibrayev, Batyrbek Badjanov and Marina Li
Trends in the Agriculture of Central Asia and Implications
for Rangelands and Croplands.............................. 91
Mekhlis Suleimenov
Landscape Hydrology of Rural Areas: Challenges and Tools ....... 107
Gunnar Lischeid
Productivity Potentials of the Global Land Resource
for Cropping and Grazing ................................. 115
Lothar Mueller, Uwe Schindler, Bruce C. Ball, Elena Smolentseva,
Victor G. Sychev, T. Graham Shepherd, Manzoor Qadir,
Katharina Helming, Axel Behrendt and Frank Eulenstein
Part II Novel Methodologies for Measurement of Processes
and Assessment of Resources
A Novel Method for Quantifying Soil Hydraulic Properties ........ 145
Uwe Schindler
Advanced Technologies in Lysimetry ......................... 159
Ralph Meissner, Holger Rupp and Manfred Seyfarth
Third-Generation Lysimeters: Scientific Engineered Monitoring
Systems............................................... 175
Christian Hertel and Georg von Unold
A Field Method for Quantifying Deep Seepage
and Solute Leaching ..................................... 185
Uwe Schindler
Simple Field Methods for Measurement and Evaluation
of Grassland Quality ..................................... 199
Lothar Mueller, Axel Behrendt, T. Graham Shepherd, Uwe Schindler,
Bruce C. Ball, Sergey Khudyaev, Thomas Kaiser, Ralf Dannowski
and Frank Eulenstein
Impact Assessment for Multifunctional Land Use ................ 223
Katharina Helming
The Muencheberg Soil Quality Rating for Assessing the Quality
of Global Farmland...................................... 235
Lothar Mueller, Uwe Schindler, T. Graham Shepherd,
Bruce C. Ball, Elena Smolentseva, Konstantin Pachikin,
Chunsheng Hu, Volker Hennings, Askhad K. Sheudshen,
Axel Behrendt, Frank Eulenstein and Ralf Dannowski
Use of Pedotransfer Functions for Land Evaluation: Mapping
Groundwater Recharge Rates Under Semi-Arid Conditions ........ 249
Volker Hennings
Nutrient Balances in Agriculture: A Basis for the Efficiency
Survey of Agricultural Groundwater Conservation Measures ....... 263
Frank Eulenstein, Marion Tauschke, Marcos Lana, Askhad K. Sheudshen,
Ralf Dannowski, Roland Schindler and Hartwig Drechsler
xii Contents
Methods of In Situ Groundwater Quality Monitoring: Basis
for the Efficiency Survey of Agricultural Groundwater
Conservation Measures ................................... 275
Ralf Dannowski, Roland Schindler, Nils Cremer and Frank Eulenstein
Methods in the Exploratory Risk Assessment of Trace Elements in
the Soil-Groundwater Pathway ............................. 289
Levke Godbersen, Jens Utermann and Wilhelmus H. M. Duijnisveld
Methods for Quantifying Wind Erosion in Steppe Regions ......... 315
Roger Funk, Carsten Hoffmann and Matthias Reiche
Generation of Up to Date Land Cover Maps for Central Asia ...... 329
Igor Klein, Ursula Gessner and Claudia Künzer
Estimating Black Carbon Emissions from Agricultural Burning ..... 347
Vladimir Romanenkov, Dmitry Rukhovich, Polina Koroleva
and Jessica L. McCarty
Non-Linear Approaches to Assess Water and Soil Quality ......... 365
Gunnar Lischeid
Using Soil–Water–Plant Models to Improve the Efficiency
of Irrigation ........................................... 379
Rickmann Michel and Ralf Dannowski
MONICA: A Simulation Model for Nitrogen and Carbon
Dynamics in Agro-Ecosystems .............................. 389
Claas Nendel
Integrated Decision Support for Sustainable and Profitable Land
Management in the Lowlands of Central Asia .................. 407
Nodir Djanibekov and Rolf Sommer
Efficiency of Duckweed (Lemnaceae) for the Desalination
and Treatment of Agricultural Drainage Water
in Detention Reservoirs ................................... 423
Dagmar Balla, Mohie Omar, Sebastian Maassen, Ahmad Hamidov
and Mukhamadkhan Khamidov
Conservation Agriculture for Long-Term Soil Productivity......... 441
Mekhlis Suleimenov, Zheksenbai Kaskarbayev, Kanat Akshalov
and Nikolai Yushchenko
Contents xiii
Modern Technologies for Soil Management and Conservation
in Northern Kazakhstan .................................. 455
Tobias Meinel, Lars-Christian Grunwald and Kanat Akshalov
Enhancing the Productivity of High-Magnesium Soil
and Water Resources in Central Asia ........................ 465
Manzoor Qadir, Frants Vyshpolsky, Khamit Mukhamedjanov,
Ussen Bekbaev, Saghit Ibatullin, Tulkun Yuldashev, Andrew D. Noble,
Akmal Karimov, Alisher Mirzabaev and Aden Aw-Hassan
Advanced Technologies for Irrigated Cropping Systems ........... 475
Robert G. Evans
Multi-Species Grazing on Deer Farms ........................ 491
Axel Behrendt, Andreas Fischer, Thomas Kaiser, Frank Eulenstein,
Sylvia Ortmann, Anne Berger and Lothar Mueller
Part III Applications and Case Studies
Assessing the Soil Quality and Crop Yield Potentials of Some Soils
of Eurasia ............................................. 505
Elena Smolentseva, Boris Smolentsev, Konstantin Pachkin
and Lothar Mueller
Soils of Kazakhstan, Their Distribution and Mapping............. 519
Konstantin Pachikin, Olga Erokhina and Shinya Funakawa
Indicators of Land Degradation in Steppe Regions: Soil
and Morphodynamics in the Northern Kulunda ................. 535
Vera Schreiner and Burghard C. Meyer
Erosion Rates Depending on Slope and Exposition of Cropped
Chestnut Soils .......................................... 549
Dana K. Shokparova, Erkin K. Kakimjanov and Burghard C. Meyer
Methodology of Measuring Processes and Evaluation of Water
Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan ...................... 563
Tursun Ibrayev, Batyrbek Badjanov and Marina Li
Model-Based Impact Analysis of Climate and Land Use Changes
on the Landscape Water Balance ............................ 577
Marco Natkhin, Ralf Dannowski, Ottfried Dietrich, Jörg Steidl
and Gunnar Lischeid
xiv Contents
Biotechnological Restoration Methods of Technogenically
Disturbed Soils in Kazakhstan .............................. 591
Farida E. Kozybayeva, Abdulla Saparov, Hasi Dzhamantikov,
Gulzhan B. Beyseyeva and Valeria N. Permitina
Strategy of Sustainable Soil and Plant Resource Management
in the Republic of Kazakhstan .............................. 611
Abdulla Saparov
The Effect of Applying the Microbiofertiliser ‘‘MERS’’ on the Soil
Microbial Community and the Productivity of Winter Wheat
Under the Conditions of Southeast Kazakhstan ................. 621
Maira Kussainova, Marion Tauschke and Abdulla Saparov
Water Treatment Systems for Agricultural Water Supply ......... 631
Valeriy A. Tumlert
Concentration of Heavy Metals in Irrigated Soils in Southern
Kazakhstan ............................................ 641
Azimbay Otarov
Concept and Results of Soil Monitoring in North Kazakhstan....... 653
Temirbolat D. Dzhalankuzov
Diagnosis and Optimization of Phosphorus Nutrition Conditions
of Grain Crops in Northern Kazakhstan ...................... 667
Valentina Chernenok and Dietmar Barkusky
Part IV Executive Summary
Executive Summary and Conclusions ......................... 683
Lothar Mueller, Abdulla Saparov and Gunnar Lischeid
About the Editors ....................................... 715
Contents xv
Kanat Akshalov Scientific Production Center of Grain Farming named after A.I.
Barayev, 021601 Shortandy, Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Aden Aw-Hassan International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry
Areas, 5466, Aleppo, Syria, e-mail:
Batyrbek Badjanov Kazakh Scientific Research Institute of Water Economy, 12
Koygeldy Street, Taraz, Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Nurlan Balgabayev Kazakh Scientific Research Institute of Water Economy, 12
Koygeldy Street, Taraz, Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Bruce C. Ball Crop and Soil Systems Research Group, SRUC, West Mains Road,
Edinburgh EH9 3JG, UK, e-mail:
Dagmar Balla Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research, Eberswalder
Strasse 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail:
Dietmar Barkusky Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research,
Eberswalder Strasse 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail: dbarkusky@
Axel Behrendt Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) e. V.,
Research Station Paulinenaue, Gutshof 7, 14641 Paulinenaue, Germany, e-mail:
Gulzhan B. Beiseyeva Kazakh Research Institute of Soil Science and Agro-
chemistry named after U. U. Uspanov, Joint Stock company ‘‘KazAgroInnova-
tion’’, Ministry of Agriculture RK, Al Faraby Ave 75b, 050060 Almaty,
Kazakhstan, e-mail: beiseeva2009
Ussen Bekbaev Kazakh Scientific Research Institute of Water Economy, 12
Koygeldy Street, Taraz, Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Anne Berger Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, 10315, Alfred-
Kowalke-Straße 17, Berlin, Germany, e-mail:
Valentina Chernenok S. Seifullin Kazakh Agro Technical University, Zhenis
Prospect 51/1, 010000 Astana, Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Nils Cremer Erftverband, Bergheim, Germany, e-mail: nils.cremer@
Ralf Dannowski Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research,
Eberswalder Strasse 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail:
Ottfried Dietrich Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research,
Eberswalder Strasse 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail:
Hartwig Drechsler Dr. Drechsler Ingenieurdienst, Hannah-Vogt-Str.1, 37085
Göttingen, Germany, e-mail:
Temirbolat D. Dzhalankuzov Kazakh Research Institute of Soil Science and
Agrochemistry named after U. U. Uspanov, Al Faraby Ave 75b, 050060 Almaty,
Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Hasi Dzhamantikov Research Institute of Rice Production, Joint Stock company
’KazAgroInnovation’’, Ministry of Agriculture RK, Abai Avenue, 25 b, 120008
Kyzilorda, Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Nodir Djanibekov Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Central and
Eastern Europe, Theodor-Lieser-Straße 2, 06120 Halle (Saale), Germany, e-mail:
Wilhelmus H. M. Duijnisveld Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural
Resources, Geozentrum Hannover, Stilleweg 2, 30655 Hannover, Germany,
Olga Erokhina Kazakh Research Institute of Soil Science and Agrochem-
istry named after U. U. Uspanov, Al Faraby Ave 75b, 050060 Almaty,
Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Frank Eulenstein Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research,
Eberswalder Strasse 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail: feulenstein
Robert G. Evans USDA-ARS-NPA (retired), Northern Plains Agric. Research.
Laboratory, 1500 North Central Avenue, Sidney, MT 59270, USA, e-mail:
Andreas Fischer Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research,
Eberswalder Strasse 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail:
Shinya Funakawa Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Kyoto
606-8502, Japan, e-mail:
Roger Funk Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research, Eberswalder
Strasse 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail:
xviii Contributors
Ursula Gessner German Remote Sensing Data Center, Land Surface
Oberpfaffenhofen, German Aerospace Center, 82234 Wessling, Germany, e-mail:
Levke Godbersen Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources,
Geozentrum Hannover, Stilleweg 2, 30655 Hannover, Germany, e-mail:
Lars-Christian Grunwald Amazone Company, 49205 Hasbergen, Germany,
Ahmad Hamidov Faculty of Agriculture and Horticulture, Humboldt University
of Berlin, Invalidenstrasse 42, 10117 Berlin, Germany, e-mail: ahmad.hami-
Katharina Helming Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research,
Eberswalder Strasse 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail:
Volker Hennings Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources,
Geozentrum Hannover, Stilleweg 2, 30655 Hannover, Germany, e-mail:
Christian Hertel UMS GmbH, Gmunder Straße 37, 81379 Munich, Germany,
Carsten Hoffmann Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research,
Eberswalder Strasse 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail: choffmann@
Chunsheng Hu Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, The Chinese
Academy of Sciences, Center for Agricultural Resources Research, 286 Huaizhong.
Rd, Shijiazhuang 050021, Hebei, China, e-mail:
Saghit Ibatullin Executive Committee of the International Fund for Saving the
Aral Sea, Dostyk Avenue 280, Almaty, Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Tursun Ibrayev Kazakh Scientific Research Institute of Water Economy, 12
Koygeldy Street, Taraz, Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Thomas Kaiser Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research, Eberswalder
Strasse 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail:
Erkin K. Kakimjanov Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, Al-Farabi Avenue
71, 050038 Almaty, Kazakhstan
Akmal Karimov IWMI- Central Asia, C/o PFU-CGIAR-ICARDA-CAC, Apt
123, Bldg 6, Osiyo str, Tashkent, Uzbekistan 100000, e-mail: A.Karimov@
Zheksenbai Kaskarbayev Scientific Production Center of Grain Farming named
after A.I. Barayev, 021601, Shortandy, Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Contributors xix
Mukhamadkhan Khamidov Bukhara Branch of Tashkent Institute of Irrigation
and Melioration, Gazli street 32, Bukhara, Uzbekistan 200100, e-mail:
Sergey Khudyaev Russian Academy of Sciences, Siberian Branch, Institute of
Soil Science and Agrochemistry, Ac. Lavrentieva av., 8, 630090 Novosibirsk,
Russian Federation, e-mail:
Igor Klein Institut für Geographie und Geologie, German Aerospace Center,
Universität Würzburg, , 82234 Oberpfaffenhofen, Wessling, Germany, e-mail:
Polina Koroleva V.V. Dokuchaev Soil Science Institute, Russian Academy of
Agricultural Sciences, Pyzhevskii per. 7, Moscow, Russian Federation, e-mail:
Farida E. Kozybayeva Kazakh Research Institute of Soil Science and Agro-
chemistry named after U. U. Uspanov, Joint Stock company ’’KazAgroInnova-
tion’’, Ministry of Agriculture RK, Al Faraby Ave 75b, 050060 Almaty,
Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Claudia Künzer German Aerospace Center (DLR), German Remote Sensing
Data Center, Land Surface Oberpfaffenhofen, 82234 Wessling, Germany, e-mail:
Maira Kussainova Kazakh Research Institute of Soil Science and Agro-
chemistry named after U. U. Uspanov, Al Faraby Ave 75b, 050060 Almaty,
Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Marcos Lana Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research, Eberswalder
Strasse 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail:
Marina Li Kazakh Research Institute of Water Economy, 12 Koygeldy Street,
Taraz, Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Gunnar Lischeid Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research,
Eberswalder Strasse 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail:
Sebastian Maassen Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research,
Eberswalder Strasse 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail: Sebastian.
Jessica L. McCarty Michigan Tech Research Institute, Ann Arbor, MI 48105,
USA, e-mail:
Tobias Meinel Amazone company, 4740704 Shortandy, Kazakhstan , e-mail:
Ralph Meissner Department Soil Physics, Helmholtz Centre for Environ-
mental Research-UFZ, Lysimeter Station, Dorfstrasse 55, 39615 Falkenberg,
Germany, e-mail:
xx Contributors
Burghard C. Meyer Geographisches Institut, Universität Leipzig, Johannisallee
19a, 04103 Leipzig, Germany, e-mail:
Rickmann Michel Ingenieurbüro BODEN und BODENWASSER,
Gesundbrunnenstraße 24, 16259 Bad Freienwalde, Germany, e-mail: rjmichel@t-
Alisher Mirzabaev ICARDA, Central Asia and Caucasus Regional Office, Osiyo
6, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, e-mail:
Lothar Mueller Leibniz-Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research,
Eberswalder St., 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail:
Khamit Mukhamedjanov Kazakh Scientific Research Institute of Water Econ-
omy, 12 Koygeldy Street, Taraz, Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Marco Natkhin Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, Institut für Waldökosys-
teme, 16225 Eberswalde, Germany, e-mail:
Claas Nendel Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research, Eberswalder
Strasse 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail:
Andrew D. Noble International Water Management Institute, P.O. Box 2075,
Colombo, Sri Lanka, e-mail:
Mohie Omar Nile Research Institute, National Water Research Center, Ministry
of Water Resources and Irrigation, El-Quanater El-Khairya, Egypt, e-mail:
Sylvia Ortmann Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Alfred-Ko-
walke-Straße 17, 10315 Berlin, Germany, e-mail:
Azimbay Otarov Kazakh Research Institute of Soil Science and Agrochem-
istry named after U. U. Uspanov, Al Faraby Ave 75b, 050060 Almaty,
Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Konstantin Pachikin Kazakh Research Institute of Soil Science and Agro-
chemistry named after U. U. Uspanov, Al Faraby Ave 75b, 050060 Almaty, Ka-
zakhstan, e-mail:
Valeria N. Permitina Institute of Botany and Phytointroduction, Ministry of
Education and Science Republic Kazakhstan, Timiryzeva Avenue 36d, 050040
Almaty, Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Manzoor Qadir Institute for Water, Environment and Health, United Nations
University, 175 Longwood Road South, Suite 204, Hamilton Ontario L8P 0A1,
CANADA, e-mail:
Matthias Reiche Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research,
Eberswalder Strasse 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail:
Contributors xxi
Vladimir Romanenkov Department of Geographic Network of Field Experi-
ments, Pryanishnikov All-Russian Institute of Agrochemistry (VNIIA), Russian
Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Pryanishnikova St., 31a, 127550 Moscow,
Russian Federation, e-mail:
Dmitry I. Rukhovich V.V. Dokuchaev Soil Science Institute, Pyzhevskii per. 7,
Moscow, Russian Federation, e-mail:
Holger Rupp Department Soil Physics, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental
Research-UFZ, Lysimeter Station, Dorfstrasse 55, 39615 Falkenberg, Germany,
Abdulla Saparov Kazakh Research Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry
named after U. U. Uspanov, Al Faraby Ave 75b, 050060 Almaty, Kazakhstan,
Roland Schindler NEW Niederrhein Wasser GmbH, Rektoratstrasse 18, 41747
Viersen, Germany
Uwe Schindler Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research, Eberswal-
der Strasse 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail:
Vera Schreiner Institut für Länderkunde, Schongauerstraße 9, 04329 Leipzig,
Germany, e-mail:
Manfred Seyfarth UGT-Environmental Measurement Devices Ltd., Eberswalder
Str. 58, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail:
T. Graham Shepherd BioAgriNomics Ltd., 6 Parata Street, Palmerston North
4410, New Zealand, e-mail:
Askhad K. Sheudshen Kuban State Agrarian University, 13 Kalinin Str, 350044
Krasnodar, Russian Scientific Research Institute of Rice, Bjelosernoye settlem,
350921 Krasnodar, Russian Federation, e-mail:
Dana K. Shokparova Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, Al-Farabi Avenue
71, 050038 Almaty, Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Boris Smolentsev Siberian Branch, Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry
(ISSA), Russian Academy of Sciences, Ac.k Lavrentieva av., 8, 630090 Novosi-
birsk, Russian Federation, e-mail:
Elena Smolentseva Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry (ISSA), Siberian
Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, Ac. Lavrentieva av., 8, 630090 Novosi-
birsk, Russian Federation, e-mail:
Rolf Sommer International Center for Tropical Agriculture, c/o ICIPE Complex,
off Kasarani Road, Nairobi, Kenya, e-mail:
Jörg Steidl Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research, Eberswalder
Strasse 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail:
xxii Contributors
Mekhlis Suleimenov Scientific Production Center of Grain Farming named after
A.I. Barayev, 021601 Shortandy, Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Victor G. Sychev Pryanishnikov All-Russian Institute of Agrochemistry
(VNIIA), Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Pryanishnikova St. 31a,
127550 Moscow, Russian Federation, e-mail:
Marion Tauschke Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research,
Eberswalder Strasse 84, 15374 Muencheberg, Germany, e-mail: mtauschke@
Valeriy A. Tumlert Kazakh Scientific Research Institute of Water Economy, 12
Koygeldy Street, Taraz, Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Georg von Unold UMS GmbH, Gmunder Str. 37, 81379 Munich, Germany,
Jens Utermann Federal Environment Agency, Wörlitzer Platz 1, 06844 Dessau-
Roßlau, Germany, e-mail:
Frants Vyshpolsky Water Quality Laboratory, Kazakh Scientific Research
Institute of Water Economy, 12 Koygeldy Street, Taraz, Kazakhstan
Tulkun Yuldashev ICARDA, Central Asia and Caucasus Regional Office, Osiyo
6, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, e-mail:
Nikolai Yushchenko Karaganda Research Institute of Crop Science and Plant
Breeding, Karaganda, Kazakhstan, e-mail:
Contributors xxiii
Part I
Environmental and Societal Framework
for Monitoring and Management of Land
and Water Resources
Land and Water Resources of Central
Asia, Their Utilisation and Ecological
Lothar Mueller, Mekhlis Suleimenov, Akmal Karimov, Manzoor
Qadir, Abdulla Saparov, Nurlan Balgabayev, Katharina Helming
and Gunnar Lischeid
Abstract Central Asia is the global hotspot of a nexus of resources. Land, water
and food are key issues in this nexus. We analysed the status of land and water
resources and their potential and limitations for agriculture in the five Central
Asian Transition States. Agricultural productivity and its impacts on land and
water quality were also studied. The ecological status of open waters and soils as
dependent on the kind of water and land use was shown. The main sources were
information and data from the scientific literature, recent research reports, the
statistical databases of the FAO and UNECE, and the results of our own field
L. Mueller (&)K. Helming G. Lischeid
Leibniz-Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) e. V., Eberswalder Str. 84,
15374 Muencheberg, Germany
M. Suleimenov
Scientific Production Center of Grain Farming Named After A.I. Barayev, Shortandy
021601, Kazakhstan
A. Karimov
IWMI- Central Asia, C/o PFU-CGIAR-ICARDA-CAC, Apt 123, Bldg 6, Osiyo Str.,
Tashkent 100000, Uzbekistan
e-mail: A.Karimov@CGIAR.ORG
M. Qadir
United Nations University - Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH),
175 Longwood Road South, Suite 204, Hamilton Ontario L8P 0A1, CANADA
A. Saparov
Kazakh Research Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry Named After U. U. Uspanov,
Al Faraby Ave 75b 050060 Almaty, Kazakhstan
N. Balgabayev
Kazakh Scientific Research Institute of Water Economy, 12 Koygeldy Str., Taraz,
L. Mueller et al. (eds.), Novel Measurement and Assessment Tools for Monitoring
and Management of Land and Water Resources in Agricultural Landscapes of Central
Asia, Environmental Science and Engineering, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-01017-5_1,
Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014
work. Agriculture is crucial for the economy of all Central Asian countries and
responsible for about 90 % of their water use. We found that land and water
resources may provide their function of food supply, but the agricultural produc-
tivity of grassland and cropland is relatively low. Irrigation agriculture is some-
times inefficient and may cause serious detrimental side effects involving soil and
water salinisation. Dryland farming, as currently practiced, includes a high risk of
wind and water erosion. Water bodies and aquatic, arable and grassland ecosys-
tems are in a critical state with tendencies to accelerated degradation and land-
scape desertification. Despite all these limitations, agricultural landscapes in
Central Asia have great potential for multi-functional use as a source of income for
the rural population, tourism and eco-tourism included. The precondition for this is
a peaceful environment in which they can be developed. All major rivers and their
reservoirs cross borders and involve potential conflict between upstream and
downstream riparians. The nexus of resources requires more detailed research,
both in the extent of individual elements and processes, and their interactions and
cycles. Processes in nature and societies are autocorrelated and intercorrelated, but
external disturbances or inputs may also trigger future developments. We
emphasise the role of knowledge and technology transfer in recognising and
controlling processes. There has been a lot of progress in science and technology
over the past ten years, but agri-environmental research and education in Central
Asia are still in a crisis. Overcoming this crisis and applying advanced methods in
science and technology are key issues for further development. Science and
technology may provide an overall knowledge shift when it comes to recognising
processes and initiating sustainable development. The following chapters intro-
duce the results of further, more detailed and regional analyses of the status of soil
and water. Novel measurement and assessment tools for researching into, moni-
toring and managing land and water resources will be presented. We will inform
future elites, scientists and decision makers on how to deal with them and
encourage them to take action.
Keywords Central Asia Soil Water Sustainable development
1 Introduction
The 21st century is characterised by accelerating demands for most natural
resource commodities. Natural resource governance faces increasing complexity,
especially when the linkages and interdependencies between different resources
are considered (Andrews-Speed et al. 2012). This has implications for all global
regions including Central Asia. Public documents have stated that there is a
‘Water and Energy Nexus in Central Asia’’ (World Bank 2004). Based on the
situation that all available water resources in the region are trans-boundary, the key
questions in the region are ‘‘Who has the right to consume all the water?’’ and
4 L. Mueller et al.
‘Water for food or water for energy?’’. However, this is only part of the problem;
the situation is much more complex. Central Asia is the global hotspot of a
struggle for all main resources: food, land, water, energy and minerals. These
resource categories are closely interrelated in different spatial and temporal scales
and dimensions of cognition. Typical segments and key questions differ.
What is Central Asia? The region of Central Asia can be characterised and
defined by terms from different scientific disciplines and perspectives. As a geo-
graphic category, it is the centre of the Eurasian continent, consisting of striking
landscapes such as the high mountains of Tien Shan and Pamir, deserts such as
Kara Kum, Kyzyl Kum, or Taklamakan, the second largest desert of the world,
large steppe lowlands (Fig. 1), great internal basins, water bodies such as the Aral
Sea, Issyk Kul and Lake Balkhash, the Silk Road, the most famous trade route of
the world, and more. As a socio-economic or political category, it includes a
number of countries in whole or in part. The term ‘‘Central Asia’’ is frequently
used for the territory of five land-locked Transition States of the former USSR:
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. This coincides
with the FAO’s area classification (FAO 2012b).
When dealing with topics related to natural resources such as land and water,
their implications for human society, and scientific/technological approaches to
resolving problems, a mixed consideration of both natural/geographical and
political/territorial aspects can be useful. Here, we refer primarily to the territory
of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan (calling
them Central Asia) with some focus on Kazakhstan. The latter country is much
larger than the others, contains very diverse landscapes and, in some geographical
and agricultural regions, faces typical problems of land and water monitoring and
management. Most of these issues are typical for the other countries, too. They
may be also true for a much larger area, based on a broader definition of Central
Asia. The regions of Siberia, Mongolia, North-Western China and of other
neighbour regions surrounding the territory of the five Post-Soviet Transition
Fig. 1 Grazing sheep on
semi-natural pastures in the
vicinity of Almaty, Alatau
mountains in the background.
Photo: Courtesy of Volker
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 5
States face similar problems with natural resources and their management. We
believe that Kazakhstan holds as a typical example for most scientific problems
related to land and water with implications for agriculture and the environment.
In this book, we focus on novel scientific methodologies for measuring and
assessing some crucial properties of land and water resources. This is intended to
help monitor and manage processes in agricultural landscapes of Central Asia
better. A sustainable use of the resources of land and water must be initiated. First,
an analysis is required of the extent and current status of the resources of land and
water and of some development trends. This will take place in this and some
following chapters.
This chapter will provide an overview of quantities, qualities and productivity
of land and water, and agriculture based on them in Central Asia. We have ana-
lysed available sources on the status of water and land, trends in their use and
developments. The information and data came from the scientific literature, recent
research reports, statistical databases and commission reports of United Nations
Organizations such as the FAO and UNECE, international research and devel-
opment projects, and the results of our own field work.
2 Key Elements of a Nexus of Resources: Food Security
and Water Consumption
2.1 Food Security
Within a resource nexus, food is a special and fundamental category. Having
enough food is a basic human right, and food security is crucial for the stabil-
ization and survival of civilisations. The FAO’s definition states, ‘‘Food security is
a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and
economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that needs their dietary
needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life’’ (FAO 2002).
Other resources such as land, water, energy and minerals directly or indirectly
impact on food security (Fig. 2).
The availability and good condition of land and water are natural preconditions
for agriculture, the main basis of food production. The situation of human society
and governance regarding the utilisation of all resources determines the framework
for agricultural production and food security. Some basic data on the five Central
Asian countries are given in Table 1.
Kazakhstan has extensive land and water resources and its national economy is
in an acceptable condition, mainly due to oil, gas and mineral resources. The
country is sparsely populated. In terms of its gross domestic product (GDP) and the
human development index (HDI) it ranks above the world average. Related to the
land area, water resources are relatively low and unequally distributed. The
dependency ratio of 40.1 means that about forty percent of total available water
6 L. Mueller et al.
resources come from neighbouring countries, in this case mainly from Kyrgyzstan
and China.
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are relatively small countries characterised by a
poorly developed economy. They have an extremely low GDP and rank well
below the world average in terms both of GDP and of HDI. Related to their land
area, they have extensive water resources and are largely independent of other
countries. Their potential for hydropower is very good.
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are extremely dependent on water resources
coming from other countries, mainly from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Though they
have some fossil fuel resources, their economy is still weakly developed. Uzbe-
kistan is the most densely populated country in the region. In some oases, the
population density is particular high.
Fig. 2 The resource nexus
on the carpet of prosperity
and welfare for the countries
of Central Asia (simplified,
with emphasis on land, water
and food)
Table 1 Basic data on land, water and economy in the five Central Asian states
Country Total land,
(M ha)
Water resources
(TRWR, km
and dependency
Economy, GDP
$ per capita
Kazakhstan 272.490 107.50 (40.1) 16.207 13,000 (95) 0.74 (68)
Kyrgyzstan 19.995 23.62 (1.1) 5.393 2,400 (183) 0.61 (126)
Tajikistan 14.255 21.91 (17.3) 6.977 2,100 (189) 0.60 (127)
Turkmenistan 48.810 24.77 (97.0) 5.105 7,800 (128) 0.67 (102)
Uzbekistan 44.740 48.87 (80.1) 27.760 3,300 (168) 0.62 (115)
Data from FAOSTAT (FAO 2012b), M ha = million hectares, 1ha = 0.01 square kilometres
Data from FAOSTAT (FAO 2012b), TRWC Total Renewable Water Resource, dependency
ratio = percent of external water resources to TRWC
Data from the CIA World Factbook 2011 (CIA 2011), GDP Gross Domestic Product, the rank
in parentheses refers to the countries of the world
Data from the Human Development Report (UNDP 2011), HDI Human Development Index,
mainly based on indexes of income, health and education
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 7
The different overall economic situation in these countries is underpinned by
their trade balance. In 2011, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan had a
positive overall trade balance (merchandize exports higher than imports), whilst
the balance of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan was negative (WTO 2012). The com-
bination of a low gross domestic product with a negative trade balance is a burden
for the development of a prospering economy taking ecology into consideration.
These different figures may have implications for the status and utilisation of water
and land resources in the various countries.
Overall, the territory of the five Central Asian Transition States Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan covers about 399 million
hectares (M ha). This is almost in the order of the geographic magnitude of the
European Union (EU), whilst the population is only about 12 % of that in the EU.
Regional food security is a key issue for human development and social and
political stability everywhere. It cannot yet be considered to be ensured in Central
Asia. Over the past twenty years, all five countries witnessed an initial decline in
agricultural productivity, and currently they have an increase in productivity. The
situation is not stable, and there are big differences between countries (Swinnen
and Vranken 2010). Food quality is another issue related to food security.
Awareness of good food quality has to be based on reliable procedures and data
regarding monitoring and control (Tultabaieva 2012).
Sustainable food security in the region does not only depend on food produc-
tion: there are other, decisive factors influencing the long-term balance between
food demand and food availability (Dukhovny and Stulina 2011). Factors con-
trolling food demand include demographic structure, population growth, preferred
kinds of food and consumer incomes. Some main factors in food availability are
the status of natural resources such as land and water, and policies promoting their
utilisation through initiatives, skills and investment.
Currently, there are gaps between the production and consumption of some
kinds of basic food products. For grain products, Tajikistan shows a clear gap,
whilst Kazakhstan has an over-production. Oils are in deficit in all five countries.
In case of vegetables, production and demand coincide. With meat, Tajikistan and
Kazakhstan indicate deficits (Fig. 3).
Overall, Tajikistan shows deficits in food security from these data (Dukhovny
and Stulina 2011). The factors affecting this are the population’s insufficient
purchasing power, limited production and very high population growth rates. Food
prices increased due to inflation by 10–120 % for many agricultural products in
2010. A law ‘‘On Food Security’’ of 29 Dec. 2010 was one measure used to
improve the situation (Bobodzhanova 2012). In Kyrgyzstan, too, the situation has
worsened over the past 25 years. In the 1980s the country was self-sufficient and
exported food. Now, food security issues are based on the 2008 law ‘‘About food
safety in the Kyrgyz Republic’’ (Mansurova 2012). More than half of food com-
modities need to be imported, amongst them basic products such as bakery
products, meat, sugar and oils. In 2009, about one third of the population, the vast
majority of them in rural areas, lived below the poverty line (Kulmyrzaev 2012).
8 L. Mueller et al.
Uzbekistan is self-sufficient but supplying food for the balanced, safe nutrition of a
growing population remains a challenge (Payziyeva and Paiziev 2012).
The land-locked situation of Central Asia should be a reason to promote
regional markets and to reduce imbalances between production and consumption
by prosperous trade between countries, embedded in a tension-free and friendly
societal and political environment.
Agriculture is a pillar of the economy of all Central Asian countries. For
example, in 1999, agriculture made up 11 % of the gross domestic product (GDP)
in Kazakhstan, 19 % in Tajikistan, 27 % in Turkmenistan, 33 % in Uzbekistan,
and 38 % in Kyrgyzstan (World Bank 2004). More recent figures from 2008
(Kienzler 2009) are 5, 26, 20, 22 and 19 %, showing a downwards trend due to
increases in other economic branches such as the energy and mining industries. In
Uzbekistan, agriculture is the largest sector of the economy, providing about 25 %
of exports and 31 % of employment (Turayeva 2012). Of the Central Asian
countries, Uzbekistan has the highest rural population. However, for the economy
and to supply food to the population of all five countries in the region, agriculture
remains crucial. Agriculture in a dryland region necessarily means irrigated
agriculture. Even in Kazakhstan, where only 5–6 % of cropland is irrigated, about
one third of the total food production comes from that land (Ismukhanov and
Mukhamedzhanov 2003).
FAO statistics (FAO 2012b) show that in 2010 the top five agricultural products
by country were:
Kazakhstan: (1) Cow milk, (2) Cattle meat, (3) Wheat, (4) Sheep meat, (5)
Kaz Kyr Taj Tur Uzb
Production Demand
Fig. 3 Production and
demand of meat (in millions
of tonnes), data from
Dukhovny and Stulina 2011
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 9
Kyrgyzstan: (1) Cow milk, (2) Cattle meat, (3) Potatoes, (4) Sheep meat, (5)
Tajikistan: (1) Cotton lint, (2) Tomatoes, (3) Sheep meat, (4) Potatoes, (5) Cow
Turkmenistan: (1) Cotton lint, (2) Cattle meat, (3) Sheep meat, (4) Cow milk, (5)
Uzbekistan: (1) Cattle meat, (2) Cotton lint, (3) Cow milk, (4) Tomatoes, (5)
Meat and milk from ruminants play a crucial role as food for the population of
Central Asia. Figure 4shows the situation of milk production. The year 1992
represents the start of the transition period, when old structures in agriculture were
largely still intact. The year 2000 is typical for the end of the transition period,
when the overall production was very low, and the data for 2010 are the most
recent available. It can be seen that all countries were keen to increase the per-
capita production of milk. This has been successfully achieved in all countries.
The data are probably not very reliable, for Tajikistan in particular. Many poor
people breed goats for their subsistence, and those data are obviously not available.
However, increasing per-capita production despite a fast-growing population
indicates increasing pressure on grasslands. Sustainable grassland management is a
precondition for securing these traditional commodities on available lands.
For Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, wheat also belongs to the group
of the top five agricultural products. Wheat production in Kazakhstan is shown in
Fig. 5. The situation has stabilised in comparison with that in the 1990s but pre-
vailing rainfed cropping wheat production still remains largely weather-dependent.
Fig. 4 Production of milk in
kg per capita in typical years
of three different periods, data
from FAOSTAT database
(FAO 2012b)
10 L. Mueller et al.
From this figure the annual production seems to be remaining relatively stably
above 10 million tonnes. However, in 2010 the production was 9.6 million tonnes,
in contrast to 17 million tonnes in 2009. The situation remains unstable. Cereal
production in other Central Asian countries is mainly irrigated cropping and more
stable than rainfed cropping.
Studying imports and exports of agricultural products confirms that wheat and
wheat flour are among the main basic food commodities imported into Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan (Table 2). All these countries need to
import sugar, though sugar beets grow well on salinised soils. On the export side,
cotton dominates. Kazakhstan is an important exporter of wheat and barley.
2.2 Water Resources and Water Consumption
2.2.1 Status of Main Rivers and Reservoirs
Water is a dynamic resource. Melting snow and glacier ice in the high mountains
of Central Asia, mainly located in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, are the only source
of fresh water in the region. The runoffs of the large rivers, such as the Syr Darya,
Amu Darya, Ili, Shu, Talas, Zeravshan, Atrek, Karatal, Aksu, Lepsa, etc., originate
in the high-altitude mountains. The Syr Darya is the longest river in Central Asia
(2,212 km). It originates in the Tien Shan mountains and flows along the borders
Fig. 5 Annual wheat
production of Kazakhstan in
two periods: the transition
period after independency in
the 1990s, and the first
10 years of this century. Blue
bars indicate the average,
small green bars the 95 %
confidence interval, and stars
are extremes. The data come
from the FAOSTAT database
(FAO 2012b)
Table 2 Main imported basic foods and agricultural commodities in 2010 (FAO 2012b)
Country Top imported basic food commodities Top exported agricultural commodities
Kazakhstan Sugar, chicken meat Wheat, wheat flour, cotton, barley
Kyrgyzstan Wheat, chicken meat, sugar,
sunflower oil
Beans, cotton, cow milk, potatoes
Tajikistan Wheat flour, wheat, sugar Cotton, tomatoes
Turkmenistan Wheat, potatoes, sugar Cotton
Uzbekistan Wheat flour, sugar, sunflower oil Cotton, tomatoes, wheat
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 11
of or across four states before ending in the North Aral Sea. The Irtysh is the
longest river in Kazakhstan, flowing 1,200 km through the country.
Central Asia consists of some large and a number of small river basins
(Table 3). The Ob river and its main tributary, the Irtysh, drain the north of
Kazakhstan towards the Arctic Ocean. Other rivers remain in Central Asia and
feed inner basins.
From the data in the AQUASTAT database (FAO 2012a), the river basins by
countries are:
Kazakhstan: the major river basins are the Arctic Ocean via the Ob river (60 %
of the outflow); internal basins, Lake Balkhash included (26 %), Caspian Sea
(8 %) and Aral Sea (6 %).
Kyrgyzstan: There are six groups of main river basins: the Syr Darya (62 %),
the Chu, Talas and Assa (16 %), a group of southeastern small mountainous river
basins draining to China, mainly the Aksay, Sary Dzhaz and Kek Suu (14 %), the
Amu Darya (4 %), the Issyk–Kul (3 %) and Lake Balkhash (1 %).
Tajikistan: Four major river basins may be distinguished: the Amu Darya
(84 %), the Syr Darya (11 %), the Zeravshan (4 %), and a group of northeastern
small mountainous river basins draining to China (1 %).
Table 3 Main rivers and basins in Central Asia
Basin and sub-
Total area (km
) Recipient Riparian countries
Ob 2,972,493
from that KAZ:
Arctic Ocean (Kara
RU(MN, CN, KZ via
Irtysh 1,643,000 Ob RU, KZ, CN, MN
Tobol 426,000 Irtysh RU, KZ
Ishim 176,000 Irtysh RU, KZ
Amu Darya n/a Aral Sea AF, KG, TJ, UZ, TM
Surkhan Darya 13,500 Amu Darya TJ, UZ
Kafirnigan 11,590 Amu Darya TJ, UZ
Pyanj 113,500 Amu Darya AF, TJ
Vakhsh 39,100 Amu Darya KG, TJ
Zeravshan n/a Desert sink TJ, UZ
Syr Darya n/a Aral Sea KZ, KG, TJ, UZ
Naryn n/a Syr Darya KG, UZ
Kara Darya 28,630 Syr Darya KG, UZ
Chirchik 14,240 Syr Darya KZ, KG, UZ
Chu 62,500 Desert sink KZ, KG
Talas 52,700 Desert sink KZ, KG
Ili 413,000 Lake Balkhash CN, KZ
Murgab 46,880 Desert sink AF, TM
Tejen 70,260 Desert sink AF, IR, TM
Basic data and table from UNECE (2007), modified, n/a- not available, country abbreviations: AF
Afghanistan, CN China, KZ Kazakhstan, KG Kyrgyzstan, MN Mongolia, RU Russia, TM Turk-
menistan, TJ Tajikistan, UZ Uzbekistan
12 L. Mueller et al.
Turkmenistan: Two main groups of river basins are the Amu Darya (68 %), and
a group of Murghab, Tedzhen, Atrek and others (32 %). The overall discharge is
/year only.
Uzbekistan: Two main river basins forming the Aral Sea basin can be distin-
guished: the Amu Darya basin in the south (86 %) and the Syr Darya in the north
(14 %). The given percentages refer to renewable water resources, e.g. a calculated
outflow, not to the area of recharge. The latter would provide a different figure. For
example, the territory of Kazakhstan can be divided into 8 main hydro-economic
basins: the Aral- Syr Darya basin (345 K km
), the Balkhash-Alakol basin
(353 K km
in K), the Ural-Caspian basin (415 K km
), Shu-Talas (64.3 km
), the
Irtysh basin, the Ishim basin (216 K km
), the Nura-Sarysu basin, and the Tobol-
Turgai basin (214 K km
), (UNDP 2004). The latter four basins belong to the Ob-
Irtysh basin and drain to the Arctic Ocean.
Central Asian countries have a high stock of reservoirs, which were mainly
constructed about 40–60 years ago. For example, in the Aral Sea basin there are
more than 50 large reservoirs for the storage of water for irrigation and hydro-
power production (Kamilov 2003). Reservoir siltation is a problem and has to be
minimised by reducing erosion in upstream regions. There are 475 reservoirs in
Kazakhstan, of which 75 are in the southern regions, with a total capacity of
95.5 km
and surface area of over 10,000 km
. The largest reservoirs in Ka-
zakhstan are the Bukhtarma reservoir on the Irtysh River (49 km
) and the Kap-
chagay reservoir on the Ili river (28 km
). The great majority of large reservoirs
are multipurpose, for all sectors of agriculture, including fish production, industry
and supplying the population (Ismukhanov and Mukhamedzhanov 2003). The
construction of water power station dams has created serious problems for the
migration and natural reproduction of native fish.
Though Central Asia is a dryland region, there are many natural lakes of
different degrees of salinity. The largest lakes in Kazakhstan are Lake Balkhash
(18,000 km
area and 112 km
volume), Lake Zaisan (5,500 km
) and Lake
Tengiz (1,590 km
). The overall number of natural lakes in Kazakhstan is more
than 17,000, with a total area of about 45,000 km
and an estimated total volume
of about 190 km
of water (FAO 2012a).
All these rivers, reservoirs, lakes and other open waterbodies cannot be con-
sidered as a resource to provide, store or drain off water only. They are important
ecosystems and must be maintained as habitats for flora, fauna and overall bio-
diversity. For humans, they provide a number of ecosystem functions and services,
including recreation and experiencing natural wildlife. Some regions of Central
Asia have good potential for ecotourism based on their unique, diverse and
exciting landscape (Fig. 6). Open waters are important elements of this landscape
ensemble. The protection of lakes, water cavities, rivers and marsh lands takes top
priority for actions in the National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan of the
Republic of Kasakhstan (National Strategy and Action Plan 1999). Kazakhstan
signed the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1992 and ratified it in
1994, while the other four countries accessed in the 1990s (CBD Secretariat 2012).
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 13
Fig. 6 Impressions of three transboundary rivers. aRiver and meadow of the Talas river near
Taraz (Kazakhstan). A few kilometres upstream is the border to Kyrgyzstan. Downstream are
irrigated lowlands. The river ends in a desert sink. bIli river near Karakol, at the begin of the
delta, about 150 km to the river mouth. The Ili originates in China and feeds extended irrigated
lands there before entering Kazakhstan. The Ili is the largest river ending in Lake Balkhash, and
is crucial for its hydrological stabilisation. cCharyn river, a tributary of the Ili river. The Charyn
has formed an impressive canyon landscape (Photo: Courtesy of Azimbay Otarov)
14 L. Mueller et al.
Water resources and water quality issues are also set down on the United
Nations’ official list of ‘‘Millennium Development Goal (MDG) indicators’’. These
are: ‘‘Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability, Target 7.A: Integrate the
principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and
reverse the loss of environmental resources, indicators 7.4 Proportion of fish stocks
within safe biological limits and 7.5 Proportion of total water resources used’’.
Also, ‘‘Target 7.B Reduce biodiversity loss’ refers to the functions of land and
water to preserve biodiversity (MDG indicators 2012). This may be a further
reason to monitor and control water resources carefully. The welfare and future
prosperity of the region are linked to the status of aquatic ecosystems (Yessekin
et al. 2008).
2.2.2 Water Consumption
Irrigation agriculture is the dominating water user, and evapotranspiration is the
largest sink in the landscape water balance. Between 82 % (Kazakhstan) and 98 %
(Turkmenistan) of all water withdrawal is needed for agriculture (CIA 2011). This
proportion of water withdrawal is clearly above the global average (averaged over
countries) for irrigated land, which is 70 % (Siebert et al. 2010).
Drinking water is a most important and valuable food. An OECD study
revealed that the quality of drinking water in the region was poor (OECD 2003).
More than one third of the population of Central Asia uses drinking water that does
not meet quality standards, and this proportion exceeds 50 % in some regions.
Microbiological parameters and nitrates are particular problems (OECD 2003).
Improvement of the water quality and the supply of clean drinking water to the
population take top priority in the national water strategies of all Central Asian
countries (FAO 2012a).
2.3 Potential for Water Conflicts
The potential for conflict between riparians may result from water quantity and
quality issues. All great rivers and their main tributaries are trans-boundary.
Threats to water security exist for the downstream countries of Kazakhstan (Ry-
abtsev 2011), Uzbekistan (Rakhmatullaev et al. 2009; Turayeva 2012) and
Turkmenistan (Allouche 2007).
This includes the potential for water conflicts between countries and kinds of
resource users (Giese et al. 2004; Grewlich 2010). The upstream countries (Ta-
jikistan and Kyrgyzstan, also China) where the most water is generated will
increasingly claim the water resources for themselves. There are significant
‘upstream–downstream’’ issues with hydropower potential upstream and irrigation
demands downstream (Granit et al. 2010). Even though there is the potential for
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 15
conflict, the situation could be turned into a win–win situation for all the riparian
states (Giese et al. 2004; Wegerich et al. 2007).
The imbalance between flow generation and water consumption is a main
problem of managing water quantity. Control of reservoirs is a permanent issue.
The example of the Toktogul reservoir, the largest reservoir in Kyrgyzstan, on the
Naryn river—the Syr Darya catchment—may demonstrate the situation. The water
regime of the Toktogul reservoir has shifted to a strategy meeting the demands of
the hydropower industry, not the demands of agricultural water management of
downstream rural areas (Dukhovny and Stulina 2011). On the other hand, the
economy of Kyrgyzstan is characterised by an energy crisis. A substantial part of
the population has no access to electricity. Kyrgyzstan generates about 90 % of its
electricity from hydro-electric power stations (Liu and Pistorius 2012). To produce
more electricity in the winter, most water of the reservoir is released in the winter.
This causes problems in downstream regions, floods to the Arnasay depression
(Uzbekistan) and the region of Kyzyl Orda (Kazakhstan) in the winter and a lack
of water in the summer (World Bank 2004).
Central Asia is already prone to natural flood disasters. Man-made floods such
as that in the Naryn catchment exacerbate the situation. Floods and earthquakes are
the most frequent major natural disasters in the region (Thurman 2011). Reservoirs
involve a permanent risk for downstream inhabitants in the case of earthquakes.
Climate change trends in Central Asia will exacerbate problems with water
scarcity and water resource management. Central Asia is one of the most vul-
nerable regions to climate change (Lioubimtseva and Henebry 2009). With
increasing climate variability and a warming trend in the region, food and water
security issues are becoming even more crucial (Qi et al. 2012). Central Asia is
becoming warmer more quickly than the global average (Gupta et al. 2009).
Droughts are creating a higher water demand for irrigation. An increase in water
consumption of at least 10–15 % due to rising temperatures is expected (Du-
khovny and Stulina 2011).
Other important upstream countries claiming water for agriculture in the region
are China and Afghanistan. China is going to develop large irrigation projects in
the catchments of the Irtysh and the Ili rivers with implications for the downstream
riparian Kazakhstan. Climate-induced hazards in mountain areas, such as break-
throughs of glacier lakes, floods, landslides and mudflows, may create problems of
freshwater availability. Increasing competition for water will require more effort
for economic and political cooperation to avoid conflicts. According to an analysis
by Sehring and Giese (2011), hotspots of potential conflict are (a) the Fergana
valley, the most densely populated area in Central Asia, belonging partly to Ky-
rgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, (b) Kyrgyzstan, where a North–South gra-
dient exists, (c) the poor Tajikistan, where the situation is fragile, and (d) the delta
of the Amu Darya, where water distribution conflicts between Turkmenistan and
Uzbekistan could arise (Sehring and Giese 2011).
16 L. Mueller et al.
3 Natural Conditions for Farming and Rural Development
3.1 Climate and Agro-Climate
Climate is a crucial factor for agriculture and a driver of rural development.
Central Asia is a dryland region and has a continental climate with hot summers
and cold winters. 90 % of this area has less than 400 mm of precipitation per year,
and the average over the total area is 266 mm (de Pauw 2007, in Gupta et al.
2009). The distribution over the region is very different, ranging from extremely
high values in the mountains to desert conditions with amounts of less than
100 mm south of the Aral Sea, Lake Balkhash and some smaller regions (Fig. 7).
The orographic and climate situation differs between countries. Kyrgyzstan and
Tajikistan are typical mountain areas with large climatic differences between the
mountains and valleys. Most land area in Turkmenistan is lowland. The Kara Kum
Desert covers 80 % of the total area of that country. In Uzbekistan and Kazakh-
stan, lowlands prevail.
For Kazakhstan, the average annual precipitation is estimated at 344 mm,
ranging from less than 100 mm in the Balkhash-Alakol depression in the central-
Fig. 7 Distribution of precipitation over Central Asia. Map provided by Igor Klein
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 17
eastern part of the country or near the Aral Sea in the south, up to 1,600 mm in the
mountain zone in the east and southeast of the country. In Kyrgyzstan, the average
annual precipitation is estimated at 533 mm, varying from 150 mm in the Fergana
valley to over 1,000 mm in the mountains. Tajikistan also has a continental cli-
mate, but in the floodplains of the rivers the climate is characterised by hot, dry
summers and mild, warm winters. The average annual precipitation is 691 mm,
ranging from less than 100 mm in the southeast up to 2 400 mm on the Fedchenko
glacier in the central part of the country. In Turkmenistan the climate is that of a
subtropical desert. The average annual precipitation is about 191 mm only,
ranging from less than 80 mm in the northeast to 300 mm in the Kopetdag
mountain zone in the southwest. The climate of Uzbekistan is arid in over 60 % of
the territory. The average annual rainfall is 264 mm, ranging from less than
97 mm in the northwest to 425 mm in the mountainous zone in the middle and
southern parts of country (FAO 2012a).
Further climate data from individual stations is brought in here to underpin the
agro-climatic situation and big contrasts over the whole region. Table 4shows
climate data from five locations in Kazakhstan: Astana, the capital, located in the
centre/north region, Irtyssk, in the Pavlodar region, about 500 km northeast of
Astana, Kyzyl Orda on the Syr Darya river, Emba in the western part of the
country, and Fort Shevtchenko, also in the west, directly on the Caspian Sea.
Further locations are Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Khujand in Northern
Tajikistan in the Fergana Valley, Ashgabad, the capital of Turkmenistan, and
Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. Urganch, in the Khorezm region, is another
example from Uzbekistan. All these locations are at fairly low to moderate
One point they have in common is that summers are warm or hot. Also, the
annual potential evapotranspiration far exceeds the low precipitation, leading to a
classification as semiarid in most cases. There are major differences and a clear
north–south gradient in winter temperatures and in the limitations of the vegetation
period by frost. However, even in the colder North the frost-free period is longer
than 3 months in most regions. This is sufficient for most spring crops. Cold
winters in Central and North Kazakhstan do not allow crops of winter wheat,
winter rapeseed or similar crops requiring a winter dormancy period, nor the
growing of fruit trees. The soil temperature regime in Northern Kazakhstan is
‘frigid’ (soil temperature \8C) according to the USDA classification (Keys to
Soil Taxonomy 2010) and sub-optimum for cropping. Locations farther than 43
degrees south of the Northern Latitude have a potential vegetation period from
April to September which is completely free of frost. This offers great potential for
farming and gardening. Most locations in Table 4have a mesic ([8C) or thermic
([12 C) soil temperature regime, which is favourable for plant root development
in soils. The latter enables double cropping systems if water is available. A
comparison of the Net Primary Production (NPP) data shows that crop growth is
clearly limited by water at all locations.
The high-mountain areas of the Tien-Shan and Pamir are located in the South
and South-East of Central Asia. Water from their melting snow and glaciers feeds
18 L. Mueller et al.
all the major rivers and is a precondition for irrigated agriculture and rural living in
the semi-arid and arid lowlands of the region. In the north of Kazakhstan, the
climate is semi-arid, and precipitation rates of 200–400 mm per year enable some
rainfed cropping on the natural short-grass steppes.
Table 4 Climate data for some locations in Central Asia
KAZ Irtyshsk,
KAZ Kyzyl Orda,
KAZ Irgiz,
KAZ Fort Shevt-
Latitude, Deg. North 51.13 53.35 44.76 48.61 44.55
Longitude, Deg. West 71.36 75.45 65.53 61.26 50.25
Altitude, m 348 94 129 114 -20
Mean annual temp. C 2.7 1.9 9.8 5.7 11.7
Temp. January, C-15.9 -17.4 -8.4 -14.9 -2.3
Temp. July, C 21.2 21.0 27.5 25.2 25.5
Frost-free months, No. 3 3 5 4 5
Ground frost probability %
April 40 45 2 22 17
May 5 5 0 0 0
September 6 6 0 1 0
October 45 48 10 34 11
Annual Precipitation, mm 317 290 149 181 181
Evapotranspiration, mm
608 531 1139 737 892
Koeppen climate zone Dfb Dfb BWk BSk BWk
808 758 1385 1036 1557
569 526 283 340 339
KYR Khujand,
TAJ Ashgabad,
TUR Tashkent,
UZB Urganch,
Latitude, Deg. North 42.80 40.21 37.96 41.26 41.56
Longitude, Deg. West 74.50 69.73 58.33 69.26 60.56
Altitude, m 756 414 228 489 99
Mean annual temp. C 10.6 14.4 16.4 14.2 11.9
Temp. January, C-3.6 -0.4 2.2 0.5 -4.9
Temp. July, C 24.7 28.2 30.8 27.6 27.5
Frost-free months, No. 5 5 7 5 5
Ground frost probability %
April 0 0 0 0 0
May 0 0 0 0 0
September 0 0 0 0 0
October 14 0 0 3 10
Annual precipitation, mm 441 164 227 426 93
Evapotranspiration, mm
1035 1393 1537 1394 1020
Koeppen climate zone Dsa BWk BWk BSk BWk
1463 1794 1958 1775 1573
761 310 420 739 180
Source Database LocClim 1.10 (FAO 2006). Potential evapotranspiration was not measured at some
stations; in those cases the data were interpolated from neighbouring stations. Dfb humid snow climate
with warm summers, Dsa snow climate with dry and hot summer, BSk arid cold steppe, BWk cold
desert, NPP
and NPP
data were also given by LocClim 1.10, calculated by the Miami model
developed by Lieth (FAO 2006)
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 19
3.2 Land for Cropping and Grazing
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan cover a land
area of 393 M hectares (Table 5). This is a large resource providing several
functions and services in the global ecosystem including the production of food,
livestock foraging and fibre for local people and for the market.
Most of the total land in Central Asia is grassland (63 %). Among the top
countries by grassland area, Kazakhstan ranks 6th in the world. Due to decades of
drought and overgrazing, the productivity is low on pastures, with about 0.1–0.4 t/
h of dry matter (Kazakh Ministry 2007). Arable land amounts about 11 % of the
agricultural land of Central Asia. Forests are sparse and particularly threatened,
covering only about 4 % of the total land area (FAO 2012a) and rapidly declining
further on, as has been detected from satellite images (Klein et al. 2012). In terms
of croplands, Kazakhstan has more than 20 million hectares of land for rainfed
cropping in the northern part of the country. These large areas for spring wheat
growing are the result of an immense land conversion initiative in the former
Soviet Union in the 1950s. About 42 million hectares of steppe soils were
reclaimed for agriculture. More than half of this land (about 25 m ha) was located
in Kazakhstan, another 6 M ha in the neighbouring Western Siberia (Meinel
2002). Some land for rainfed cropping is also available in the foothill areas in the
south of the country. On rainfed cropping land, wheat is the main crop grown
about 80 % in the rotations. Wheat monocultures with included all-year fallow
phases prevail, and yields are low and instable.
The type of crops grown on arable land is largely determined by developments
in the past. In the Soviet era each republic specialised in producing a specific
agricultural commodity according to the prevailing agro-climatic and biophysical
resources. Uzbekistan specialised in producing cotton and Kazakhstan in
Table 5 Agricultural land in the 5 transition states of Central Asia in million hectares
Country Total
Grassland Arable
Kazakhstan 270.0 208.5 185.1 23.4 1.2 0.4 (0.7)
Kyrgyzstan 19.2 10.6 9.3 1.3 1.1 0.1 (0.8)
Tajikistan 14.0 4.7 4.0 0.7 0.7 0.3 (0.6)
Turkmenistan 47.0 32.9 31.0 1.9 2.0 1.0 (1.2)
Uzbekistan 42.5 26.4 22.1 4.3 3.7 2.8 (3.3)
Total 392.7 283.1 251.5 31.6 8.7 4.6 (6.6)
Source AQUASTAT database, FAO 2012a
Total harvested land, full control of irrigation, data for Kazakhstan Tajikistan and Turkmenistan
2006, Uzbekistan 2005 and Kyrgyzstan 1993. More recent data given by Kienzler et al. (2011),
based on country statistics, show that the gross irrigated land in 2008 was somewhat higher:
2.08 M ha for Kazakhstan, 1.07 M ha for Kyrgyzstan, 0.72 M ha for Tajikistan, 1.08 M ha for
Turkmenistan and 4.21Mha for Uzbekistan
The number in parentheses is land in need of drainage; data from 1993/1994
20 L. Mueller et al.
producing cereals. After their independence in 1991, all republics had to develop
their own independent economies in which agriculture continues to play an
important role both for local food needs and for the international market (Gupta
et al. 2009) (Fig. 8).
It has been possible to increase cereal yields over recent years (Table 6) but the
figures remain relatively low compared with other countries. Kazakhstan produces
most cereals under rainfed conditions, whilst in other countries irrigated cereal
cropping dominates. The fluctuations of the yield from year to year are also
relatively high in some cases even under irrigated conditions. Annual yields lower
than 1 t/ha under dryland conditions and lower than 2 t/ha under irrigated con-
ditions should be considered very low and inacceptable. It can be seen that the crop
yield level in both Tajikistan and Kazakhstan is low and instable. Uzbekistan has
made the most progress in increasing and stabilising the yields of cereals.
Fig. 8 Grasslands and croplands. aGrasslands dominate Central Asia. Overgrazed and heavily
disturbed grasslands in Kyrgyzstan. Photo: Jutta Zeitz. bWheat field in Kazakhstan. Rainfed
wheat cropping is often practised with minimum inputs of agrochemicals. This is partly
considered environmentally friendly, but nutrient mining may exhaust the soil resources.
Competing weeds reduce crop yields
Table 6 Yields of cereals (tonnes per hectare), averaged data from the FAOSTAT database
(FAO 2012b)
Country Average yield in t/ha Minimum/maximum yield
1992–1999 2000–2009 1992–1999 2000–2009
Kazakhstan 0.90 1.01 0.56–1.34 0.94–1.33
Kyrgyzstan 2.27 2.51 1.63–2.77 2.38–3.03
Tajikistan 1.07 1.62 0.88–1.31 1.31–2.78
Turkmenistan 1.91 2.40 0.82–2.61 2.12–3.29
Uzbekistan 1.94 2.94 1.59–2.52 2.44–4.64
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 21
4 Performance and Environmental Effects of Irrigated
4.1 Cropping Structure and Productivity
Irrigation has been practiced in Central Asia since ancient times. Without irriga-
tion extended oasis regions such as Khorezm and Bukhara would still be desert.
Water and irrigation have been important factors for progress, the development of
culture and sciences, and the co-operation of people inhabiting Central Asia
(Dukhovny and Stulina 2011).
About one third of the arable land in Central Asia is under irrigation, but
differences between countries are large. Almost all the arable land in Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan is irrigated cropland (Table 5). Large
irrigation areas have been installed in the lowlands of all the main rivers in the
region (Figs. 9,10,11).
Irrigation water is taken from rivers and reservoirs. The current systems have
existed since the Soviet era. During that period an extensive irrigation infra-
structure was constructed in the form of reservoirs, irrigation canals, pumping
stations and field canals (World Bank 2004). The current status of the irrigation
systems and structures is a phase of consolidation. The main water courses are
being used and maintained, whilst some older and smaller inter-farm transport
systems of irrigation water have disintegrated over time (Fig. 12). In some regions
irrigation systems have decayed so severely that much of the water never reaches
Fig. 9 Irrigation areas in Central Asia. Fresh water from the main rivers is the basis of extended
irrigation. This map was redrawn and modified based on a figure by Bucknall et al. 2003
22 L. Mueller et al.
the fields. In Kazakhstan all irrigation and drainage constructions will need
rebuilding in due time (Suleimenov et al. 2012). Irrigation technologies are tra-
ditional: surface irrigation methods with a high water consumption (Fig. 13). In
Kazakhstan, sprinkler irrigation is also common on about 24 % of the irrigated
land, mainly in the Northern provinces (FAO 2012a).
The irrigated land of Central Asia, Uzbekistan in particular, is dominated by
cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L., Payziyeva and Paiziev 2012). Uzbekistan was a
main global cotton producer, and cotton remains crucial for the economy of this
country. More than 70 % of the irrigated land is used for cotton production. Rice
and wheat are also cultivated there, but the production of rice is declining. Because
of freshwater shortages, saline water is often used for irrigation. Over the last
15 years the irrigated area has been reduced in Uzbekistan, and it will continue to
decline (Turayeva 2012).
Crops grown on irrigated land differ by country. The following FAO data (FAO
2012a) refer to the 1990s, but may characterise the typical status at a later stage. In
Kazakhstan, the main irrigated crops were fodder (alfalfa dominating), cereals,
Fig. 10 Smallholder cotton
field near Bukhara,
Uzbekistan. Post-harvest
situation. The woman picks
late-ripened lint. Photo:
Courtesy of Dagmar Balla
Fig. 11 Potatoes under
sprinkler irrigation
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 23
Fig. 12 Technical systems for irrigation. Water transport is provided by hydrotechnical systems
constructed 30–40 years ago. aMain canal for irrigation water transport. These channels are
often not lined, causing water losses, leaching and secondary salinisation of adjacent areas.
bCentral weir for water supply control. cdInner-farm supply of different maintenance statuses.
Some old smaller irrigation systems for cropping land which need some effort for their
maintenance, such as artificial ditches made from concrete, are still working (c). Many of them
have completely disintegrated (d)
Fig. 13 Irrigated crops and technology. aExperimental rice field in the irrigation system of the
Ili river (Almaty region in Kazakhstan). Rice growing is profitable, but has extremely low water
use efficiency and causes side-effects of secondary salinisation on adjacent land. bRaised-bed
cropping of onions and other vegetables and crops in combination with furrow irrigation or low-
pressure plastic hoses are emerging technologies. Example of Besagasch research site, near
Taraz, Kazakhstan. The research station is operated by the Institute for Water Economy in Taras
24 L. Mueller et al.
cotton, fruits, potatoes and sugar beets. In 1993, irrigated crop yields were 1.8 t/ha
for cotton, 1.5 t/ha for wheat, 4.3 t/ha for rice, 3 t/ha for maize, and 2.5 t/ha for
grapes. Irrigated farming predominated in the south of Kazakhstan, where cotton is
produced on 37 % of the irrigated area, forage crops on 18 % and cereals on 15 %,
and vegetables and other cultures on 30 % (Ismukhanov and Mukhamedzhanov
2003). In Kyrgyzstan, the main irrigated crops were fodder and cereals, with wheat
dominating. Average wheat yields were 2.2 t/ha. In Tajikistan, the major irrigated
crops were cotton, fodder, fruits and grapes, cereals and vegetables. Cotton, fruits
and grapes were the most important export crops. In 1994, irrigated crop yields
were 1.9 t/ha for cotton, 0.85 t/ha for wheat, 1.7 t/ha for rice and 3 t/ha for grapes.
The major irrigated crops in Turkmenistan were cereals (mainly wheat), cotton and
fodder. In 1994, irrigated crop yields were 2.3 t/ha for cotton, 1.6 t/ha for wheat,
1.8 t/ha for barley and 2.4 t/ha for rice. In Uzbekistan, cotton dominated, followed
by fodder, wheat and fruits. Yields were 2.5 t/ha for cotton, 2.1 t/ha for wheat, 3 t/
ha for rice and 4.0 t/ha for grapes (FAO 2012a). Crop yields were low during that
period of structural reforms or re-organization in agriculture, a few years after
independence. Later, crop yields from irrigated land improved slightly in many
cases, but their level remains low or very low in comparison with the leading
countries in terms of irrigated agriculture, such as China.
In Uzbekistan, yields of some cash crops such as cotton are sufficient but not
stable, while others such as rice remain very low (Abdullaev and Molden 2004). The
water productivity of the cotton-growing areas of the Syr Darya basin, one of the
largest irrigation systems of Central Asia, is still lower than the world average. The
water productivity of rice was 0.21 kg/m
water. This is extremely low compared to
the world average of 0.7–0.8 kg/m
(Abdullaev and Molden 2004). Water produc-
tivity is on the increase but is still lower than 1980 (Turayeva 2012). On the other
hand, comparing water productivity data with those from other regions can be
biased, and results of gross water and solute balancing may be an improper measure
of water productivity. The latest developments in lysimetry (Meißner et al. 2010)
may lead to better data and a better understanding of the processes.
Over-irrigation may lead to nutrient leaching, water table increases, or runoff
and erosion on slightly sloping lands (Reddy et al. 2013). The majority of farms
have no crop rotations. The challenge for irrigated agriculture is to increase water
productivity, improve and maintain soil fertility and diversify cotton-wheat rota-
tions (Gupta et al. 2009; Turayeva 2012).
4.2 Side-Effects of Irrigated Farming
The long existence of large oases in Central Asia shows that local people managed
their irrigation systems under extreme climate conditions in a viable and sus-
tainable way. However, irrigation farming may affect water and land resources
adversely in terms of both quality and quantity. During the last 50 years, irrigated
areas have been expanded largely without considering resource conservation
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 25
(Kienzler et al. 2012). The soils of irrigated land located in former river beds and
deserts in the lowlands have a sandy-loam texture and favour losses of nutrients
and organic matter (Gupta et al. 2009). Excessive irrigation may lead to the
formation of soils with poor physical and chemical properties. Leaching of gyp-
sum, carbonates and organic matter from the soil profile and the accumulation of
and Mg
have occurred (Karimov et al. 2009).
Currently, irrigated farming is the main source of water and soil pollution by
salinisation. Only a minority of irrigation canals are water proofed. More than
50 % of irrigated soils in Central Asia are salt-affected and/or waterlogged (Qadir
et al. 2009). Salinity is a major driver of land desertification (D’Odorico et al.
2012). Waterlogging and salinity problems depend on the position of the area
within the river system. They are relatively low in the upper reaches, high in the
lower reaches and extremely high in the tail areas.
Salinity is closely related to drainage conditions. About 70–80 % of irrigated
areas would need adequate drainage to mitigate problems of waterlogging and
salinity, but only about 50 % of irrigated land is drained or equipped for drainage
(Table 5). Groundwater tables are too high because of excessive irrigation inten-
sity and insufficient drainage in many cases. For example, in the Khorezm region
of Uzbekistan average ground water levels were 1.1–1.4 m at the start of the
leaching period and 0.9–1.4 m in July during the growing season. Optimum levels
would be 1.4–1.5 m. (Ibrakhimov et al. 2011). Farmers try to adapt to the salinity
level by growing salt-tolerant crops. Fodder crops for the winter feeding of live-
stock are grown on field sites where salinity and poor drainage conditions prevent
other crops from being grown (FAO 2012b).
Environmental problems caused by excessive and improperly managed irriga-
tion agriculture are worst in the large downstream countries of Uzbekistan,
Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. A typical example of an inefficient irrigation
system is the water loss from the Kara Kum canal, whose banks are unlined. A
minimum of 18 % of the total flow is lost through seepage, which has been causing
waterlogging and salinisation of the surrounding land. In general, water in the
agricultural drainage networks and rivers of Turkmenistan is of poor quality,
containing high concentrations of salts and pesticides coming from local and
upstream irrigation systems (FAO 2012b). Water is free of charge for agricultural
use in Turkmenistan. This promotes wasteful irrigation practices, soil salinity and
waterlogging. About half of irrigated land is damaged. Crop yields have declined
by 20–30 per cent over the past 10 years (UNECE 2012).
In Uzbekistan, too, land degradation is significant through waterlogging and
salinisation of irrigated land, crop diseases and pests due to cotton monoculture
(FAO 1997). In rice-growing areas on the tail reaches of the Syr Darya basin the
quality of irrigation water is particular low. This can be seen as a barrier to crop
diversification, i.e. to shifting from rice to other high-value crops. Improvements in
water management in the upper and middle reaches of the basin could lead to
improvements in the quality of water delivered to the tail reaches (Abdullaev and
Molden 2004).
26 L. Mueller et al.
Meanwhile, groundwater in the tail reaches may be more polluted than surface
water (Törnqvist et al. 2011). This means increased health risks for downstream
populations when switching to groundwater-based drinking water supplies.
Ongoing irrigation expansion has created cumulative health hazards due to high
concentrations of copper, arsenic, nitrate and DDT. The Amu Darya delta region is
characterised by a very high groundwater salinity in the first shallow, unconfined
aquifer. Even in non-irrigated downstream regions of irrigation areas, extremely
high salinity levels of 23 g/l were found, higher than in the groundwater of the
upstream irrigated region, where the salt content was 3 g/l (Johansson et al. 2009).
4.3 Formation of New Ecosystems: Deserts and Wetlands
Another possible consequence of extended irrigation is the risk of disappearance of
the largest freshwater lakes of Central Asia and the formation of new deserts (Figs.
14 and 15). The case of the Aral Sea has reached global public dimensions and
awareness. Cai et al. (2003) addressed the Aral Sea disaster as a prime example of
unsustainable irrigation development. The sea is located on the territories of
Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The Aral Sea had an area of about 68,000 km
and a
volume of 1,061 km
in 1960. The water levels were mainly stabilised by annual
discharges of 56 km
by the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers before 1960. As a
result of intensive irrigation water consumption until the 1990s, the annual water
runoff reaching the Amu Darya and Syr Darya river deltas was reduced to 5 km
per year. The Aral Sea lost about two thirds of its volume and surface area and
declined 40 m in depth during that time (Kamilov 2003). The sea consists now of
some small, separate lakes. Their overall volume is about 90 km
: the Aral Sea has
lost over 90 % of its water, and its salinity has increased about ten to 20-fold
(Zavialov 2011).
Meanwhile, the Amu Darya river runs dry before reaching the South Aral Sea.
Uzbekistan has started oil exploration in the drying South Aral seabed. Kazakhstan
has undertaken some efforts to stabilize the North Aral Sea by building a dam. In
2008, the water level in this lake had risen by 24 m and its salinity had dropped.
Some fish stocks have recovered.
Fig. 14 Small Aral Sea,
some remaining water,
surrounded by a new desert
(Photo: Courtesy of Azimbay
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 27
The former sea area consists of huge plains covered with salt and toxic
chemicals. The consequences include a collapse in the fish industry and sanitation
and health problems among the local people (Wikipedia 2012). Technical solu-
tions have been proposed to restore the Aral Sea using water from the rising
Caspian Sea (Cathcart and Badescu 2011) but due to the high gradient of about 60
meters (Altitudes: Caspian Sea -29 m, Aral Sea ?29 m) this would require a
great deal of energy: a careful check of the economic and ecological consequences
is needed. Taking some flood water from the Ob-Irtysh river system seems to be
more realistic (Giese et al. 2004) but would also cause problems due to expected
water scarcity in the Irtysh catchment (Hrkal et al. 2006).
The new Aral Kum (Desert) has become a very active dust source over the last
three decades (Indoitu et al. 2012).
Groll et al. (2012) measured dust emissions in the desiccated Aral Sea region
and found the highest monthly deposition rate in Uzbekistan (up to 56.2 g per m
The impact of the Aral Kum as the dominant source of Aeolian dust was signif-
icant and limited to a region of approximately 500,000 km
surrounding the for-
mer Aral Sea. Dust clouds and deposits in Western Uzbekistan come from the
drying Aral seabed, and this is often clay mineral agglomerate material and can
carry dangerous pollutants (Smalley et al. 2006).
There are many national and international activities for improving or stabilizing
the hydrological situation in the Aral Sea region. An International Fund for Saving
the Aral Sea (IFAS) has been established. The mission of its Executive Committee
(EC IFAS) is ‘‘to coordinate cooperation at national and international levels in
order to use existing water resources more effectively, and to improve the envi-
ronmental and socio-economic situation in the Aral Sea Basin’’ (EC IFAS 2011).
It is important to mitigate the consequences of missing water and to mediate
between conflicting interests of stakeholders. However, as long the rainfall does
not increase and water evaporates through vegetation and soil on fields instead of
flowing to the Aral Sea, the problem will be present. Faster glacier melting could
mask the problem for a while.
Fig. 15 Lake Balkhash, currently the largest freshwater lake of Central Asia, is under risk of
rapid desiccation and accelerated salinisation (Photos: Courtesy of Azimbay Otarov and
Konstantin Pachikin)
28 L. Mueller et al.
There are early signs that Lake Balkhash (Fig. 15), currently the largest
freshwater lake in the region, could experience a similar destiny. Propastin (2013)
calculated the implications of climate change and human activity on the disaster
risk for water resources in the Balkhash Lake drainage basin. Water from the Ili
River is the most important for the stabilisation of Lake Balkhash. The con-
struction of irrigation systems in the Kazakh part of the drainage basin in the
1970–1990 period led to a significant drop in the water level. As China is planning
irrigation systems and intends to reduce the outflow of the Ili river to Kazakhstan,
serious consequences for Lake Balkhash are possible. Of three scenarios, two show
disaster-like implications for Lake Balkhash (Propastin 2013).
The Aydar-Arnasay lake system, located in Uzbekistan, is an example of a
human-made aquatic ecosystem. Its formation is the result of an uncoordinated use
of reservoirs. At first it was thought to constitute environmental and economic
damage, creating social unrest (Rakhmatullaev et al. 2009). Today, the lake system
plays an important role in the regional economy such as fisheries, biodiversity
maintenance and conservation, having been designated a RAMSAR site in 2007.
Recreation and tourism play also a role (Rodina and Mnatsakanian 2012).
5 Water Quality of Rivers, Lakes and Reservoirs
5.1 Reasons for Diminished Water Quality and Outlook
The quality of all the water bodies in the region is determined both by natural
recharge and drainage conditions, and the extent and proportion of sectorial water
users, e.g. agriculture, industry or the population, which may also be polluters.
Infrastructure, the state of wastewater processing, the strictness with which the
authorities control water quality issues and the general environmental awareness of
the population are further important factors as regards water quality. Depending on
these preconditions, rivers and other water bodies of Central Asia face different
risks and perspectives.
The northern and central part of Kazakhstan belong to the catchment of the Ob-
Irtysh. This region is characterised by mining and the processing industries. Water
and substances in the water drain northwards to Russia and into the Arctic Ocean,
which is the final sink. Addressing sources of pollution and taking proper measures
may lead to improvements in the river water quality in the long run.
Except the Ob-Irtysh system, all the other main rivers of Central Asia drain into
internal basins and are dominated by irrigated agriculture. Improving river water
quality is also possible, but substances in the water will accumulate in the internal
final sinks: inland lakes, the groundwater of desert sinks and wetlands. Current
trends need to be slowed by stopping sectorial users from having an excessive
effect on water quality. Monitoring and controlling salinisation is crucial.
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 29
Water reservoirs are also important sinks. Soil erosion in upstream areas of
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan may result in the siltation of reservoirs and water
pollution by phosphorus and other soil colloids and solutes. In Tajikistan, the
industrial sector, though using much less water than agriculture, is the main source
of water pollution with toxic substances (Safarov et al. 2006).
Water pollution by salts and other chemical compounds may have serious
implications for aquatic life in waters of all categories. The production of fresh-
water fish decreases with increasing salt concentration in the water, but further
studies are required to discover which water salinity levels are harmful to native
fish (Umarov 2003; Djancharov 2003). Serious environmental issues in Central
Asia have reduced freshwater supplies to the region and affected the local econ-
omy adversely, creating a potential for social unrest. There is a need to develop
new technologies to mitigate these problems (Qi and Kulmatov 2008). Water
quality standards and norms have been elaborated for all Central Asian countries,
as reported by Jumagulov et al. (2009) for Kazakhstan, but need to be monitored
and used as a basis for decisions. Examples of the pollution status of some
important basins are given below.
5.2 Ob-Irtysh River Basin
The legacy of the past, when environmental standards were low, and recent pol-
lution determine the quality of both main rivers and their tributaries in these
watersheds. Industrial activities are the main cause of serious water pollution of
the Irtysh river (Hrkal et al. 2006) (Fig. 16). Recharges from contaminated
groundwater will be a long-lasting problem. Some locations in the Irtysh river
basin, such as the Semipalatinsk nuclear polygon, are among the most ecologically
endangered and affected regions on our planet (Hrkal et al. 2006). Extreme water
pollution originating from thermal power stations, oil and gas enterprises, from
coal mines, and metallurgic enterprises, caused by heavy metals, petroleum
Fig. 16 Black Irtysh in the
north of Kazakhstan. It is
embedded in an interesting
river landscape. The river
may carry a high load of toxic
substances from industry and
mining activities. Stream
mud sediments are polluted.
Photo: Courtesy of
Konstantin Pachikin
30 L. Mueller et al.
products, phenols, nitrates and organic substances, is also reported from the Sarysu
River (Karaganda) and the Irtysh-Karaganda canal (Dahl and Kuralbayeva 2001).
Overall, the Irtysh river was one of the most polluted rivers in Kazakhstan at the
end of the last century. Excessive water pollution with copper, boron, phenol and
cases of extremely high-level pollution with zinc, twice as high as the maximum
allowable concentrations, was measured in the Irtysh river or its tributaries
(UNECE 2007). The sources of pollution included the metal-processing industry
and the discharge of untreated water from mines and other sources. In the Russian
Federation, the water quality of the Irtysh falls into the classes ‘‘polluted’’ and
‘very polluted’’. Since the start of this century, the water quality has improved
(UNECE 2007). The extension of agriculture in these watersheds has implications
on possible emissions, which need to be monitored and controlled.
5.3 Aral Sea basin
Crosa et al. (2006) reported on the high salinisation levels of the Amu Darya
water, mainly due to sulphates and chlorine. Drainage intensity of agricultural land
in the lower catchment and snow and glacier melting in the upper catchment are
the main driving forces governing the temporal variation of the salinity of the river
water. During low-flow periods salinity is strongly influenced by return water
flows from irrigated land (Fig. 17).
Olsson et al. (2013) analysed the Zerafshan River in Uzbekistan at upstream
and downstream locations and found an increase in salinity and chemical oxygen
demand (COD) concentrations as well as a more sulphate-rich and chloride-rich
composition of the downstream waters. A study published by the Scientific
Information Center of the Interstate Commission for Water Coordination in
Central Asia (SIC ICWC 2011) in the Amu Darya River Basin revealed an
increased anthropogenic content over the last 25 years. The development of urban
areas, industry, agriculture and insufficient investment in wastewater cleaning
Fig. 17 Ditch near Bukhara,
Uzbekistan, highly salinised
and wastewater polluted. No
fish can live in these waters.
Photo: Courtesy of Dagmar
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 31
technologies have led to an increased pollution of natural water resources
throughout the basin. There was evidence of water pollution by many kinds of
industries, including light industry, food, textiles, coal, iron, nonferrous metals,
chemicals and more. Wastewater from industrial and municipal sources lead to
water quality parameters exceeding the quality targets to a factor of ten, and are
finally discharged into surface and ground water bodies (SIC ICWC 2011). When
reaching larger rivers, a dilution effect occurs. Thus, high salt contents dominate
the monitored water parameters in these rivers.
The salt contents of the Amu Darya range from about 700 mg/l in the upper
reaches to 1,200 mg/l in the lower and tail reaches. In the Syr Darya, this range is
slightly broader, from 650 to 1,400 mg/l. Sometimes, up to 3 g/l salt were mea-
sured as early on as in the Fergana valley. Increased salt contents were associated
with significant coliform index increases and higher concentrations of phenols
(SIC ICWC 2011).
Contamination by radionuclides has been reported from locations in the Syr
Darya river catchment (Skipperud et al. 2012). Polonium-210 was found in the
water, and
Pb and
Po had accumulated in fish organs from 3 different fish
species in the Taboshar Pit Lake, located in the uranium mining area in Tajikistan,
and in the Kairakkum Reservoir, Tajikistan. The authors concluded that there was
a health risk for the local population through the consumption of fish from the
Taboshar Pit Lake.
5.4 Ural River Basin
Dahl and Kuralbayeva (2001) found a significant level of water pollution in the
Ural River in Western Kazakhstan. This river drains large regions in Russia. On
the other hand, the Ural River has the only remaining spawning habitats in the
entire Caspian basin for all sturgeon species. The natural hydrological regime and
the ecosystem still seem to be intact (Lagutov 2008). It is argued that legal
overfishing is the reason for decreasing fish stocks, not bad water quality.
5.5 Inland Lake Basins
An unknown number of inland lake basins could be partially contaminated by local
industries. Two examples are given. Lake Issyk–Kul (Kyrgyzstan), the second
largest pristine highland lake of the world, is endangered by radioactive pollution.
The source is the abandoned Kadji-Sai field of uranium-bearing brown coal on the
southern coast of the lake. Ephemeral streams transport
U and
Ra into
the lake (Gavshin et al. 2005).
River Nura and its floodplain in Central Kazakhstan face threats by mercury
contamination. For several decades, mercury-rich wastewater from an
32 L. Mueller et al.
acetaldehyde plant has been discharged largely without treatment. During spring
floods highly contaminated silts consisting of fly ash and mercury are transported
downstream, leading to a widespread contamination of the river bed and the
floodplain (Heaven et al. 2000). River Nura ends in Lake Tengiz, a RAMSAR
wetland ecosystem.
6 Land Quality, Land Degradation and Land Use Potential
6.1 Industrial Pollution of Soils
An analysis by Dahl and Kuralbayeva (2001) revealed that the industrial pollution
of soil is a serious problem in Kazakhstan. Many areas around major metallurgical,
chemical, and energy enterprises have been found to be polluted by toxic sub-
stances such as heavy metals, oil and oil products, sulphur oxides, carbon nuclides,
and chemical wastes. Almaganbetov and Grigoruk (2008) summarised the situa-
tion by stating that the land quality is also adversely affected by soil contamination
with oils, particles of heavy metals, radionuclides and other pollutants. Soil con-
tamination with radionuclides is reported from the Semipalatinsk site located in
the Irtysh catchment (Hrkal et al. 2006). Areas around uranium mining sites such
as the Kurday site in Kazakhstan are also enriched with radionuclides and trace
elements (Salbu et al. 2012).
Industrial products for agriculture are also important soil polluters. Nurzhanova
et al. (2012) sampled and analysed 80 former pesticide storehouses in the Almaty
region of Kazakhstan. They found that soils in and around twenty-four of them
were contaminated with organochlorine pesticides residues, showing concentra-
tions higher than the maximum allowable levels.
The pollution of soils by industrial by-products such as heavy metals or per-
sistent chemicals may entail a high risk for food production and biodiversity. On
the other hand, that kind of pollution can be frequently traced to its source. Once
detected, the area of damage can be localised and measures to eliminate or miti-
gate the problem can be initiated, based on a risk analysis.
The cases shown and discussed here refer mainly to Kazakhstan, where mon-
itoring systems have been established and research activities in this field are being
carried out and published. In Turkmenistan, the status of the soil pollution is
unknown, as the country does not provide soil monitoring or soil analyses, or
publish state-of-the-environment reports (UNECE 2012).
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 33
6.2 Soil Quality for Agriculture
For environmental monitoring, both water and soil quality can be measured using
sets of chemical, biological and physical data. In the case of soils, there is a lack of
conventions and international standards on the parameters required for measuring.
A complete preventive monitoring of all agricultural land would also be an
unrealistic goal.
It is more useful and common to measure and evaluate soil quality in terms of
its functions for society. For example, the specific role of soil and land in pro-
ducing plant biomass for humans (productivity function, Mueller et al. 2010)
remains crucial. Consequently, higher soil quality means the land has a higher crop
yield potential. In this context of agriculture, soil can be considered to be a sub-
category of land or even synonymous with it.
Soil quality monitoring by measuring productivity potential may help to answer
questions such as: What is the soil quality of a particular land in Central Asia as
compared with other regions, and what are main risks or possible reasons for its
Central Asia has many soils which have developed on loess, the source of
which is deflated silt or fine sand particles from deserts. This material has
favourable physical and chemical properties for agriculture, with a high water and
nutrient storage capacity in particular. The best soils formed from loess material
and humus content are Chernozems and Kastanozems, located in the northern part
of Kazakhstan (brown and red in Fig. 18). Typical Sierozems (Calcisols acc. to
WRB 2006, Xerosols in Fig. 18) are also very common in Central Asia, and they
Fig. 18 Map of major soil units of Central Asia. Map was drawn by Rolf Sommer and Eddy de
Pauw based on data from (FAO-UNESCO1995). Courtesy of Rolf Sommer and Eddy de Pauw
34 L. Mueller et al.
are valuable for rainfed and irrigated agriculture (Turayeva 2012). The majority of
these soils have formed on loess or loess-like materials. Loess soils get high scores
in basic ratings of agricultural soil quality. Due to climate constraints caused by
drought and in some cases by too low temperatures, their overall soil quality and
crop yield potential are low to very low on a global scale. Irrigated land has a
medium to high overall soil quality (Smolentseva et al. 2011). Figure 19 shows
some examples. The overall situation of soil quality in Central Asia and future
trends in the context of the Eurasian and global situation does not seem to be clear
yet but could be found out by using the Muencheberg Soil Quality Rating (M-
SQR, Mueller et al. 2010) to create a strategy of assessing food security for Eurasia
or the world.
6.3 Land Degradation by Agriculture
The productivity of available land is often limited by erosion, soil fertility decline,
pollution, salinisation and waterlogging (Gupta et al. 2009). Loessy soil substrates
have a favourable structure for rooting, but are prone to hydrocollapse and water
erosion (Smalley et al. 2006). Land degradation of cropland in rainfed agriculture
mostly occurs through soil erosion by both wind and water (Suleimenov et al.
2012). Water erosion induced by furrow irrigation is also a serious problem (Sa-
parov et al. 2013). In the mountainous countries of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan,
eroded soils dominate agricultural lands, limiting their productivity, whilst
Fig. 19 Four examples of soil types and soil quality under grassland. aChernozem in the pre-
mountain region near Almaty; soil classification acc. to WRB 2006: Haplic Chernozem (Pachic,
Siltic). Very good to good soil quality, 81 M-SQR points (Mueller et al. 2010). bAlluvial soil in
the meadows of the Ili river. Soil classification: Gleyic Fluvisol (Eutric, Siltic). Good soil quality,
62 M-SQR points, cLight Kastanozem in the Almaty region. Soil classification: Haplic Calcisol
(Eutric, Arenic). Medium soil quality, 43 M-SQR points. Vegetation is degraded by overgrazing,
but the vegetation cover may still prevent wind erosion. dBrown soil on the high terrace of the
Charyn river. Classification: Haplic Calcisol (Eutric, Skeletic). Very low soil quality, 8 M-SQR
points. The soil surface is the result of out-blow processes. The stony cover protects the soil
surface from further erosion. Extremely dry location
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 35
waterlogging, salinisation and sodification are typical problems on irrigated low-
lands (Safarov et al. 2006) (Figs. 20,21 and 22).
Soil degradation through nutrient mining can be a problem too, but is largely
reversible with better soil management and fertiliser use (Gupta et al. 2009).
Central Asia is a hotspot of wind erosion by nature (Indoitu et al. 2012). Deflation
of fine material may lead to skeletic or stony surfaces in deserts and Loess deposits
in other regions (Fig. 19d). One positive aspect is that the stony surface protects
the brown desert soil underneath and reduces or stops the soil loss. Such mech-
anisms may be a reason for measured tendencies of decreasing deposition (Indoitu
et al. 2012) in Central Asia and offer potential for re-greening the landscape.
Wind erosion may be reach global dimensions in future due to mismanagement
of soils by ploughing (BMBF 2011). In this case of permanent rotating by tillage,
the soil loses its protective vegetation or its exo-skeletal cover. In the past, the
main reasons for wind erosion were overgrazing, logging, the cutting down of
shrubs, vehicular traffic, and oil exploration in desert areas. Recent Loess depo-
sition may come from heavily contaminated areas such as the new Aral Kum and
may pollute other agricultural sites successively.
Overall, the land area where agriculture is restricted is relatively high in Central
Asia (Fig. 23). The total area of land exhibiting significant limitations is 232
million hectares or 60 % of the total land, and 80 % of this problematic land
belongs to Kazakhstan (Bot et al. 2000). Sodicity (high pH and Na sorption) and
salinity are the dominating processes. They are largely associated with climate
conditions, but also caused by land management. A report by Turayeva (2012)
revealed that Uzbekistan is characterised by significant land degradation. Three
million hectares have been damaged by wind and water erosion. About half of all
soils have been damaged by agricultural land use activities: pollution by pesti-
cides, waterlogging and secondary salinisation. Since 1990 the area of salinised
soils has increased by one third (Turayeva 2012).
Fig. 20 Two types of salinisation: aPrimary salinisation due to natural conditions. Charyn river
catchment, hummocky landscape, precipitation 180 mm p.a. bSecondary salinisation due to
leaching from irrigation canals in a rice grown area. Ili river catchment, lowland, precipitation
280 mm p.a. Channel wall in the background
36 L. Mueller et al.
Halting anthropogenically induced land degradation by introducing more sus-
tainable land management is a challenge for all Central Asian countries. This has
also implications for the sector of agri-environmental research.
Fig. 21 Slip erosion
(landslide erosion) is a
common feature on steep
deforested land in mountain
areas of Central Asia
Fig. 22 Takyr-like soil
structures are considered
unsuitable for vegetation
development. On the other
hand, genuine Takyrs are
useful landscape elements for
rainwater harvesting in
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 37
6.4 Ecological Status of Pastures and Rangelands
Grasslands and rangelands are characterised by sparse, varying greening patterns of
the vegetation due to weather cycles, and contrasts between locations at different
altitudes: valleys and mountain plains. Nomadic culture was a suitable way to utilise
the vegetation for livestock grazing. It was part of the lifestyle of the peoples of
Central Asia for millennia (Rahimon 2012). Pastoralists followed long-distance
migratory routes each season. Seasonal stock movement was essential to avoid
degradation (Robinson et al. 2003). The break came in the last century, but in some
regions of Kazakhstan some nomadic systems continued with state farm support
during the Soviet period (Kerven et al. 2008). The change from nomadic grazing to
fixed settlements had some consequences for the vegetation. The current situation of
rangelands and pastures is also influenced by the post-Soviet transition phase of
restructuring the economy of pastoral systems. Because stock numbers had
decreased and based on some field assessments, Robinson et al. (2003) assumed that
the rangelands in Kazakhstan were in good condition. Other reports indicate
rangeland degradation, but the situation seems to be geographically different.
The degradation of pastures may also be considered a result of poorly managed
intensification (Gupta et al. 2009). After the collapse of state farms most pasto-
ralists were constrained to graze their animals in circuits around their homesteads.
Severe vegetation and soil degradation has been monitored. There has been some
more vegetation degradation around watering points and villages (Rajabov 2009).
This can be recognised in spaceborne imagery as brightness belts (Karniely et al.
2008; Bazarbayev and Bayekenova 2008). A number of wells and watering points
have disintegrated and reduced the possibilities of grazing. Moreover, in mountain
Fig. 23 Types of
problematic lands in the five
Central Asian Countries.
(Data from Bot et al. 2000)
38 L. Mueller et al.
areas, where a lack of water is not as limiting as in the steppe or desert lowlands,
grassland degradation has been observed. Based on data collected by the state
property registry office in Kyrgyzstan, the country’s pasture land was not in best
condition in 2005–2006: 2.5 million hectares (27 %) were littered with inedible
weeds, 1.7 million hectares (19 %) were eroded, and 3.0 million hectares (33 %)
were substantially degraded (USAID 2007). In Uzbekistan, five million hectares of
pasture were subject to desertification (Turayeva 2012). Those statistical data need
to be considered with care as they may lack background methodology. The
occurrence of non-palatable plant species in semi-natural grassland ecosystems is
common. It will require more detailed studies to conclude on whether land has
been degraded, i.e. on an irreversible loss of ecosystem functions.
There is a lack of fresh, reliable data on the topic of pasture or rangeland
degradation. There are also no conventions about methodologies. A loss of plant
and wild animal diversity, an increase in unpalatable or toxic plants, a loss of soil
fertility and productivity and a decline in livestock production are examples of
possible indicators. Scientists of different disciplines or working for different
stakeholders have no common basis for measuring and assessing degradation
indices (Kerven et al. 2012). Decreased stock capacities, mainly due to the eco-
nomic recession and adaption phase in the 1990s, provided opportunities for
rangeland recovery in some regions (Robinson et al. 2003). Rangeland recovery
may comprise palatable biomass, biodiversity and rare species.
Biodiversity is influenced or threatened by several disturbances such as habitat
loss, fragmentation of natural communities, over-exploitation such as overgrazing,
penetration of non-native species, environmental pollution, climate change, and
other elements. On grasslands, overgrazing is a crucial factor. The long-term
conservation of vertebrate communities may depend upon the maintenance of
ecologically and socially sustainable grazing systems (Sanchez-Zapata et al.
2003). Pictures and trends are unclear, but some trends can be modelled. For
example, some endangered bird species have recovered because of abandoned
arable fields and ungrazed pristine steppe, whilst others’ habitats are associated
with the effects of livestock concentration (Kamp et al. 2011). The Saiga Antelope
(Saiga tatarica tatarica) is a key indicator species of the rangelands in Western
Central Asia. Their populations are under threat from habitat loss, poaching, lack
of protection and gaps in ecological knowledge (Singh et al. 2010).
Establishing reliable, comparable monitoring systems for Central Asians
grasslands is the best way to maintain these valuable ecosystems.
Nevertheless, stocks of grazing animals may give some indication of trends in
pasture and rangeland development. Table 7shows that in Kazakhstan, cattle and
sheep stocks collapsed in the 1990s. Sheep stocks also collapsed in Kyrgyzstan,
whilst in other countries the decline was more moderate or did not take place at all
(Turkmenistan). Stocks of cattle and sheep have been increasing since 2000 in all
Central Asian countries. There were still fewer sheep in 2010 than in 1992 in
Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and fewer cattle in Kazakhstan. The steep increase in
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 39
goat numbers in all countries is remarkable. The goat is the ‘‘cow of the poor
people’’. Goats can utilise plants of less nutrition value and some Artemisia spe-
cies. However, they graze relatively aggressively and may eradicate protective
bush vegetation. From these facts it is very plausible that land surfaces around
villages are now much more degraded than 20 years ago.
A recent study by Vanselow et al. (2012) in the Eastern Pamirs confirmed that
pastures close to villages are heavily overgrazed. On summer pastures the grazing
pressure is lower, but stock densities are moderate and high, and there is no longer
any underuse of grasslands. The grasslands of Turkmenistan suffer from over-
grazing and destruction of the vegetation cover due to increased livestock num-
bers. Rangelands surrounding desert wells have been degraded because of
excessive cutting of shrubs for firewood (UNECE 2012). A recent analysis by
Suleimenov et al. (2012) confirmed that the most intensive land degradation
processes in Kazakhstan have developed on rangelands (Fig. 24).
Table 7 Stocks of cattle, sheep and goats in million head, rounded data from FAOSTAT (FAO
Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan Tadjikistan Turkmenistan Uzbekistan Overall
Cattle 1992 9.08 1.19 1.39 0.78 5.11 17.55
2000 4.00 0.95 1.04 1.40 5.27 12.68
2010 6.10 1.28 1.90 2.20 8.51 19.99
Sheep 1992 33.91 9.22 2.48 5.38 8.27 59.26
2000 8.72 3.26 1.47 7.50 8.00 28.95
2010 14.66 3.88 2.62 13.50 12.16 32.16
Goats 1992 0.69 0.30 0.87 0.22 0.92 3.00
2000 0.93 0.54 0.71 0.50 0.89 3.57
2010 2.71 0.93 1.58 2.80 2.28 10.30
Fig. 24 Different situations of pastoral grazing in Kazakhstan at the same time in July 2012.
aVegetation and soil degradation around watering points in the dry steppe. bRiver lowland with
vital vegetation growth, no restrictions on drinking water for the livestock
40 L. Mueller et al.
6.5 Landscape Potential for Recreation of the Urban
The global trend of growing population and urbanisation is also valid for Central
Asia. More and more people will work and live in cities. They consider and require
rural and remote areas as a source of recreation and inspiration (Fig. 25). This is a
great opportunity for inhabitants of rural areas and communities to improve their
income and to keep pace with the increasing living standard in cities.
Attractive landscapes include lands covered with typical flora and fauna and
may also include productive grassland and agricultural ecosystems. Rural land-
scapes which look like uncontrolled waste disposal sites are not healthy or
attractive for visitors. The same holds for rivers, lakes and other open waters.
Despite some worsening factors and data regarding the status of land and water,
Central Asian landscapes offer great potential for recreation, leisure activities and
eco-tourism. This potential needs to be developed and preserved. From their
inherent nature and religions, the people of Central Asia have an ecological way of
thinking, are inspired by nature and respect its laws. This great human potential is
going to be revived.
The protection of the region’s great biological diversity including the devel-
opment of environmental tourism is being addressed and operationalised by
National Strategy and Action Plans as a duty in the context of the UNO convention
on biodiversity (CBD Secretariat 2012).
The ‘‘National Strategy and Action Plans on Conservation and Sustainable Use
of Biological diversity in the Republic of Kazakhstan’’ and the ‘‘Long-Term
Strategy of the Republic of Kazakhstan up to the Year 2030: Environment and
Natural Resources’’ take the line that ‘‘Kazakhstan should become a clean and
green country with fresh air and transparent water’’ (National Strategy and
Action Plan 1999).
All Central Asian countries, and especially the mountainous countries of Ky-
rgyzstan and Tajikistan, have great potential for environmental tourism. They
cover a vast array of different habitats, ranging from polar to temperate and
Fig. 25 Some desert regions such as the Charyn Canyon (Almaty region) have a high potential
for tourism (Photos: Maira Kussainova)
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 41
subtropical ecosystems containing a great richness of species and biological
resources (Ministry of Environmental Protection 1998; Safarov et al. 2006)
(Figs. 26 and 27). However, in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the critical state of
agriculture, industry and the overall economy is a major constraint for protecting
the environment and developing eco-tourism. Thus, the National Environmental
Fig. 26 Kirgiz range with
Trollius in the foreground.
Photo: Courtesy of
Konstantin Pachikin
Fig. 27 Tulipa greigii, a Red
Book species, grows in the
high herb semi-savanna in
West Tien Shan. Photo:
Courtesy of Konstantin
42 L. Mueller et al.
Action Plan of Tajikistan (Safarov et al. 2006) includes planned measures and
investment for improving agricultural drainage and irrigation infrastructure,
reconstructing a number of drinking water supply and sewerage systems both for
rural areas and the industrial sector.
Environmental tourism has many benefits for tourists and for local people. The
ecosystems of Central Asia are of great functional, cultural, aesthetic and recre-
ational importance. The agricultural lands and rural population provide a major
contribution to maintaining biodiversity and biological resources and must be the
main stakeholders in all processes of landscape development. Impact assessment
procedures (Helming et al. 2011) are value tools for finding the best solutions for
the development of multi-functional landscapes.
7 Research Activities for Initiating Sustainable Resource
7.1 The Crisis of Agro-Environmental Research, Education
and Monitoring
In the framework of the Central Asian Countries Initiative for Land Management
(CACILM), Gupta et al. (2009) revealed a crisis in national agricultural research
and education systems in all five countries. It is precisely the branch of the society
which needs to be the most innovative and flexible which seems to be suffering the
longest from the collapse of the Soviet Union. There are many reasons, such as
shortages of research funds, an exodus of staff or an overall lag in technology
(Alimgazinova 2009). One key factor should be emphasised: the collapse of the
Soviet system took place during a period when the international scientific com-
munity switched to a uniform language. English became the only official language
at most important international scientific congresses. All leading scientific publi-
cations are written in English. This led to a shift in knowledge and technologies
worldwide, but to a lesser degree or not at all in Central Asia. The results of the
latest research were accessible and beneficial for the English-speaking community,
but many good scientists in the former Soviet Union became isolated from the
international community and from the benefits of international public goods.
Overcoming this crisis in research and education is one of the greatest challenges
of the years to come. Scientific cooperation may promote this process (Fig. 28).
A better understanding of interacting processes in agricultural landscapes needs
to be gained through research in order to monitor processes, optimise the man-
agement of agricultural systems, develop new strategies and find solutions for the
sustainable development of rural areas. Knowledge transfer and the site-specific
application of available methodological tools can support this work.
There has been a great deal of progress in hydrological and agri-environmental
research over recent years that may help to find new and more sustainable
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 43
solutions for resource management. Most works refer to Uzbekistan and Ka-
zakhstan, and the most progress has been made in these countries (Fig. 29). Some
examples will be shown below. The majority of results come from internationally
funded projects.
The situation of environmental monitoring, public information and education
seems to be critical in Turkmenistan. Water and land monitoring are insufficient.
Only two of 16 reservoirs are monitored. Since 1991, no soil analyses have been
performed, and no qualitative assessments of land have been carried out since
1998. Analytical equipment is obsolete (UNECE 2012).
Fig. 28 Education, research and scientific cooperation are key to resolving problems of
sustainable resource management. aKyrgyz students practise methods of analysing and assessing
soils on a joint cooperation project with Berlin’s Humboldt University. Photo: Courtesy of Jutta
Zeitz. bResearchers from the Uspanov Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry sample soils
under Haloxylon vegetation
Fig. 29 Agri-environmental monitoring station in the meadows of the Ili river. Modern
monitoring stations for agrometeorological and environmental data to calculate water, solute and
gas exchange of soils and vegetation with the atmosphere are essential for modern research.
Kazakh researchers from the Uspanov Institute of Soil Science and Agrochemistry plan to set up
the first generation of such stations
44 L. Mueller et al.
7.2 Recent Advances in Research on Food Security
and Water Management
7.2.1 Novel Technologies for Measuring, Modelling and Data
Processing for Hydrological Systems
In the framework of the Regional Research Network ‘‘Water in Central Asia’
(CAWa, Echtler et al. 2009), new Remotely Operated Multi-Parameter Stations
(ROMPS) for hydrometeorological monitoring in Central Asian headwaters were
developed and installed. They not only monitor standard meteorological and
hydrological parameters but also deliver GPS data for atmospheric sounding and
for tectonic studies (Schöne et al. 2012).
Siegfried et al. (2011) elaborated a coupled climate, land-ice and rainfall runoff
model for the Syr Darya catchment to predict the effect of climate changes on
hydrological processes. Earlier snow melts affect runoff seasonality. They found a
risk for the densely populated, agriculturally productive, and politically unstable
Fergana Valley. The seasonal shift in runoff, as projected by their model, is likely
to cause serious problems that can only be addressed by constructing new hyd-
rotechnical systems and improving water management.
As open water resources decrease, the utilisation of groundwater becomes more
and more important (Turayeva, 2012). Karimov et al. (2010) analysed the storage
capacity of aquifers in the Fergana valley and found a limited but not negligible
resource that could be taken into account for future projects. Significant water
savings were possible using improved balancing procedures. The water-saving
potential was estimated at about 10 % of the total inflow in the Fergana Valley
(Karimov et al. 2012).
Understanding the spatio-temporal patterns of water quality parameters and
detecting causal chains in water polluting processes is possible by means of new
multi-variate statistical methods of monitoring data. Using those methods, Olsson
et al. (2013) quantified hot spots with organic and nutrient pollution due to return
flows from industrial effluent and municipal wastewater.
7.2.2 Satellite-Based Monitoring and Modelling of Resources
Areas of glacier retreat, floods and other climate or weather-induced changes in the
landscape hydrology can be observed using remote sensing data (Spivak et al.
2004; Bolch et al. 2011). Bai et al. (2012) monitored the surface area changes in
inland lakes as an indicator of climate changes and human activities. The area of
the inland lakes in Central Asia has shrunk significantly over the past 32 years.
Also, vegetation development processes and human impacts can be studied for
complete catchments or regions. Rachkovskaya and Bragina (2012) analysed the
patterns of zonal steppe vegetation and constructed a new phyto-geographic map
of Kazakhstan which may serve as a basis for the conservation of steppe
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 45
ecosystems. The Net Primary Production (NPP) for the whole country of Ka-
zakhstan has been calculated and electronically mapped in a recent study by
Eisfelder et al. (2012)) in the context of the CAWa project. These data may
provide a new quality of land resource monitoring and land use planning. In the
same project, Gessner et al. (2012) analysed the relationship between time series of
precipitation anomalies and vegetation activity in Central Asia. The results indi-
cate that vegetation is particularly sensitive in areas with 100–400 mm of annual
rainfall. Those results could be used to optimise pastoral regimes. Zolotokrylin and
Titkova (2011) developed an approach for recognizing the dynamics of deserti-
fication centres based on satellite observation data on albedo and surface tem-
perature. They found increasing desertification in the Astrakhan region of Russia
and in Western Kazakhstan. Satellite data can be used to model changes in the
carbon stocks in the soil and vegetation (Propastin and Kappas 2010).
7.2.3 Modelling Crop and Soil Performance to Optimise Agricultural
Crop models are excellent tools for understanding and quantifying plant growth
processes. Sommer et al. (2008) and Kienzler (2009) applied the CropSyst model
(Stockle et al. 1994) to optimise nitrogen efficiency in irrigated cotton production
in the Khorezm region of Uzbekistan. In combination with field experiments
(Ibragimov et al. 2012) optimum N levels of 120–180 kg/ha were quantified for
winter wheat depending on available mineralised soil nitrogen. Pereira et al.
(2009) developed and tested the irrigation scheduling simulation model ISAREG
in the Fergana Valley and found that 20 % of irrigated water percolated out of the
root zone. When optimizing irrigation strategies, the contribution of groundwater
to the water and solute balance has to be taken into consideration. Sommer et al.
(2010) developed the Farm-Level Economic-Ecological Optimization Model
(FLEOM), a site-specific integrated model. It optimises land and resource use at
farm level by displaying the ecological and economic consequences of different
management options.
Carbon stocks of soils and their possible losses causing greenhouse gas emis-
sions are important issues affecting land use strategies with respect to climate
change. Soil carbon loss is also associated with a decline in soil fertility and
productivity potential when inputs of agrochemicals are limited. Causarano et al.
(2010) applied the Environmental Policy Integrated Climate (EPIC) model for
estimating soil carbon stocks under different land use and management systems in
the semiarid region of central east Kazakhstan. They predicted an increase in soil
organic carbon stocks if conservation agriculture were applied, whilst other current
systems would lead to a loss of carbon. Modelling approaches such as this are
important but need to be validated by measurement data. Ibraeva et al. (2010)
measured a significant loss of soil organic carbon under paddy rice cultivation in
Southern Kazakhstan. Sommer and de Pauw (2011) used the experimental data
given in the literature and parameterised the FAO-UNESCO Soil Map of the
46 L. Mueller et al.
World. Organic carbon stocks in the upper 30 cm of native soils and their
declining trends were estimated for the whole of Central Asia.
7.2.4 New Technologies for Land and Water Management at Farm
Gupta et al. (2009) list a number of advanced technologies for better agricultural
productivity and efficiency at field level. In their studies, laser-assisted land levelling
improved water use efficiency in surface-irrigated fields. Irrigation with plastic
chutes and re-use of drainage and irrigation water increased crop productivity.
Raised-bed technologies for seeding and cropping improved seed germination and
provided wheat yields of more than 6 tonnes per hectare. Intercropping of cotton,
maize or barley with forage legumes was profitable for farmers. Conservation tillage
and planting systems with remaining stubble or mulch on the field increased
available soil moisture and reduced erosion. On sloped land, terraces were beneficial
(Gupta et al. 2009). Better N fertiliser management cannot close present gaps
between the officially recorded yields and those technically achievable but could
form one part of optimised irrigated agriculture (Kienzler et al. 2011).
On magnesium-rich soils new technologies have been developed to improve
productivity by applying phosphor-gypsum (Vyshpolsky et al. 2008). The accu-
mulation of salts in surface soil layers can be managed using mulch layers, which
reduce evaporation from the soil surface. Cotton yield and water productivity
under mulching treatments were significantly greater (Bezborodov et al. 2010).
New technologies such as drip irrigation led to water savings of 28–42 % in
comparison with furrow-irrigated cotton, and the cotton yield increased by
10–19 % (Ibragimov et al. 2007).
All these tools need to be adapted site-specifically based on a thorough diagnosis
of crop yield limiting properties and projected economic efficiency and ecological
perspectives. Rapid methods such as the application of electromagnetic conductivity
meters for a field-scale diagnosis of salinisation (Akramkhanov et al. 2011) can
support the process of optimisation. The current project KULUNDA (BMBF 2011)
aims to understand, mitigate and prevent processes of land degradation focusing on
wind erosion in the Kulunda steppe, a huge region for spring wheat cropping, located
in Northern Kazakhstan and Siberia. Within this project, new technological systems
are being developed for large farms in this region for conservation tillage in dryland
agriculture. Today, no-till and minimum tillage have been adopted as practices on
11.2 million ha of cropland (Suleimenov et al. 2012).
7.2.5 Biotechnologies, Phytoremediation and Biosaline Agriculture
Toderich et al. (2008a) developed agricultural systems based on biosaline crops and
livestock to improve people’s livelihoods in poor rural areas. This was supported by
transferring methodologies developed at the International Centre for Biosaline
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 47
Agriculture. The central aspects of these systems are planting valuable halophyte
species including bushes and trees to improve the productivity of marginal salt-
affected lands, and lowering the groundwater tables by means of biological drainage.
They found that some promising species for saline, sandy desert sites were Halox-
ylon apphyllum (saxaul), Salsola paletzkiana andSalsola richteri (saltwort). For clay
loamy hydromorphic soils, Atriplex undulata,Hippophae rhamnoides (sea-buck-
thorn), Eleagnus angustifolia (oleaster, Russian olive), Acacia ampliceps (salt
wattle),Ulmus pumila (Siberian elm), Populus euphratica (Euphrates poplar)and
Populus nigra (black poplar) var. pyramidalis,Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust),
Morus alba (white mulberry), and Morus nigra (black mulberry) were suited. For
arable cropping, new varieties of sorghum and pearl millet were tested and intro-
duced. In Turkmenistan, Mamedov et al. (2009) also tested locally adapted plant
species for landscape diversification and bioremediation.
Phytoremediation, the use of plants to detoxify pollutants through biological
processes, is an effective and ecologically friendly technology to remediate pol-
luted soils (Toderich et al. 2010). For the phytoremediation of sites contaminated
with pesticides, Nurzhanova et al. (2012) tested pesticide-tolerant wild plant
species. The principle worked with many such plant species, but soil de-con-
tamination is difficult as organochlorine pesticides mainly accumulate in the root
system. The bioremediation of marginal or abandoned saline land using halophytes
is a promising means of site improvement. It serves multiple purposes: improving
livestock feed resources throughout the year, preserving soil and resources, using
shrubs as windbreaks to spare the land for other crops and protecting the soil from
wind erosion and sand encroachment (Toderich et al. 2008b).
Hbirkou et al. (2011) evaluated the impact of afforestation on soil fertility after
4 years of afforestation. Plantations of Populus euphratica and Ulmus pumila
showed significant levels of reduced soil salinity, increased aggregate stability and
improved soil organic carbon stocks.
Fig. 30 River Ili with stands
of Eleagnus (left corner)on
the banks. Eleagnus (Russian
olive) is a preferred plant for
48 L. Mueller et al.
Converting degraded cropland to forested areas of Elaeagnus angustifolia could
be an option if the effects of much lower water consumption and carbon seques-
tration were taken into account economically (Djanibekov et al. 2012) (Fig. 30).
As phosphorus is a growth-limiting element on these soils, P fertilisation improves
tree growth significantly (Djumaeva et al. 2012).
In desert regions, saxaul (Haloxylon aphyllum, H. ammodendron) is a most
important plant (Fig. 31). Restoring and conserving saxaul vegetation is one way
to sequester carbon through vegetation in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan (Thevs
et al. 2013). Many other locally adapted plants have potential for technical pur-
poses (Figs. 32 and 33).
Fig. 31 Mixed grassland and saksaul (Haloxylon aphyllum (Minkwitz)) vegetation in a sandy
desert area of the Balkhash river basin. In those regions, saksaul is often the only possible forest
and must be protected and re-established. Taproots of Haloxylon and some other plants
(Astragalus) are able to utilise groundwater resources at depths of some meters
Fig. 32 Ephedra grows on drylands. It plays a role in traditional medicine. More and more
people prefer natural medical products to synthetic ones. In Kazakhstan, ephedrin has resources
of 200,000 t of dry raw materials. It would be possible to produce up to 1,000 t annually (National
Strategy and Action Plan 1999). Photo: Konstantin Pachikin
Land and Water Resources of Central Asia 49
8 Conclusion
Despite much progress in utilising water and land resources in Central Asia more
sustainably, many challenges and numerous gaps in knowledge remain. We con-
clude that there is a need for a shift in scientific methodologies, including mea-
surement methods, evaluation methods, models and technological solutions.
Scientists of Central Asia should have access to globally leading technologies for
the monitoring and management of resources. They and their work must be
embedded in the international scientific community.
The given examples show that scientific cooperation and the inclusion of
expertise from foreign partners may help to recognise and resolve problems. A list
of further measurement and evaluation methods is available and shall be presented
in the next chapters. Some of them will need investment and site-specific studies
before they can be applied in Central Asia. Others could be applied immediately
and at no cost. This would require awareness and understanding on the part of
decision makers and researchers and the introduction of some initiatives.
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