This broadly equates to the Tien Shan Mountains (from Chinese ‘Divine or Celestial’ Mountains) of Central Asia, but includes a number of related uplands such as the Alai Range, Kirgizian Range, the Kungei Ala-Tau, the Transalai (Zaalai) Range, the Fergana Range, the Susamyr Tau, the Talassian Ala-Tauthe Kirgizian Mountains, the Talassian Altai (Mountains), Transilian (Zailiisky) Altai, Dzungarian Altai, the Tarbagatai Mountains, the Badghys, the Karabil Uplands, the Paropamisus Range, the Safod Koh Range, western Hindu Kush, the Koh-i-Baba Range and the Pamirs.

Dzungaro-Tien Shan Forests of Wild Fruit Trees

Widespread in the Dzungarian Altai and the Tarbagatai Range are open Acer and Juglans forest supporting a rich under story of fruit trees. The main species Malus sieversii is closely related to our cultivated apple. There are also five pear species (Pyrus), wild apricots (Armeniaca vulgaris), the alych plum (Prunus divaricat), and even the local Crataegus species (C. azarolus) has fruit measuring up to 3 cm in diameter. Endemic species found here include Astragalus intermedius (Fabaceae).

Dzungaro-Tien Shan Picea schrenkiana Alpine Forests

Between altitudes of about 1500-2300m spruce P. schrenkiana becomes the dominant tree often associated with firs such as Abies semenovii and A. sibirica although the latter is confined to the Dzungarian Altai. Also present are various small-leaved hardwood species such as Betula tianschanica, Populus tremula and Sorbus tianschanica. Close to the upland limit of trees stunted spruce can be found associated with Juniperus sibirica and J. turkestanic. Among the endemic or near endemic species associated with these alpine forest are Astragalus alatavicus, A. cystocalyx (Fabaceae), Calamagrostis pavlovii (Poaceae), Lappula sericata (Boraginaceae) and Oxytropis sarkandensis (Fabaceae).

Turkestanian Juniper Forest

The dominant junipers of this zone are Juniperus semiglobosa, J. seravschanica and J. turkestana. On the slopes of the Alai Mountains Juniperus pseudosabina appears to be the main species. These forests range from the lowland plain to an altitude of about 3300 m. At lower altitudes trees can attain 10-12 m in height, but are often reduced to shrubs of no more than about 2 m at higher altitudes. Many of the trees can reach great ages evidenced by many narrow annual rings. The shrub layer is not well developed but may comprise species such as Berberis heterophylla, Lonicera olgae, Ribes triste, Spiraea crenata and Sorbus tianschanika while Clematis alpina var. sibirica represents one of the few climbers. The herbaceous layer, on the other hand, is very rich and varied and has been described as nothing short of marvelous. It comprises several strata. Growing to heights of 20-30 cm are various flowering plants such as Cerastium dahuricum, Cortusa oliveri, Gentiana oliveri, Ligularia altaica, Ranunculus songoricus and Trollius songoricus. A middle layer of between 10-20 cm includes Adoxa moschatellina, Carum atropurpureum, Isopyrum anemonoides, Potentilla bifurca, the yellow flowered Viola uniflora, and the endemic or near endemic Astragalus myriophyllus (Fabaceae) and Psychrogeton turcestanicum (Asteraceae). At ground level there are various cespitose species such as the endemic Astragalus pamiro-alaicus (Fabaceae) and scattered throughout the herbaceous layer are various colourful bulbous plants like Fritillaria ruthenica, Gagea persica, Ixilirion pallasii and the endemic Crocus alatavicus (Iridaceae). Finally, the ground layer includes various annual species such as Euphrasia regelii, Gentiana leucomelaena, Lappula tenuis, Smelowskia sisymbrioides and a variety of bryophytes and lichens. At higher altitudes where the junipers become more bush-like the herbaceous vegetation becomes less abundant, but under and between the bushes there are often verdant carpets of annuals such as Galium songoricum and Veronica cardiocarpa, and scattered among the bushes are various taller herbaceous plants like the endemic Lagochilus paulsenii (Lamiaceae) and Polygonum acerosum (Polygonaceae).

Turkestanian Wild Fruit Forests

Wild fruit forests are a particular feature of this zone. Forests characterised by the endemic apple Malus sieversii (Rosaceae) are sporadically distributed in Northern and Western Tien Shan, The fruits are characterized by a large variety of forms, sizes and flavouring qualities. On the southern slopes of Northern Tien Shan Apricot forests (Armeniaca vulgaris) have developed. These wild fruit bearing forests have great resource significance in that they have support a significant amount of the wild congeners of cultural plants (apple, apricot, haw).

Turkestanian Maple Forest

Forests dominated by the endemic maple (Acer turkestanicus) are sporadically distributed in Western Tien Shan, Pamir-Alai, Fergan and Gissar-Darvaz ridges. Associated trees include Acer semenovii, Malus sieversii, Crataegus pontica and C. Turkestanica. These forests support significant numbers of rare and disappearing species of flora and fauna.

Turkestanian Walnut Forest

Forests dominated by walnut (Juglans regia) are sporadically distributed in the more humid parts of Western Tien Shan, Pamir-Alai and Gissaro-Darvas at altitudes ranging from 1000-1400 m. They are considered to be relict formations of former Mediterranean conditions.  Nevertheless, comparatively large stands of walnut forests can still be found at Ugamskii, Chatkalskii, Fergan and on the Gissaro-Darvaz ridges. Among associated trees are various endemic fruit-bearing species such as sivers apple (Malus sieversii), maple-walnut (Acer turkestanica), haw-pistachio (Crataegus turkestanica), plum (Prunus ferganica) and pear (Pyrus korshinsyi).

Turkestanian Spruce Forest

Spruce forests dominated by Picea schrenkiana range in altitude from about 1700-3200 m. Under story trees include the endemic rowans Sorbus persica and S. tianschanica (Rosaceae) and the endemic willow Salix tianshanica (Salicaceae) mixed with honey suckle and brambles. The endemic fir Abies semenovii (Pinaceae) also occurs.

Turkestanian Piedmont Xerophyte Hawthorn and Pistachio Woodland

These open woodlands can found in Western Tien Shan and Pamir-Alai on slopes of low and high mountains. Species composition varies but they are usually dominated by either Pistacia vera or Crataegus pontica and the endemic or near endemic Crataegus turkestanica (Rosaceae). Hawthorn (Crataegus) woodland with a high cereal savannoid ground cover is distributed on mountain periphery of Western Tien Shan at altitudes of 1000-1500 m. In pre-agricultural time this type of arid open woodlands covered large parts of this BioProvince. Open woodlands of Pistacia vera occur in southern parts of Western Tien Shan, in south Tajikistan, Badhyz (at altitudess of 700-800 m). The woodlands of Badhys are characterized by a motley-low grass ephemerous-ephemeroid ground cover (Carex pachystylis, Cousinia raddeana, Crambe kotschiana, Poa bulbosa and species of Merendera, Corydalis and Tulipa.

Turkestanian Juniper Elfin Woodlands

In Western Tien Shan at altitudes of between 2400-3000 m sub-alpine meadows alternate with juniper elfin wood (Juniperus pseudosabina). The most important associates include Alchemilla vulgaris, Geranium saxatile, G. albiflorum, together with the motley-grass species Alopecurus pratensis, Helictotrichon pubescens and Phleum phleoides. Also found here is the endemic Alchemilla retropilosa (Rosaceae).


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