Naurzum Nature Reserve
The Naurzum national nature reserve one of the oldest in Kazakhstan, was founded in 1931. Nowadays its territory makes up to 1,914,000 hectares. Administratively, it belongs to the Naurzum and Auyelikol rayons of the Kostanay oblast.
In 2002 the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan recommended Naurzum National Nature Reserve for the inclusion in the List of Cultural and Natural World Heritage Sites of UNESCO. The territory of the reserve has landscape and biological diversity unique for the Eurasian steppe zone. This is determined by the history of landscape formation and complexity of the surface structure. Nowadays the Naurzum pine forest the southernmost in the flat parts of Kazakhstan. The Naurzum reserve is covered with different in age and content geological sediments, where variegated top – soil and vegetation with high diversity of the fauna has been formed.
The territory of the reserve consists of three parts: Naurzum, Tersek and Sypsyn, which represent the full range of the region's ecological diversity. Alongside the Western-Turgai plateau there is the chain of the patches of the Tersek pine-forest, the peculiarity of which is relict hills formed by differently colored horizontal Miocene sediments and cobble areas with savin juniper (Juniperus sabina) and stunted pines trees. The slopes of the Western plateau are punctuated with clumps of birch and aspen forests and numerous springs which provide a habitat for sedges and red osier dogwood. On the dry spots juniper springs up, and here and there, on the sands, coming to the surface as a result of the erosion, groups of pine-trees grow. Down the desert type of vegetation sagebrush (Atrplex cana) and wormwood (Artemisi spp.) prevails.
The flora of the reserve numbers 687 species of vascular plants. This is three times higher than average for the steppe zone. Zonal vegetation is represented by the steppe formations. The bottom of Turgai valley has complex steppe vegetation and shallow freshwater and saline lake systems that are surrounded by haloxerophytic shrub communities and grassy, spring fed meadows. The wind-blow sand deposits in the valley support the largest forested area of the reserve – the Naurzum pine forest – which is 16,000 ha in size. This unique fire- maintained ecosystem is composed of patches of pine, birch ad aspen trees, interspersed with open steppe and numerous shallow saline lakes. Boreal elements and southern forms occur in the nature reserve far from the borders of their natural habitat making unusual combinations: oleaster, tamarisk, clematis, traveler’s joy, and salt tree, grow at the edge of the pine-forest. In addition on the waterlogged birch on the slopes of the eastern plateau and in Naurzum forest, ferns can be found. Motley – grass sandy feather grass steppes prevail on the light clay-sand soil of the Sypsynagash valley, the appearance of which is formed by the feather grass.
The steppe is most colorful in spring. At the end of April blossoming Pulsatilla flavescents here and there are making dense carpet, on the forest meadows bright-yellow adonises, and on the argillaceous spots several types of tulips break into bloom. At the beginning of may magnificent Shrenk's tulip appears, down in the hollows the bushes of steppe almond blossoms out in its soft-pink color, blooming of the iris and other species starts. At the end of May the steppe looks totally different, silvery waves of feather grass stretching to the skyline and swaying under the eddy wind remind heavy sea. On the forest edges, along the river beds and in the steppe hollows, spiraea and honeysuckle bushes blossom. In the second half of June specks of speedwell and multicolor of astrogalus dominates in the pattern of the sandy steppe.
On the territory of the nature reserve 342 species of the vertebrate animals is registered: 44 species of animals, 282 species of birds, 3 species of each reptiles and amphibian, and 10 species of fish.