Western Tien-Shan

 © IUCN / Elena Osipova
Country
Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan,
Uzbekistan
Inscribed in
2016
Criterion
(x)
The conservation outlook for this site has been assessed as "significant concern" in the latest assessment cycle. Explore the Conservation Outlook Assessment for the site below. You have the option to access the summary, or the detailed assessment.

The transnational property is located in the Tien-Shan mountain system, one of the largest mountain ranges in the world. Western Tien-Shan ranges in altitude from 700 to 4,503 m. It features diverse landscapes, which are home to exceptionally rich biodiversity. It is of global importance as a centre of origin for a number of cultivated fruit crops and is home to a great diversity of forest types and unique plant community associations. © UNESCO

 © IUCN / Elena Osipova
© IUCN / Elena Osipova

Summary

2020 Conservation Outlook

Finalised on
08 Dec 2020
Significant concern
Western Tien-Shan is a serial transnational World Heritage site which lies at the western end of the very large and diverse Tianshan Mountain Range, one of the world’s longest mountain systems. This region is noted for its global biodiversity values including a characteristic flora and fauna, high levels of endemism and many globally rare and endangered species. There is however a fundamental question-mark as to how well the configuration of the site represents the Outstanding Universal Value. The World Heritage Committee request that the States Parties review and rationalize the boundaries of the components of the World Heritage and their buffer zones to ensure that they fully correspond to criterion (x), follow ecological principles and address connectivity, and submit a boundary modification proposal in due course to reflect this has yet to be fully addressed and remains of serious concern. Pending this verification, any assessment of the ability of the site to conserve these values is premature. Given this process is still ongoing, the assessment of the site's values remains data deficient for all the values listed in this assessment and also hinders the assessment of threats to some extent. Despite progress towards transboundary cooperation between States Parties through a signed MoU between the relevant national agencies, concern also remains regarding implementation and specific mechanisms of a cohesive and integrated approach to the management of the various component parts. Beyond these central issues, the protection and management of individual components appears to be adequate to maintain the stated values and threats are currently at a low level. Adequate management resources are being applied to the individual component protected areas within the three countries, however transboundary and serial site resources and capacity remain insufficient.

Current state and trend of VALUES

Data Deficient
Trend
Data Deficient
The World Heritage site consists of 13 component parts drawn from seven protected areas located in three countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The protected areas have adequate levels of protection corresponding to IUCN categories Ia and II. Whilst the World Heritage Committee’s decision states that “individual components of the property are sufficient to jointly maintain the functioning of the natural systems of Western Tien-Shan” (World Heritage Committee, 2016) there remain question-marks on the choice of components and site configuration. In the same decision the Committee has also asked that boundaries be rationalized to ensure they fully correspond to criterion (x), follow ecological principles and address connectivity. Subsequent changes made to excise part of the Sairam-Ugam SNNR for inclusion in the buffer zone, present further concern as these significant changes introduced to the zoning and protection regime of this protected area could constitute a potentially significant threat to the site’s OUV, including its conditions of integrity. Furthermore, it is not possible to analyse the overall species data for the serial World Heritage site as species numbers are given for each component without any sense of the overlap and complementarity across the entire site. No further data has been presented to build upon the data in the nomination dossier. Without further effort by the States Parties towards a combined monitoring approach, the lack of baseline data hinders the ability to make informed assessments of the state and trends of the values for which the site is listed. 

Overall THREATS

Low Threat
The main pressures on the World Heritage site are poaching, cattle grazing, illegal logging, hay collection, illegal harvesting of flowers etc. It is difficult to assess the threats to the site due to the lack of consistent monitoring and reporting across the serial site. Some component protected areas comprising this serial site have suffered more widespread impact from past land and resource uses but many areas are recovering. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to conclude bthat current threats remain low, given the relatively low human pressure the site is subject to. All component protected areas appear to be adequately managed and have capacity to address existing threats, such as poaching, illegal logging and grazing, even though capacity could always be increased. Potential threats, including climate change and tourism visitation, are likely to increase in the future.

Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT

Some Concern
At national level management planning and systems appear to be adequate and are coping with the currently low threats to the site's values. Staffing and financial resources are sufficient to manage the individual components of this serial World Heritage site and operate within a strong legal framework allowing for the protection of the elements of each component area which comprise the overall OUV of the site. However, serious concern remains over the mechanisms for ensuring the coordinated management of the separate components across the three countries in which this serial site is located.
The World Heritage Committee has identified four key areas to be addressed in order to improve the protection and management of the site. Three of these relate to the need to substantially improve management coordination for this transboundary and serial site. The States Parties have been urged, with the support of IUCN, to complete the transboundary management framework for the site including the tripartite Memorandum of Understanding and to build better capacity for transboundary management. Whilst progress has been made towards this end through the signing of the MoU (States Parties of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, 2020), there remains much to be done to achieve the objectives therein, not least the formation of the Steering Committee which will oversee its implementation. A further critical request relates to reviewing the site’s boundaries including buffer zones to ensure that they fully correspond to criterion (x), follow ecological principles and address connectivity.

Full assessment

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Finalised on
08 Dec 2020

Description of values

Exceptionally rich biodiversity of global significance amongst diverse landscapes within one of the largest mountain ranges in the world

Criterion
(x)
The Western Tien-Shan supports a high diversity of different types of forests and unique combinations of plant communities characteristic of the Mountains of Central Asia biodiversity hotspot. The property is a transnational serial site spanning the three countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Located in the western part of the 2,500km long Tianshan Mountain range, the property lies within a region known for its high levels of endemism and includes many species of global conservation importance. The region is characterized by a combination of different types of coniferous and deciduous forests, some in combination with wild fruit tree species. A number of critically endangered plant species also occur in the property, such as Knorringiana Hawthorn (Crataegus knorringiana) and Karatau Honeysuckle (Lonicera karataviensis). Very high plant species endemism is particularly characteristic for Karatau State Nature Reserve (SNR) with 61 endemic genera of angiosperms (IUCN, 2016).

A globally important centre of origin of cultivated plants and home to a number of wild species related to domesticated fruit

Criterion
(x)
The Western Tien-Shan lies within a region which is one of 12 global centres of origin for nut, fruit, and many cultivated plants of importance to agrobiodiversity (38 important agricultural crops). Over 20% of the world’s cereals, vegetable and spice plants, and 90% of the major temperate-zone fruit crops are found in this region. The walnut-fruit forests of the region are considered to be the largest forest of this type in the world.
The wild fruit and nut forests of Western Tien-Shan are considered to be an important genetic resource for the development of future strains of pest and disease resistant domestic fruit and nut species. Many domesticated plant species, particularly fruit and nut plants are reported for the property including wild apples, apricot, pistachio, vine, plum, pear, walnut and hawthorn. 14 species are considered globally threatened including Siverse’s Apple (Malus sieversii, VU), Nedzvetsky’s Apple (Malus niedzwetzkyana, EN) and Wild Apricot (Armeniaca vulgaris, EN). Of particular interest is the Siverse’s Apple, a wild apple species considered to be the progenitor of today’s variety of apples (IUCN, 2016).

Important habitat for globally threatened faunal species characteristic of the western Tianshan Mountains

Criterion
(x)
The vertebrate biodiversity found in the region of Western Tien Shan includes 61 species of mammals, 316 species of birds, 17 species of reptiles, 3 species of amphibians and more than 20 fish species, almost all of these species are reported as occurring in the area of the property. 18 of the faunal species are listed as globally threatened including several bird species: Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca, VU), Great Bustard (Otis tarda, VU), Pale-backed Pigeon (Columba eversmanni, VU), Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug, EN) and Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus, EN). Threatened mammals include Dhole (Cuon alpinus, EN), Menzbier’s Marmot (Marmota menzbieri, VU), Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia, EN) and the European Marbled Polecat (Vormela peregusna, VU) (IUCN, 2016; World Heritage Committee, 2016).

Assessment information

Low Threat
The status of the current threats to the World Heritage site is unclear as there is a lack of consistent monitoring and reporting of the site as a whole. All component parts have their own management plans and their own monitoring systems but there remains no common monitoring system. Despite progress towards greater collaboration between States Parties (SPs of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, 2020), this remains the case. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to conclude that current threats remain low, given the relatively low human pressure the site is subject to. There has been a legacy of past land and resource use (grazing, logging, hay cutting) and some of these threats persist, however most components are reported as recovering since becoming protected areas.
Other Biological Resource Use
(Poaching )
High Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Outside site
The States Parties report that argali, Siberian ibex, wild boar, bear, badger, porcupine, are being targeted by poachers in the Kazakh components of the World Heritage site. Little information is available on poaching in other components (IUCN, 2015). However, poaching is likely widespread in other components as well and while many protected areas also have developed measures to prevent illegal activities, poaching remains an issue (IUCN Consultation, 2019).
Collection of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), Other Biological Resource Use
(Hay cutting and berry collecting)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Outside site
Hay collection is permitted in some components such as in Sary Chelek within use zones, but the exact areas are unclear. Illegal hay collection most likely also occurs in many areas (IUCN, 2015). In Kyrgyzstan, a roadmap of activities is being developed to strengthen protection regime including limiting hay collection in the limits of protected areas (IUCN Consultation, 2019).
Berry collection (IUCN, 2016) and the illegal harvesting of flowers, other wild plants, nuts and fruits has also been reported (IUCN Consultation, 2019).
Logging/ Wood Harvesting
(Legacy of past illegal logging)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Outside site
A number of components have suffered from intensive use (grazing, logging, hay collection) in the past before they were declared protected areas, but the areas have been recovering since the establishment of protected areas. In particularly logging had been carried out in the past in Karatau, Sary Chelek and Padysha-Ata SNRs (IUCN, 2015).
Air Pollution
(Point source industrial and residential air pollution in Chatkalskiy SNR)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Outside site
Air pollution is a problem in Chatkalskiy SNR as it is located in a densely-populated region with a number of industrial facilities which are close by (IUCN, 2015). However, this threat is localized and the scale of the entire World Heritage site is considered low.
Invasive Non-Native/ Alien Species
(Invasive plant species are present in Chatkal SBNR)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Outside site
Chatkal SBNR suffers from a range of invasive plant species (IUCN, 2016). However, there is currently not enough data on invasive species in the other protected areas constituting the World Heritage site. Actions required to better understand the level of threat posed by non-native and invasive species include developing the national inventories of the invasive species, assessing their influence, increasing competence of the corresponding experts responsible for these matters in the protected areas, as well as in the state authorities (IUCN Consultation, 2019).
Livestock Farming / Grazing
(Grazing)
High Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Outside site
Although recent information is limited, grazing is likely to remain a problem in some areas of the World Heritage site such as the more densely populated areas found surrounding the Chatkal component in Uzbekistan. The presence of cattle and its impact was observed during the IUCN field mission within the component and along its boundaries. In all three Kazakh components illegal grazing has been reported to occur within the protected areas. Despite national level boundary modifications made to the Sairam-Ugam NP to include the limited economic use areas into the buffer zone, concerns remain that these changes have not been made with the aim of enhancing the protection of the site's Outstanding Universal Value. Grazing has also been reported in the buffer zone of Sary-Chelek and within a specially allocated zone in Padysha-Ata SNR (IUCN, 2015). Some low level of illegal grazing also occurs in Karatau State Nature Reserve (IUCN Consultation, 2017).
Fire/ Fire Suppression
(Wildfires occur in dry years)
High Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Outside site
Droughts lead to fires in dry years (World Heritage Committee, 2017). While the occurrence of fires (both from natural and anthropogenic causes) is still quite low, taking into account that the main forest forming tree species (juniper) burn really quickly and most of the places are very hard to access for fire-fighting groups, the consequences of any fire might be dramatic (IUCN Consultation, 2019).
Low Threat
Tourism use of the World Heritage site is currently modest and regulated, however detailed monitoring data on this potential threat remains data deficient. Some parts of the site are surrounded by highly populated areas and as a result they have tourism potential. The potential to develop the industry in future years with the inscription of the site in 2016 was reported at the time of inscription, however there is a lack of information regarding such growth. Although currently unknown, the threat of climate change to the values of the site is likely to increase in the future. 
Tourism/ visitors/ recreation
(Increasing tourism interest and use of certain parts of the property following inscription)
Data Deficient
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Outside site
Visitor numbers in most of the components of the World Heritage site are currently reported as quite low. Visitation is limited to very restricted areas and is only allowed by permit (IUCN, 2015). However, interest in the component protected areas could increase following the inscription of this serial site on the World Heritage List creating greater threat.
Habitat Shifting/ Alteration, Temperature extremes
(Climate change effects on ecological processes)
Data Deficient
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Outside site
Climate change is a potential threat to the values of the World Heritage site. However, there is a lack of information on the precise effects and therefore this is currently assessed as data deficient. Nonetheless, given the significant effects of climate change elsewhere in the region, and the fact that mountain ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to climate change related threats, this potential threat is likely to increase in future. 
The main pressures on the World Heritage site are poaching, cattle grazing, illegal logging, hay collection, illegal harvesting of flowers etc. It is difficult to assess the threats to the site due to the lack of consistent monitoring and reporting across the serial site. Some component protected areas comprising this serial site have suffered more widespread impact from past land and resource uses but many areas are recovering. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to conclude bthat current threats remain low, given the relatively low human pressure the site is subject to. All component protected areas appear to be adequately managed and have capacity to address existing threats, such as poaching, illegal logging and grazing, even though capacity could always be increased. Potential threats, including climate change and tourism visitation, are likely to increase in the future.
Management system
Serious Concern
Virtually all component protected areas of Western Tien-Shan are government owned, each of them has its own administration and staff and they are managed by an authorised state executive body of each country with funding from the state budgets (World Heritage Committee, 2016). However, to date, there is no protective regime in place for the World Heritage site as a whole. As such, whilst the protection and management of individual components of the site appears adequate, there is no joint transboundary protection and framework yet in place for the entire site (IUCN, 2016; UNESCO, 2018). Progress has been made towards this as the States Parties have now drafted and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the management and protection of the site. This serves as a clear indicator of the intentions of the States Parties to ensure transboundary collaboration in the protection of the specially protected natural territories which comprise the site (States Parties of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, 2020).
The management zoning system which operates within the World Heritage site was not clear upon inscription, and remains so. Maps were provided by the State Party of Kazakhstan relating to the Sairam-Ugam National Nature Park component of the site in their 2018 State of Conservation report. However no other maps have been made available which detail the precise zoning system since the IUCN evaluation mission concluded the zoning system was complex and did not necessarily align with the values insomuch as high conservation value areas were not necessarily zones for strict protection (IUCN, 2015; IUCN, 2016).
Recent changes in the protection regime and management system of the Uzbek components of the World Heritage site relating to the role of the “Uzbekistan Temir Yollari” National Railway Company as stated in the States Parties' report (States Parties of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, 2020) also require further clarification to ensure that these administrative changes have been made in the best interests of the conservation of the site's Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). 
Effectiveness of management system
Some Concern
There is no integrated management across the serial World Heritage site as a whole. A Memorandum of Agreement between the three countries has now been drafted and signed and the implementation of activities listed in the Memorandum is reportedly ongoing (States Parties of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, 2020). However, further work is still required to establish the regional steering group, which would assume coordinating functions (IUCN Consultation, 2019). 
There are also ongoing concerns with respect to how the zoning systems within the protected areas operate and if they provide appropriate levels of protection to key values (UNESCO, 2018).
Boundaries
Some Concern
There are serious shortcomings with the boundaries of the World Heritage site and its overall configuration as a serial site, which remain unresolved. The boundaries of the various protected areas which make up the site are conceived on a variety of different rationales. A number of the component protected areas in Kazakhstan do not have boundaries which are based on ecological principles or which follow natural features such as contours or watercourses: for example Karatau SNR and parts of Sairam-Ugam SNNP. Recent concern has been raised relating to subsequent changes introduced to the zoning and protection regime of the Sairam-Ugam SNNP component at the national level in Kazakhstan. The changes include the excision of part of its territory and subsequent inclusion in the buffer zone (UNESCO, 2018), which may result in part of the World Heritage site no longer benefitting from an appropriate level of protection.
There are variable approaches to buffer zones across components of the site, including whether these are present or absent. Where they do exist, they are of uniform width and do not appear to follow any ecological rationale which draws into question their effectiveness in protecting critical natural values (State Party of Kazakhstan, 2018). As such, it was recommended that a review and rationalization of the boundaries of the components of the World Heritage site and their buffer zones be undertaken to ensure that they fully correspond to criterion (x), follow ecological principles and address connectivity (World Heritage Committee, 2016), which remains to be fully accomplished by the States Parties. Chatkal State Biosphere Zapovednik is in the process of developing buffer zones for this component of the site, however there is no evidence of progress towards delineating a buffer zone for the Besh-Aral SNR.
Integration into regional and national planning systems
Some Concern
In general, the protected areas comprising the World Heritage site have not been explicitly integrated within regional and national planning systems. In Kazakhstan, Sairam-Ugam SNR is included in regional tourism planning (“Program of development of tourism” by the Regional Departments of Culture and of Industries and Trade). Some components are included in bioregional planning developed in the framework of a Central Asian cross-border project (GEF and World Bank) which is aimed primarily at conserving biodiversity outside of the protected areas (States Parties of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, 2015). The role of the “Uzbekistan Temir Yollari” National Railway Company in the management of the Ugam-Chatkal State Biosphere Reserve, which includes the Bashkizilsay component of the World Heritage site, is currently uncertain despite assurances on behalf of the State Party that the legal protection regime remains and that no construction is planned in the buffer zone around the Bashkizilsay component (States Parties of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, 2020). 
Relationships with local people
Some Concern
Some components are located in a more densely populated region but population pressure surrounding the protected areas is relatively low (IUCN, 2016). There was little evidence of participatory management engaging local people at the time of inscription (IUCN, 2016), and this is likely to remain the case as there is little evidence to suggest this aspect of the site's management has been improved upon. Concerns also remain regarging potential conflicts related to resources use, particularly what concerns livestock grazing (IUCN Consultation, 2019).
Legal framework
Mostly Effective
The majority of the site’s components are state protected areas of national importance and protected under the respective national legislations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. All the protected areas except Sairam-Ugam NP (IUCN category II) are strict nature reserves (considered equivalent to IUCN category Ia) and all have a functioning management system (IUCN, 2016). Access is limited and strictly controlled across the components of the site in all three countries, and any use of animals and plants and any economic activities are prohibited, with the exception of limited economic zones which have been identified in the Sairam-Ugam SNNR (State Party of Kazakhstan, 2018). All areas of Western Tien-Shan have their own administration and staff and they are managed by authorized state executive bodies in each country (IUCN, 2015).
Law enforcement
Mostly Effective
All component protected areas appear to be well-managed and have adequate capacity to address existing threats, such as poaching, illegal logging and grazing, even though capacity could always be increased (IUCN, 2015). 
Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Some Concern
Four recommendations were made to the States Parties at the time of inscription of the site. These included the establishment of a Steering Committee, the formation of a tripartite Memorandum for management and a review of boundaries of the site. The Committee suggested that these be done with the help and cooperation of IUCN. The States Parties have since submitted two reports to the World Heritage Centre on the State of Conservation of the site for examination by the World Heritage Committee is at its 42nd session in 2018 (World Heritage Commitee, 2016; States Parties of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, 2018) and the postponed 44th session (States Parties of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, 2020). Progress has been achieved towards a number of these requests, most notably the signing of the tri-partite MoU, however some concern remains over its implementation as the Steering Committee, which would oversee the coordination fo the objectives within the MoU, is yet to have formed (States Parties of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, 2020). Additionally, in addressing the boundaries of the site, a number of issues have revealed themselves, including the excision of a significant proportion of one of the Kazakh components as well as the activities of the 'Uzbekistan Temir Yollari' railway company within the management of the Bashkilisay component. Both of these issues are likely to require further clarification. 
Sustainable use
Some Concern
Some of the most significant elements of the World Heritage site have been severely impacted by past use. For example, the Siverse’s Apple forest stands which are now restricted to small separated patches; and uncontrolled collection of wild plants, nuts and fruits beyond the point of self-rehabilitation capabilities of the ecosystem has been identified as a threat (IUCN Consultation, 2019). Despite this the protected areas in general appear to have substantially retained their values and a number have been in existence for many years (e.g. Aksu-Jabagly SNR (Kazakhstan), established in 1926 is the oldest nature reserve in Central Asia) (IUCN, 2016).
Sustainable finance
Serious Concern
All component protected areas appear to have relatively adequate budgets administered by the authorized state executive bodies in each country with funding from state budgets. No additional budget has been forecast for the joint management system of the whole transboundary property (IUCN, 2016). Financial assistance through interested donors and sponsoring organisations for managing and conserving the site's OUV is welcomed by the States Parties (States Parties of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, 2020). A number of KBAs within the site have been targeted for priority CEPF funding, including Aflatun-Padyshata, Kyrgyzstan, Aksu-Zhabagly, Kazakhstan and the Akbulak and Bashkyzylsay river basins (within the Chatkal Biosphere Reserve), Uzbekistan, which may directly boost funding towards the conservation of biodiversity in these specific areas (CEPF, 2017), albeit only over the course of the CEPF funding period. 
Staff capacity, training, and development
Some Concern
Staffing levels are variable with a reported 233 staff across the three protected areas in Kazakhstan; 92 staff are reported for the Chatkal SBNR in Uzbekistan; and 142 staff are noted for the three protected areas in Kyrgyzstan. All component areas appeared to have appropriately qualified technical staff at the time of inscription (IUCN, 2016).
The IUCN evaluation mission found very little understanding of what World Heritage status means with no plans evident as to how awareness levels might be raised among staff and stakeholders (IUCN, 2015). The tri-partite MoU includes measures for experience exchange and technical and consulting assistance in the management of the site's values with relevant experts and between country staff (State Parties of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, 2020). However, there is no indication of any implementation of this to date, and therefore some concern remains in this regard.
Education and interpretation programs
Some Concern
Overall, visitation to the World Heritage site remains limited. In areas with relatively high visitation rates, visitor centres have limited displays on the biodiversity values of the component areas of the site. Staff members also appear to have little or no understanding of the meaning and implications of World Heritage status with regards to awareness-raising and education programmes focused on the OUV of the site (IUCN, 2015; IUCN, 2016). However, joint educational programs, including exhibitions and scientific investigation, are articulated within the tri-partite MoU between the States Parties to enhance this aspect of the site's management (States Parties of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, 2020). Nonetheless, education and interpretation of the site's values remains of some concern, given the lack of current programs.
Tourism and visitation management
Mostly Effective
Tourism use of the World Heritage site is currently modest. Some parts of the site are surrounded by highly populated areas and as a result they have tourism potential. The States Parties recognize that tourism development needs to be managed in a way that optimizes its benefits but minimizes any threats from uncontrolled tourism development (World Heritage Committee, 2017).
Monitoring
Some Concern
All component parts of the World Heritage site have their own management plans and systems; however, there is currently no common or consistent monitoring system across the whole property making it difficult to draw conclusions on the status of values for the serial site (IUCN, 2016). The lack of coordination in monitoring activities between States Parties prior to and since inscription is reflected in the lack of baseline data for the site as a whole, making future monitoring of the site's OUV challenging. The MoU signed between the three States Parties states that monitoring data collected individually by the relevant national bodies responsible within their given countries will be shared to enhance the status of monitoring of the site a whole (States Parties of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, 2020). 
Research
Data Deficient
There is little evidence of any on-going research being undertaken over the components of the site (IUCN, 2016).
At national level management planning and systems appear to be adequate and are coping with the currently low threats to the site's values. Staffing and financial resources are sufficient to manage the individual components of this serial World Heritage site and operate within a strong legal framework allowing for the protection of the elements of each component area which comprise the overall OUV of the site. However, serious concern remains over the mechanisms for ensuring the coordinated management of the separate components across the three countries in which this serial site is located.
The World Heritage Committee has identified four key areas to be addressed in order to improve the protection and management of the site. Three of these relate to the need to substantially improve management coordination for this transboundary and serial site. The States Parties have been urged, with the support of IUCN, to complete the transboundary management framework for the site including the tripartite Memorandum of Understanding and to build better capacity for transboundary management. Whilst progress has been made towards this end through the signing of the MoU (States Parties of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, 2020), there remains much to be done to achieve the objectives therein, not least the formation of the Steering Committee which will oversee its implementation. A further critical request relates to reviewing the site’s boundaries including buffer zones to ensure that they fully correspond to criterion (x), follow ecological principles and address connectivity.
Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
Data Deficient
Many of the components are in quite remote areas relatively free from human threats, however, some are located in more heavily populated areas. Past land and resource use such as grazing, poaching and hay cutting is also evident; however areas are recovering following protection. There are nevertheless ongoing external threats but insufficient information to fully assess the effectiveness of management outside of the site. Concerns regarding the meaning, design and effectiveness of the buffer zones add to concerns about dealing with external pressures on the site.
World Heritage values

Exceptionally rich biodiversity of global significance amongst diverse landscapes within one of the largest mountain ranges in the world

Data Deficient
Trend
Data Deficient
The World Heritage site consists of 13 component parts drawn from seven protected areas located in three countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The protected areas have adequate levels of protection corresponding to IUCN categories Ia and II (IUCN, 2016). Whilst the World Heritage Committee’s decision states that “individual components of the property are sufficient to jointly maintain the functioning of the natural systems of Western Tien-Shan” (World Heritage Committee, 2016) there remain question-marks on the choice of components and site configuration. For example, two of the components Aksu-Jabagly SNR are very small and were nominated with respect to their fossil values under criterion (viii), however, they were included in the inscribed World Heritage site despite the fact that criterion (viii) was deemed not have been met. The Committee has also asked that boundaries be rationalized to ensure they fully correspond to criterion (x), follow ecological principles and address connectivity (World Heritage Committee, 2016). Furthermore, it is not possible to analyse the overall species data for the serial site as species numbers are given for each component without any sense of the overlap and complementarity across the entire site (IUCN, 2016).
This uncertainty regarding the attributes of the OUV being within the World Heritage site undermines the confidence in assessing the current state and trend of values.

A globally important centre of origin of cultivated plants and home to a number of wild species related to domesticated fruit

Data Deficient
Trend
Data Deficient
The concerns noted above with regard to site configuration and data confidence also apply to this value. Many of the domesticated fruit and nut species which contribute substantially to the site's OUV are globally threatened (eg. Pear species, Pyrus korshinsky - CR; Nedzvetsky’s apple-tree, Malus niedzwetzkyana - EN; wild apricot, Armeniaca vulgaris- EN). However there is no available data for their conservation status within the site.
Some of the most significant elements of the site have been severely impacted by past use, such as the Siverse’s Apple forest stands which are now restricted to small separated patches. Despite this the protected areas in general appear to have substantially retained their values since inscription.

Important habitat for globally threatened faunal species characteristic of the western Tianshan Mountains

Data Deficient
Trend
Data Deficient
The concerns noted above with regard to site configuration and data confidence also apply to this value.
A number of components of the site have suffered from intensive use (grazing, logging, hay collection) in the past but are now recovering. Nevertheless, the site’s values in some components are still being impacted by pressures such as grazing. Although there is little information available, grazing is still likely to represent an ongoing management issue in some areas. For example, in Sairam-Ugam SNNP where there is an enclave subject to grazing which is also critical habitat for the endemic Menzbier’s Marmot, which has now been excised to include as part of the buffer zone.
Illegal poaching most likely also occurs in many areas (IUCN Consultation, 2019), including of argali, Siberian ibex, wild boar, bear, badger and porcupine.
Assessment of the current state and trend of World Heritage values
Data Deficient
Trend
Data Deficient
The World Heritage site consists of 13 component parts drawn from seven protected areas located in three countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The protected areas have adequate levels of protection corresponding to IUCN categories Ia and II. Whilst the World Heritage Committee’s decision states that “individual components of the property are sufficient to jointly maintain the functioning of the natural systems of Western Tien-Shan” (World Heritage Committee, 2016) there remain question-marks on the choice of components and site configuration. In the same decision the Committee has also asked that boundaries be rationalized to ensure they fully correspond to criterion (x), follow ecological principles and address connectivity. Subsequent changes made to excise part of the Sairam-Ugam SNNR for inclusion in the buffer zone, present further concern as these significant changes introduced to the zoning and protection regime of this protected area could constitute a potentially significant threat to the site’s OUV, including its conditions of integrity. Furthermore, it is not possible to analyse the overall species data for the serial World Heritage site as species numbers are given for each component without any sense of the overlap and complementarity across the entire site. No further data has been presented to build upon the data in the nomination dossier. Without further effort by the States Parties towards a combined monitoring approach, the lack of baseline data hinders the ability to make informed assessments of the state and trends of the values for which the site is listed. 

Additional information

Provision of jobs
Various levels of management staff are employed across the site. 467 staff are reported within the component parts of the serial site (IUCN, 2016).
Outdoor recreation and tourism
With the inscription of the site in 2016 there is a potential for an increase in the annual number of tourists to the site. This could in turn create an increase in opportunities for employment for locals including tour guides, as well as the employment that goes with providing services for tourists and maintaining the areas that are visited.
Collection of genetic material
The site is an important global centre for agrobiodiversity with potential to contribute to research and to act as a genetic warehouse of source material.
Factors negatively affecting provision of this benefit
Climate change
Impact level - Low
Trend - Increasing
The World Heritage sit holds potential for increased tourism use and thus the promise of becoming a stronger economic driver for local communities and regional economies. At present visitor numbers in most of the components of the site are low and, since most of the components are strict nature reserves, visitation is limited to very restricted areas and is only allowed by permit. There are however, opportunities in selected components and, with an increase in tourism demand, there would potential employment opportunities and an increase in education opportunities for locals (IUCN, 2016).
The importance of Western Tien-Shan as a global centre for agrobiodiversity may increase in the face of climate change. There are many beneficial areas of research and understanding that can be derived from the site to enhance global food security.
Organization Brief description of Active Projects Website
1 Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) “The inventory and protection of the Important Bird Territories in Kazakhstan”, since 2005, run by ACBK with the support of Darwin Initiative (2005-2008) and Royal Society of the Protection of Birds (RSPB) (States Parties of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, 2015).

References

References
1
Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). (2017). Mountains of Central Asia Biodiversity Hotspot: Ecosystem Profile. [online] Arlington, USA: Conservation International. Available at: https://www.cepf.net/our-work/biodiversity-hotspots/mountai… (Accessed 20 May 2019).
2
IUCN (2015) Evaluation Mission Report. Western Tien-Shan. IUCN Gland, Switzerland
3
IUCN (2016) Evaluation Report. Western Tien-Shan. IUCN Gland, Switzerland
4
IUCN Consultation (2019). IUCN Confidential Consultation - Western Tien Shan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan. 
5
State Party of Kazakhstan. (2018). Report of the State Party to the World Heritage Committee on the state of conservation of the Western Tien Shan (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan). [online] State Party of Kazakhstan. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1490/documents/ (Accessed 22 October 2019).
6
State Party of Uzbekistan. (2018). Report of the State Party to the World Heritage Committee on the state of conservation of the Western Tien Shan (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan). [online] State Party of Uzbekistan. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1490/documents/ (Accessed 22 October 2019).
7
States Parties of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan (2015) Nomination dossier Western Tien-Shan. Submitted to UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
8
States Parties of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan (2016) Response to IUCN commentaries to the nomination dossier «Western Tien-Shan». Informal supplementary information to UNESCO World Heritage Centre and IUCN received February 2016.
9
States Parties of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan. (2020). Report of the State Party to the World Heritage Committee on the state of conservation of the Western Tien Shan (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan). [online] State Party of Uzbekistan. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1490/documents/ (Accessed 5 March 2020).
10
UNESCO. (2018). Report on the State of Conservation of Western Tien Shan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan. State of Conservation Information System of the World Heritage Centre. [online] Paris, France: UNESCO. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/soc/3662 (Accessed 22 October 2019).
11
World Heritage Committee (2016). Decision 40 COM 8B.9 Istanbul, Turkey. http://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/6788. Accessed 4 May 2017
12
World Heritage Committee (2017). Statement of Outstanding Universal Value – Western Tien-Shan.

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