Ecosystem functions of peatlands in Kyrgyzstan’s high mountains

Kyrgyzstan’s highland peatlands are traditional summer pastures. Intensive grazing compacts the soil and partly destroys vegetation. Additionally, simple ditches drain peatlands up to high altitudes. In Kyrgyzstan, soils with very low humus content prevail, so carbon concentration is highest in intact peatlands and organic soils. They also serve as habitats for endangered species like the corn crake, the bird-eye primrose and numerous orchids. But only peatlands which are sustainably used can offer these ecosystem services. Overgrazing, drainage and partly also peat depletion endanger peatlands and release greenhouse gases.


In Kyrgyzstan, land users are not sensitised to the issue. Reasons are (among others) the practical aspects of grazing land management and the lack of specialized knowledge. In university, issues of protection of resources and the environment are strongly underrepresented. The distribution of peatlands in the high mountains and the whole country is yet unknown. This project therefore aims to improve knowledge of ecosystem services and climate relevance of peatlands and organic soils in Kyrgyzstan’s high mountains and to sensitise relevant actors to their endangerment. A method based on satellite images is being developed in order to determine the position and size of high mountain peatlands and to estimate their level of endangerment. During a three-month field study, a team of scientists will create soil profiles; carry out vegetation inventories and measure carbon and nitrogen fixation of several Kyrgyz high mountain peatlands. For test areas in Naryn oblast, pasture management and possible threats to ecosystem services will be evaluated.


On the basis of these results, project partners will develop guidelines for a climate-smart grazing land management, in cooperation with local partners and land users. They will also raise awareness among national and international decision-makers and identify links and possible interventions under the Kyoto Protocol’s land use, land use change and forestry section.


The project is financed by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety through GiZ in the framework of “Capacity development for sustainable energy and climate policy in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia” as part of the International Climate Initiative (ICI). It is jointly carried out by the research group on soil and site sciences at Berlin’s Humboldt University Faculty of Agriculture and Horticulture, the Michael Succow Foundation, Informus GmbH, Camp Alatoo and in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture in the Kyrgyz Republic and the Kyrgyz National Agrarian University.  


For more information please visit the project's web page.


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Project coordination Michael Succow Foundation: 

Jens Wunderlich, jens.wunderlich(at)