Inscription year 2013 Country China



The snow-capped Tianshan, the Celestial Mountains, where western China penetrates Central Asia, are one of the largest temperate zone mountain ranges in the world. They run almost east-west 2,500 kilometres from the western edge of the Gobi Desert in China to the Kyzylkum Desert in Uzbekistan. The beauty of this temperate zone, biodiversity and degree of endemism are outstanding. In Xinjiang, where they run for half their length between the arid steppes of Djungaria and the extreme desert of the Taklamakan, they are at their highest, most glaciated and most diverse, each aspect of which the four sites of the designation represent.




Xinjiang Tianshan


2013: Inscribed on the World Heritage List under natural criteria (vii) and (ix).


The UNESCO World Heritage Committee adopted the following provisional Statement of Outstanding Universal Value at the time of inscription:

Brief synthesis

Xinjiang Tianshan is a serial property consisting of four components totalling 606,833 hectares, with buffer zones totaling 491,103 hectares located in the People’s Republic of China in the Xinjiang Tianshan, the eastern portion of the Tianshan mountain range. The four components are located along the 1,760 kilometers of the Xinjiang Tianshan, a temperate arid zone surrounded by Central Asian deserts. The property was nominated under criterion (vii) for its outstanding beauty and superlative natural features and criterion (ix) for capturing a range of biological and ecological processes.

The property has outstanding scenic values and many superlative natural features – from red bed canyons to high peaks and glaciers to beautiful wetlands, meadows and steppe. The visual impact of these features is magnified by the stark contrasts between the mountain areas and vast Central Asian deserts, and between the dry south slopes and the much wetter north slope. Xinjiang Tianshan is also an outstanding example of ongoing biological and ecological evolutionary process in a temperate arid zone. Altitudinal vegetation distributions, significant differences between north and south slopes, and diversity of flora, all illustrate the biological and ecological evolution of the Pamir-Tian Shan Highlands. Xinjiang Tianshan has outstanding biodiversity and is important habitat for relic species, and numerous rare and endangered species, as well as endemic species. It provides an excellent example of the gradual replacement of the original warm and wet flora by modern xeric Mediterranean flora.

Criterion (vii)

The Tianshan is a large mountain range in Central Asia stretching over more than 2,500 kilometres. It is the largest mountain chain in the world’s temperate arid region, and the largest isolated east-west mountain range globally. The Xinjiang portion of the Tianshan runs east-west for 1,760km and is a mountain range of outstanding natural beauty. The Xinjiang Tianshan is anchored in the west by the highest peak in the Tianshan, Tomur Peak at 7,443 meters, and in the east by Bogda Peak at 5,445 meters. The range is surrounded by six deserts, and the property extends into one of these: the Taklimakan Desert, which is notable as one of the world’s largest and highest deserts, known for its large arrays of dune forms, its large bounding alluvial fans, its pluvial lakes, and its ability to produce large numbers of dust storms. The beauty of the Xinjiang Tianshan lies not only in its spectacular snow-capped mountains and glacier-capped peaks, beautiful forests and meadows, clear rivers and lakes and red bed canyons, but also in the combination and contrast between the mountain elements and the vast deserts. The stark difference of bare rocks on its south slope and luxuriant forest and meadow on the north creates a striking visual contrast of environments which are hot and cold, dry and wet, desolate and luxuriant – and of exceptional beauty.

Criterion (ix)

Xinjiang Tianshan is an outstanding example of ongoing biological and ecological evolutionary process in a temperate arid zone. The landforms and ecosystems have been preserved since the Pliocene epoch because of the Tianshan’s position between two deserts and its Central Asian arid continental climate, which is unique among the world's mountain ecosystems. Xinjiang Tianshan has all the typical mountain altitudinal zones of a temperate arid zone, reflecting the moisture and heat variations at different altitudes, gradients and slopes. The property is an outstanding example for the study of biological community succession in mountain ecosystems in an arid zone undergoing global climate change. Xinjiang Tianshan is also an outstanding representative of biological and ecological evolution in the Pamir-Tianshan Highlands. Altitudinal vegetation distributions, significant differences between north and south slopes, and diversity of flora, all illustrate the biological and ecological evolution of the Pamir-Tianshan Highlands. The property is also an important habitat for relic species, and numerous rare and endangered species, as well as endemic species. It is representative of the process whereby the original warm and wet flora has gradually been replaced by modern xeric Mediterranean flora.


The property is a serial property consisting of four components totalling 606,833 hectares, with buffer zones totaling 491,103 hectares. The four components include: Tomur, Kalajun-Kuerdening, Bayinbuluke and Bogda. The four components follow the boundaries of existing protected areas, except in the case of the Kalajun-Kuerdening component, where two parks have been merged. The boundaries of the various components follow prominent natural features including ridgelines, rivers, vegetation zones, etc.

The property is representative of the many superlative features and ecological processes in the Xinjiang Tianshan. The property includes spectacular landscapes from red bed canyons to the highest peaks and largest glaciers in the entire range, to highly scenic and ecologically rich alpine meadows, to areas of rivers, lakes and wetlands. The property captures the full range of altitudinal zones of a temperate arid zone and the evolutionary processes of the Pamir-Tian Shan highlands.

The area benefits from a very low degree of threat. There are no permanent inhabitants in the property. Extractive industries and infrastructure development is limited in the region and does not exist within the property. There is no record of invasive species. The entire property is legally protected and all of the components have buffer zones.

Protection and Management Requirements

The components of the property range from IUCN Categories I-IV, though several of the units, including the largest component (Tomur) are managed as Category Ia. The property has been under conservation management for some time. The Tomur Peak National Nature Reserve in particular has been under conservation management since 1985. A broad range of environmental and natural resource use laws governs and the property therefore benefits from a high level of legal protection.

Each of the components has a management plan, and a management plan also exists for the property as a whole. A new management plan for the whole property will come into effect in 2014. The property has an adequate staff and is well funded. Extensive research has been conducted in the property giving park staff a strong knowledge base to work from.

Special attention needs to be given to ensuring effective management planning and coordination across the components of the property which are geographically well separated from each other. Future efforts should focus upon opportunities to extend or add to the property to increase its size and integrity given the overall very large scale of the Tianshan Mountain Range system. This should also consider initiatives with neighbouring countries to consider transnational opportunities to extend protection of the Tianshan system.

Attention should also be given to working with IUCN and other partners to better understand the implications of grazing on the natural ecosystems of Tianshan and to explore the potential of integrating local communities and in particular traditional herdsmen into the management of the property.


1990: Bogeda designated a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO's MAB Programme (48,690 ha).


Tianshan Tianchi National Park: II
Tomur Peak National Nature Reserve: Ib
West Tianshan Mountains National Nature Reserve: Ib
Kalajun Provincial Nature Reserve: IV
Bayinbuluke National Nature Reserve: Ib


Pamir-Tianshan Highlands (2.36.12)


The Tianshan runs from the westernmost Gobi Desert in China through Kyrgyzstan with outlying northern ranges in Kazakhstan to the Kyzylkum Desert in Uzbekistan.The four sites of the property lie in the eastern half of the range in Xinjiang Province, northwest China, between the Djungarian steppe and the Taklamakan Desert in the Tarim Basin between N 41º30'00-44º00'00" and E 79º30'00"-88º30'00".

Property Location Center coordinates

Tomur Wensu County N 41º58'06'' x E 80º21'15''

Kalajun Tekesi County N 43º04'15'' x E 82º58'44''

Kuerdening Gongliu County N 42º57'30'' x E 82º22'35''

Bayinbuluke Hejing County N 42º47'53'' x E 84º09'50''

Bogda Fukang County N 43º50'00'' x E 88º17'12''


1980: Tomur Peak Provincial Nature Reserve approved by the regional government; 2003: created a National Nature Reserve;

1980: Tianshan Tianchi (Bogda) Provincial Nature Reserve approved; 1982: created a National Nature Park; 1994: a National Forest Park; 2006 created Tianshan Tianchi National Park;

1986: Bayinbuluke Provincial Nature Reserve approved; 2001: created a National Nature Reserve;

1990: North slope of Bogdashan designated a UNESCO MAB Biosphere Reserve; 1994: Bogdashan National Forest Park designated;

2000: West Tianshan Mountains (Kuerdening) National Nature Reserve approved;

2009: Bogda Provincial Natural Reserve and Tianshan Tianchi National Geopark approved;

2009: Kalajun Provincial Nature Reserve approved;

2013: The four sites inscribed on the World Heritage List.


State. Under the national Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development the sites are managed by the People's Government of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and the Commission of Parks and Bureaus of Nature Reserves of the prefecture in which each site is located.


Site Core Area (ha) Buffer Zone (ha)
Tomur 344,828 280,120
Kalajun-Kuerdening 113,818 89,346
Bayinbuluke 109,448 80,090
Bogda 38,739 41,547
Total 606, 833 491,103 (IUCN, 2013)


\~1,380m to 7,443m (Tomur) on the Kirgizstan border; \~1000m to 5,445m (Bogda Shan).


The Tianshan/Celestial Mountains of Central Asia are one of the largest mountain ranges in the world. They run almost east-west 2,500 kilometers in the temperate zone but for half their length between deserts, from the westernmost edge of the Gobi Desert in China to the Kyzylkum Desert in Uzbekistan, and between the arid Djungarian steppe to the north and the severely desert Taklamakan in the Tarim Basin to the south. It can be divided into the eastern Tianshan in Xinjiang, China, 1,250 km long, the central Tianshan along the Chinese-Kyrgistan border, 750 km long, and the western Tianshan in Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, 500 km long. The chain is discontinuous, averaging 300km wide to 450 km at its widest (850 km including the northern offshoot ranges in Kazakhstan), with 20 secondary branching ranges and ten inter-mountain basins. In Xinjiang, it is divided into three mountain sub-chains: north which includes the Bogdashan, middle, and south, which contains the other three sites. The average height of their ridge line is 4,000m, which is 3,500m above the Djungarian steppes, and 3,000m above the Taklimakan. There is a powerful contrast between the bare rock of its southern sides and the luxuriant vegetation of its northern slopes. The landscape is one of beautiful spectacular glaciated and snow-capped mountains, forests and meadows, clear rivers, lakes and red bed canyons.

The four sites of the property are all in the eastern Tianshan but of varying character, each representative of a different area of the range. Tomur stands at the western end on the Kyrgistan and Kazahkstan border, Kalajun-Kuerdening and Bayinbuluke are in the middle, and Bogda at the eastern end. The Tomur site is named for Tianshan's highest peak, Tomur (7,443m). The Tomur-Khan Tengri area is the highest section of the Xinjiang Tianshan Mountains where 15 peaks exceed 6,000m and is one of the three largest glacial nodes of Central Asia. It also, on the south slope of the Tianshan, has the most complete altitudinal range of vegetational zones, as far as the edge of the Taklamakan Desert. The Kalajun-Kuerdening site on the slope towards the Ili valley has dense forests of an endemic spruce with large areas of wild fruit forest, montane steppe and meadows. The Bayinbuluke site is in a l00 x 25 km high inter-montane basin, with alpine meadows and alpine wetlands which drain north to the Ili river basin. The Bogda range, almost divided from the main mountain chain, contains the most typical altitudinal zones, snow-capped mountains, glaciers, lakes rivers, forests and meadows in a relatively small and accessible area near the east end of the range.

The sites are in the fold-belt of the south Tianshan mountains. Their basement rocks are a mixture of crystalline and sedimentary rocks deformed by continental subduction in the late Palaeozoic which first threw up the range long before the collision 25mya of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates. During the Mesozoic era this was eroded to a sedimentary peneplain. The more recent subduction is thrusting the Tarim Basin under the Tianshan creating the many thrust faults which form the east-west trending ranges and inter-montane basins, and cause frequent earthquakes. The dominant rocks are Silurian period limestones and marbles, with schists and slates. The Bogda Mountians show evidence of a volcanic origin. Quaternary glaciation and fluvial action, drying and erosion, developed glacial valleys and ravines, three levels of planation terraces at approximately 2,000m, 3,000m and 4,000m, mountain plains, fault-blocks and basins.These last, floored with fluvial and lacustrine deposits, gravels and loess, are fertile grasslands lying among snow-covered peaks. There are also red bed canyons formed during the erosion and planation of the ancient Tianshans: extremely thick lake-river sediments of the Tertiary periods deposited in the piedmont basins of the south slope of Tomur Peak, uplifted, folded and fractured, which have weathered to spectacular deep red sculptured landforms. Soils on the north slopes are well developed subalpine meadow and fertile forest soils. The mountain steppes have mountain chernozem and chestnut soils. On the south slopes there are no forests and few meadows.

The Tianshans are the watertower of Xinjiang. Of the whole mountain system, the property has over half the glaciers (9,081 or 57%), which cover three fifths of the area (9,236 km2 or 59.9%) and 53.6% of the river runoff of Xinjiang. The Enylchuk glacier, 39 km long, and the Muzhert Pass glacier, 34 km long, both flow from the Tumur-Khan Tengri glacial node. There are 373 rivers in this eastern half charged with glacial ice melt, snowfall and rainfall. Intermontane basins, depressions and river-sinks at different terrace levels interleave the mountain landscape holding some 1,370 km2 of wetlands and lakes which provide excellent habitat and nesting sites for water birds. The largest is the Youerdusi Basin in Bayabuluke at 2,400-2,600m, through which the Kaidu River meanders peacefully. The accessible scenic Lake Tianshi in Bogda is at 1,910m


This huge mountain range is an extensive area of complicated topography with great differences in elevation and a variety of local climates and microclimates. Located between deserts it is a natural barrier and boundary that modifies the regional airflow and causes large differences between the temperatures and biotic regimes of north and south slopes. Temperatures on the south and west slopes are higher than those in the north and east. The south slope altitudinal gradient runs from frigid to warm temperate, the temperature averaging 7.5 to 10.0°C, where in the north it is 2.5 to 5.0°C. The annual precipitation also varies with aspect: in the upper valleys of the north slope of the Ili River, it is 1,500-1,800mm; on the southern slope of Tomur peak, it is less than 100mm; and in the Turpan Basin south of Bogda, it is only 16.4mm. Many varied environments exist: humid, semi-humid, semi-arid and arid, warm temperate, mid-temperate, cold temperate, cold and alpine zones up to permanent ice and snow creating a wealth of complex habitats, ecosystems and vegetation types.


The Xinjiang Tianshan lie across two main floristic sub-regions: Eurasian forest and Asian desert with influences from the Turanian steppes and Pamirs to the west, the Altai Mountains to the north and the dry Tibetan plateau to the south. Their altitudinal vegetation gradients, their stark differences between the vegetation of the north and south slopes, and their diversity of flora provide outstanding examples of the mountains' biological and ecological evolution. Important ecosystems contained in the four sites include mountain evergreen and deciduous coniferous forests, mountain broad-leaved forest, with wild fruit and riparian forests, scrub thickets of these forms, marshes, montane meadows, alpine and sub-alpine meadows, cushion vegetation, alpine steppe, grassland steppe, dry steppe, desert steppe and desert. Within this wide spectrum, many species are spatially concentrated.

The sites have typical areas of montane conifer forest, montane meadows and steppe and arid foothill steppe, relatively small tracts containing a great variety of the habitats which support the chain's high percentage of species of the Mountains of Central Asia biodiversity hotspot: 2,622 species of 635 genera from 106 families of wild vascular plants, 94 relict species originating before the Quaternary Glaciation, 118 endemic species, 110 nationally rare and endangered species, and 4 on the IUCN Red List: Tianshan birch Betula tianschanica (EN), wild apple Malus seiversii (VU), Xinjiang tulipTulipa sinkiangensis (EN), found in most of the sites, and Ammopiptanthus nana (CR).

In the Tomur site, the elevations range from 7,443m to mountain steppe at 1,450m; in Bogda, there is a range of north slope zones between 5,445m and \~1,400m. Both sites show nearly the whole range of montane floristic types. The Kalajun-Kuerdening has large areas of endemic Asian spruce Picea schrenkiana forest plus Siberian fir Abies sibirica semenovii. Due to its location and climate, this area became a refuge for now relict species in the Early Tertiary period and has 52 species of wild fruit trees, notably wild apple (VU), wild apricot Armenaica vulgaris, wild walnut Juglans regia, and the highest number of endemic species of the four sites. The evergreen coniferous shrub communities include Sabina, Juniperus and Pinus species as well as Picea. Bayabuluke has the biggest sub-alpine wetland marshes in the mountains. The ranges hold more than 80 species of medical plants, including the valued snow lotus Saussurea involucrata, which is adapted to high altitude climates and grows on cliffs. The flora is characterized by transitional species; and changes in the mountains' climate are leading to the gradual replacement of the original temperate flora by more xeric species.


The fauna of the Xinjiang Tianshan is predominantly Palearctic but includes elements of the Central Asian sub-realm, the Mongolia-Xinjiang region and the Tianshan sub-region. There are 550 species of vertebrates, 367 species being rare and endangered, and 22 endemic. The nomination reports 102 mammal, 370 bird, 32 reptile, 6 amphibian and 40 fish species, although the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre notes that these figures may include sub-species. The Tianshan Mountains are a barrier to species exchange for some species between the Altai Mountains in the north and Kunlun-Altun Mountains in the south, but it is also a bridge for other species. Those noted are the more threatened and prominent species in each biome.

The desert biome has red fox Vulpes vulpes, Asiatic wildcat Felis sylvestris ornata, Pallas's cat Felis manul black-tailed gazelle Gazella subgutturosa sairensis (VU) and onager Equus hemionus kulan with a wealth of rodents and lizards which feed the predators. The steppe is similar but also has meadow viper Vipera ursinii (VU); the mountain steppe has Asian wild horse Equus ferus przewalskii (EN) and a larger range of both rodents and their predators. Steppe and meadow birds include the raptors Pallas's fish eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus (EN) and tawny eagle Aquila rapax, lesser kestrel Falco naumanni (VU) and hobby Falco subbuteo. The mid-range rivers have two rare fish: spiny spurgeon Accipenser nudiventris (CR) and carp Cyprinus carpio (VU), which is found in all the sites except Tomur, and the Siberian salamander Ranadon sibiricus (EN).

The mountain evergreen coniferous forest contains the most abundant animal populations of the range, and thousands of species of insects. Again there are many rodents including IIi pika Ocotona iliensis (EN), also wolf Canis lupus, red fox Vulpes vulpes, Himalayan bear Ursus arctos isabellinus, many mustelids including marbled polecat Vormela peregusma (VU), Tianshan badger Meles meles tianschanensis, Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx, wild hog Sus scrofa and Tianshan wapiti (elk) Cervus canadensis songaricus. Raptors include eastern imperial eagle Aquila heliaca (VU), greater spotted eagle A.clanga (VU) and saker falcon Falco cherrug (VU).

The sub-alpine meadows also have a high number of insect species: bees, butterflies, flies and horse flies. Golden eagle Aquila chrysaetos, northern goshawk Accipiter gentiles, saker Falco cherrug and pallid harrier Circus macrourus prey on the rodents. The Alpine meadows are the main feeding grounds of passeriformes and the lakes are a magnet for migrating waterbirds. Among the raptors are black eagle Aegypius monachus, Himalayan vulture Gyps himalayensis and lammergeier Gypaegus barbatus. This zone is also an important habitat for rodents and with the increase of herbivores, the same large range of carnivores is present. With the Alpine cushion vegetation, the number of insects and animals increases, such as Himalayan snowcock Tetraogallus himalayensis, alpine chough, Pyrrhocorax graculus, Siberian ibex Capra sibericus and several subspecies of Ovis ammon, the main prey of the snow leopard Panthera uncia (EN), which is found in Bayabeluke and on Bogda in the nival zone.


Few temperate zone mountain ranges rising from deserts have entered the World Heritage list. The Xinjiang Tianshan has high beautiful mountains with many glaciers and lakes, and high inter-montane grassland basins. It lies within a Conservation International hotspot, and a Centre of Plant Diversity and is part of a WWF Global 200 ecoregion. The northern Bogda is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.


Historically, Xinjiang was known as Chinese Turkistan, and the Tianshan, the Heavenly Mountains. They were well known because the northern branch of the Silk Route to the west passed through the Taklamakan desert along the foothill oases of the range. Today, it is still one of the most iconic symbols in China, the inspiration of numerous legends, poems, paintings and songs.


Xinjiang has a very low population density and in the Tianshan, little development, except in the gap between the Bogda site and the main range where the land routes to Urumqi, northern Xinjiang and Kazakhstan pass through. The core zone seasonal population of 4,446 herdsmen in 2010 is largely Kazakh in the north, Mongol and Uyghur, with people from other ethnic minorities elsewhere. The remoteness and the nomads' light use of the mountains have preserved their pristine character. Grazing will nevertheless be banned from the core zones. The considerable influx of Han people from the east has little impact on the mountain areas.


Tourism in the property more than doubled from 63,200 in 2001 to 156,600 in 2010. In that year, 108,200 (69%) visitors went to the more developed Bogda Mountains near Urumchi, the region's capital, 28,900 (18.5%) to Tomur, 10,000 (6.5%) to Kalajun-Kuerdening and 9,500 (6%) to Bayinbuluke. The Tianshan Wild Animal Park at the southern foot of Bogda Mountain, and tours to Lake Tianshi at 1,950m up the mountain are the best known and best serviced tourist attractions (also the Southern Pasture 75 km south of Urumqi where there are horse racing and displays of Uighur folk customs). A wide range of facilities has been developed, with visitor centers, guided routes, emergency centers and heritage museums built or being built for each site. Accommodation, restaurants and shops are found in the buffer areas.


In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, foreign and Chinese explorers and scientists visited the Tianshan. Since 1949, the Xinjiang Institute of Geology and Geography of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has organized research into every aspect of the mountains and has compiled a comprehensive plan for future research. Chinese and foreign scholars have published more than 400 research papers and books on the geological features, physical geography, biology and ecology. The mountains have become an important base for research, teaching practice and popular science education for many Chinese and foreign universities and research institutes. Each site managing authority is responsible for the construction of a digital monitoring centre and scientific centre, to enhance the scientific conservation and management of the property and to implement protective and management measures. There is an Environmental Monitoring Station on Bogdashan and a Protection Centre for snow leopards in the Tomur area.


All the sites are already protected areas which are governed, like wildlife and wild plants, grassland and water resources by a range of national laws and regulations specific to each, administered by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development. Such are the Environmental Protection Law (1989), Nature Reserves and Park Regulations (1994) and National Forest Law (1998). The property is also subject to a number of local laws and regulations of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (2006-2011) and Regulations on the Protection of World Natural Heritage Property of Xinjiang Tianshan. Each site has a management plan, and a plan for the whole property was drafted in 2012, but there is a need for a comprehensive plan to integrate the governance of all four sites. When this is ready, it will be overseen by the National Commission of UNESCO within the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, by regional and prefectural authorities and by site level administrators. At present, all the sites have highly qualified management staff and adequate funding.

Herdsmen communities were consulted about relocation from the property and were mostly supportive because it was to involve improvements in housing, healthcare, education, transport, information and other public services, in addition to allocations of farmland and alternative pasturelands. However, some did not want to change their traditional nomadic lifestyle and were worried about their capacity to earn if they did so. The State Party was willing to consider and work towards traditional sustainable land use in the World Heritage sites. Tourism in the entire region is predicted to grow fast with an overall capacity capped at 9,500,000 annual visitors, a growth which will have to be managed in an environmentally sensitive way with benefits returned to local communities. A comprehensive tourism strategy is needed to monitor and manage the impacts of tourism such as 4WD access to high meadows. Monitoring will be regularly done of some 20 subjects including glaciers, environmental conditions and quality, ecological processes, exceptional plants and animals, community populations and tourist numbers.


Very few constraints exist. Grazing causes slight degradation in places and is to be banned from core sites. Systems for monitoring geological disasters, forest fires and pests and tourist pressure in the buffer zones are being set up. Tourism and the expense of its control are impacts which will increase with visitation. There is also a lack of research into habitats and plant species. Climate warming is affecting the glaciers and the viability of temperate species, though neither is yet a serious threat.


The World Heritage sites most comparable to the Tianshan are the central Asian temperate mountain chains of the Mountains of the Pamirs in Tajikistan, the Golden Mountains of the Altai in Russia and the Karakorum-Himalayan chain which has the two sites of Nanda Devi & Valley of Flowers, and Sagamartha National Park. There is also the western half of the Tianshan, with its northern offshoot in Kyrgistan and Kazakhstan, the Kunlun-Nanshan Mountains south of the Taklamakan and the proposed Greater Himalayan National Park. The Hindu Kush also shares some similarity but is classified as a separate biogeographic province. None of the latter four areas have World Heritage designation.

The closest related site, now designated as a World Heritage property, is the Mountains of the Pamir in Tajikstan National Park. Both are in the same Conservation International biodiversity hotspot, the Mountains of Central Asia, and share similar biota; both are representative of the Global 200 Ecoregion, the Middle Asian Montane Steppe and Woodlands, and are Centers of Plant Diversity. Xinjiang Tianshan has contrasting but equally spectacular mountain features with the highest mountain and most extensive glacier fields in the Tianshan and a greater range of landscapes with diverse ecosystems but in smaller and more dispersed sites. The Northern and Western Tianshan in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan show a less sharp contrast between temperate mountains and the surrounding deserts, and fewer features characteristic of the whole range than the Xinjiang property whether of glaciers, floral abundance or altitudinal range, and less variety of interacting and specialized types of vegetation.

Of the existing World heritage sites, Nanda Devi & Valley of Flowers National Parks, the Sagarmatha National Park in the Himalayas (and the proposed Great Himalayan National Park) have similarities but belong to another biogeographical province and biodiversity hotspot, the Himalayan Highlands, and do not directly compare. The Altai Mountains belong to a third biogeographical province with flora dominated by Siberian old world and holarctic elements, with Euro-Siberian forest ecosystems, xeric deserts, steppes and taiga. Their 2,000m altitudinal range is lower, peaking at 4,500m, and their topography is gentler, with fewer glaciers and less spectacular landscapes, though the Altai forests are more diverse.

The Karakorum Mountains to the south are also in the Himalayan biogeographic province. The flora is dominated by Central Asian elements, but the northern slope has the dryer climate of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau and the plant diversity is much lower: Juniperus spp. replaces Picea spp. as the dominant forest, and the fauna is also different. The Kunlun Mountains on the southern side of the Tarim basin have an even drier climate with only about 100 higher plant species, more xeric with mostly dwarf shrubs, and lacks relict species. The fauna belongs to the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau province where the landscape is a high desert steppe. Remotely similar as temperate mountain chains are the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, Waterton-Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, the Kluane complex in Alaska and the Yukon, Los Glaciares in Argentina, the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan, Te Wahipounamu in southwest New Zealand and the Volcanoes of Kamchatka. But none shares the unique situation of an east-west Central Asian range running between two deserts.


The staff for all four sites totals 617, of whom 357 are deployed in the more heavily visited Bogda National Park and 83 in Tomur, 77 in Bayinbuluke, 65 in Kuerdening and 35 in Kalajun (Nomination, 2012). In each park over half are professional scientific, administrative or technical staff with a college education. Typically, there are divisions of planning and finance, of resource and forest affairs, scientific research, environmental protection, tourism and police. Bogda has ten such divisions and six institutions to manage and monitor its higher level of use. There are training programs at all levels and plans to hire local herdsmen as staff in basic management, patrolling and site interpretation.


A serious investment of resources has been made in the property, equivalent to US\$185 million in 2012, a third of the sum coming from the central government. The State Party has advised that an average of US\$106 million will be allocated for the whole property over the next 5 years. At present, of 92,337 million Yuan, 88,585 million Yuan goes to Bogda, to develop this exemplary site but which also contributes a third of the whole expenses in revenues.


Ministry of Housing & Urban-Rural Development of China, 9#, Sanlihe Road, Beijing 100835, China.

Department of Housing & Urban-Rural Development of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region,

462#, Zhongshan Road, Building A, People's Square, Urumqi, Xinjiang 830002, China.


Administrative Bureau of Tomur Peak National Nature Reserve, 60#, Wuka Road, Aksu City, Xinjiang 843000, China. Email:

Administrative Commission of Kalajun Park, 31#, Xinhua West Road, Yining City, Xinjiang 835000. Email:

Administrative Bureau of Western Tianshan National Nature Reserve, 31#, Xinhua West Road, Yining City, Xinjiang 835000, China. Email:

Administrative Bureau of Bayinbuluke Natural Nature Reserve, West Bayin Road, Korla City, Xinjiang, 841000, China. Email:

Administrative Commission of Xinjiang Tianchi, 501#, Junggar Road, Fukang county, Xinjiang 831500, China. Email:


The principal sources for the above information were the original World Heritage nomination, the IUCN site evaluation report and Decision 36 COM 8B.8 of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

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------------- (2012b). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bogda (Tian Chi). Downloaded from on 21/11/2012.

------------- (2012c). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Gongliu spruce forest. Downloaded from on 21/11/2012.

-------------- (2012d). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mount Tuomuer Nature Reserve. Downloaded from on 21/11/2012.

Conservation International (2012). Mountains of Central Asia. Hotspot description. Online: .

Cui, D. et al. (2006). Studies on the floristic composition and genesis of the wild fruit forest in Tianshan Mountains in China Forest Research, 19 (5): 555-560.

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