Location And Description
The Kyzylkum Desert, which may also be spelled as Qyzylqum, is a desert in Central Asia. The name, which is a Turkic one, translates to “Red Sand. The Kyzylkum Desert is 16th worldwide in terms of size compared to other deserts. The desert lies in the doab sandwiched by two rivers; the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya, in a section of the world that is historically called Sogdiana or Transoxania. As it stands today, it spans approximately 115,000 square miles lying in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan.
As is typical with most desert, the Kyzylkum Desert is a vast plain with an average height of approximately 980 feet above the level of the sea. Within the plain, there are several highlands and depressions such as Bukantau and Sultanuizdag. Sand dunes (or barchans to be more specific) dominate a huge percentage of the vast plain. The northwestern region is mostly dominated by takirs (meaning clay coatings) with a few oases also present in that region. Due to the presence of several oases and rivers, it is not surprising that the regions around them are lush with agricultural activities and settlements. The geography of the desert also means that temperatures within it are bound to be higher than normal. In fact, one time in July 1983, an extremely inland city known as Kerki recorded highs of 126 °F.
Flora And Fauna
Admittedly, the fauna (animals) in the desert is not that diverse. Some of the animals that have made the desert home include the likes of the Russian tortoise and a huge lizard called the Desert Monitor or the Transcaspian which may grow up to a surprising 5.2 feet. On occasion, albeit rarely, the Saiga Antelope ventures through the northern section of the unforgiving desert during the antelope’s migration.
As part of a conservation effort, the Kyzylkum reserve was established in 1971 in the Bukhara Province. Some of the fauna living in the reserve include the Bukhara Deer, the Golden Eagle, Common Pheasant, and others. Another reserve, Djeyran, which is some 25 miles south of Bukhara, also has a few fauna including the Persian Gazelle, the Turkmenian Kulan, Przewalski's Horse, and Houbara Bustard. Djeyran was established back in 1977 and spans about 20 square miles while the Kyzylkum reserve spans approximately 39,000 square miles.
Plants are few and scattered with the few trees and shrubs serving as pasture for animal species such as the domesticated camels, sheep, and horses.
Despite being a desert with little life, the desert plays an important role in the economy. Some of the natural resources that are found in it include minerals such as gold, copper, uranium, silver, aluminum, oil, and even natural gas deposits. The availability of these minerals has led to the establishment of several mining and smelting centers such as at Uchkuduk, Zarafshan city, and Navoi. Gas production centers are at Mubarek and Gazli. Aside from all these, the few resources such as the water and little vegetation is used to feed domestic animals and livestock.