The influence of water shortage on birds at the Ili Delta in Kazakhstan

Julia Hennlein, Julia Hennlein@stud
The Ili Delta in Kazakhstan is an important ecosystem that offers crucial wetland habitats for several bird species. However, the Ili River, the Ili Delta and the Balkhash Lake are suffering from water shortage due to climate change and human activities. The desertification of the Aral Sea, an obvious point of comparison to the Balkhash region, also involved the degradation of wetland habitats and the related loss of many bird species relying on these habitats. Therefore, water shortage at the
more » ... er shortage at the Ili Delta may also be the reason for the loss of wetland habitats and bird species. In this study, bird species numbers, species abundances as well as bird diversity at different habitats in the Ili Delta were examined. There are many habitat types provided by the Ili Delta, for example reed bed vegetation, Tugay forest, bare soil floodplains along rivers and steppe. The results of this study showed that the central delta region with habitats of submerged reed vegetation showed the highest number of bird species and the greatest diversity. Threatened bird species at the Ili Delta were also observed only in these wetland habitats. Steppe habitats showed the lowest numbers of bird species and the lowest bird diversity. In general, all habitats at the Ili Delta are important for the ecosystem and essential for the bird species that depend on them for their survival. With expansion of arid steppe habitats due to water shortage, however, previous wetland habitats may be lost. Moreover, bird species that depend on these wetland habitats may also be lost. Therefore, protective measures for the Balkhash region in general and the wetland habitats at the Ili Delta and its distinct avifauna in particular are urgently needed.