Background and goals
The Eurasian cold winter – also referred to as temperate – deserts, spreading from northern Iran across Central Asia to Mongolia – are globally outstanding nature regions. They are an important migration area for birds and the last wild herds of ungulates, such as the Saiga antelope. The enormous landmasses deliver a broad range of ecosystem services. These include important pasture grounds in the region’s arid and semi-arid drylands, fixing sediments, and thus mitigating desertification processes as well as sequestering carbon.
Despite their ecological importance, temperate deserts are, according to a study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), one of the least recognized biomes worldwide. The temperate deserts are the only biome worldwide for which the UNESCO has not yet inscribed a World Natural Heritage site. Likewise, areas with nature conservation status in these deserts are clearly underrepresented and insufficiently managed.
Temperate deserts are threatened by degradation processes due to overexploitation of natural resources, inappropriate grazing practices, and large-scale infrastructure development. Signs of irreversible loss of habitats and species, some of them endemic and globally threatened, are becoming apparent. This detracts from a solid and healthy natural basis for human welfare in the whole region.
Against this background, the Central Asian Desert Initiative (CADI) aims to preserve the biodiversity and ecosystem services of the winter cold deserts in Central Asia.
The main CADI target countries are Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, which carry a high responsibility for the preservation of this biome. CADI also supports these countries in meeting their commitments under key international conventions (UNCBD, UNCCD, UNFCCC as well as CMS), and initiating and implementing measures for coordinated transboundary protection of the desert biome.
With its aims – the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services of the cold winter deserts of Central Asia – CADI contributes to attaining the 20 Aichi Biodiversity targets (targets 11 and 15).