Tajikistan is located in the southern part of the Commonwealth of Independent States, within Central Asia, in the center of Eurasia, between the latitudes 36°40? and 41°05? and longitudes 67°31' and 75°14'.
The area of Tajikistan is 143.1 thousand sq.km. The altitudes vary from 300 to 7,495 meters above sea level. The area stretches WE for 700 km, and NS for 350 km. Tajikistan borders on Uzbekistan in the north and west, Kyrgyzstan - in the north, Afghanistan - in the south, China - in the east. In the southeast, Tajikistan is separated from India and Pakistan by a band of Afghan area, from 15 to 65 km wide.
Geographically, Tajikistan is generally subdivided into five natural and geographic zones: Northern Tajikistan, Southwestern Tajikistan, Central Tajikistan, the Western Pamirs, and the Eastern Pamirs. These zones differ from each other in climatic conditions, relief, geological structure, vegetation, animal world, and anthropogenic load.
The climate of Tajikistan is continental, characterized by considerable seasonal and daily fluctuations of temperature, humidity and other meteorological elements. The annual average sunshine varies from 2,000 to 3,160 hours.
The precipitation distribution depends mainly on the location and orientation of mountain ranges and, consequently, on the air mass circulation. Thus, in the hot deserts of southern Tajikistan and cold high-mountain deserts of the Eastern Pamirs, mean annual precipitation varies from 70 to 160 mm, while the maximum is observed in central Tajikistan, where it can exceed 2,000 mm. The most humid areas are western and southwestern exposed to the wind slopes.
The unique local types of the climate are formed due to the complicated relief and the great amplitude of altitudes. Mean annual air temperature varies over the area of Tajikistan within a wide range: from + 17°C in the south of the country to - 7° C in the east. The highest temperature is observed in July, and the lowest temperature is in January. Mean annual air temperature reaches +14 to +17°C in the valleys of southwestern Tajikistan, +14 +15°C in the valleys of northern Tajikistan, and +6 +11°C in foothill areas. The high-mountain areas of the Western Pamirs are characterized by a more severe climate. Here, mean annual air temperature is close to zero, rising up to +6+8°C in the lower reaches. Particularly severe climate is observed in the Eastern Pamirs, where mean annual air temperature is mainly negative, -1-6°C. The absolute minimum is observed in Bulunkul Lake (-63°C). For the last 50 years, the average air temperature in different geographical provinces of the country has increased by 0.2-1.3°C, which is very likely due to the global warming.
Various tectonic processes are presently active in Tajikistan. The mountains, assigned to the highest mountain systems of Central Asia - Tien Shan and the Pamirs, occupy about 93% of the area. Nearly half of the country area is located at 3,000 masl and above, the difference between the highest and lowest points is more than 7,000 m.
The main geographic elements of Tajikistan are: the Kuramin Range and the Mogoltau Mountains, Fergana Depression, Gissar-Alai Mountains, the depressed area in southwestern Tajikistan (Tajik depression), and the Pamirs. The major hills and mountain chains of Tajikistan are Kuramin, Zeravshan, Turkestan, Gissar, Karateghin, Vakhsh, Vanch, Yazgulem, Ishkashim, Sarykol, Rushan, Shugnan, Shakhdara, North Alichur and South Alichur, Peter the Great, Academy of Science, Khazratisho, Muzkol, Karatau, Tuyunau, etc.
Geologically, the area of Tajikistan is very interesting; many types of mountainous rocks, assigned to various geological epochs, represent it. The southwestern and northern parts of the country are characterized mainly by Quaternary, Neogene, and Paleogene geological systems. In Central Tajikistan, the Cambrian, Ordovician, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Permian, Carboniferous, and Neogene systems, as well as intrusive rocks, prevail. Precambrian deposits, intrusive rocks, as well as the Jurassic, Permian, Carboniferous, and Triassic systems dominate in the Pamirs.
The republic is rich in many deposits of natural resources: coal, oil, gas, mercury, molybdenum, tin, antimony, gold, silver, phosphorite, salt, talc, asbestos, fluorine, limestone, marble, gypsum, clay, sand-pebble materials, precious stones, etc. On the whole, nearly 400 deposits of natural resources are explored, over 70 of which are being exploited now.
Due to the specific features of the landscape and climate, Tajikistan is a large center of contemporary glaciation in Central Asia. Glaciers and permanent snows of Tajikistan are the main sources of water for the Aral Sea basin rivers.
Glaciers occupy the area of 8.0±0.4 thousand sq.km, which is about 6% of the entire area of the republic. The water reserves in snowfields and glaciers reach 550 cubic km. They provide abundant water resources and form the local climatic conditions. The main ice masses are accumulated in the Western Pamirs. There are more than a thousand glaciers in Tajikistan, 7 of which are more than 20 km long. The glaciers provide over 13 cubic km of water annually, which makes almost a quarter of the annual flow of Tajikistan’s rivers.
Climate warming led to widespread glacier retreat. The largest glacier, Fedchenko, has regressed for nearly 1 km in 20th century, reduced by 11 sq.km in area, and by 2 cubic km in volume; almost all of its right-side tributaries have been separated and became independent glaciers. At the present time, the lower part of the glacier is cracked and covered with glacial lakes for 6-8 km. Many other glaciers of the country are also regressing and reducing in volume everywhere.
The rivers of Tajikistan are important sources feeding the Aral Sea; they bring life to the below located areas; they are essential for cotton growing and hydropower industry of Central Asia and Tajikistan. There are four main watersheds: Syrdarya River (northern Tajikistan), Zeravshan River (central Tajikistan), Pyanj River (southwestern Tajikistan and the Pamirs), and the basin of saltwater lakes in the Eastern Pamirs.
The major water streams in the area of Tajikistan are the following rivers: Pyanj, Vakhsh, Syrdarya, Zeravshan, Kafinigan, Bartang, etc. There are 947 rivers, more than 10 km long. Mean annual runoff varies from 1 l/sec/sq.km in the plains up to 45 l/sec/sq.km in the mountains. In high-water periods, characterizing by an intensive snow melting and heavy rains (April-August), many rivers bear a lot of suspended particles (over 5 kg/cubic m).
In terms of hydrological resources, Tajikistan takes the first place in Central Asia. The water resources are used mainly for irrigation, industrial and domestic needs. The potential of the mountainous rivers of Tajikistan is also used to produce hydroelectric power. Thus, 95% of the total electricity in Tajikistan is produced by hydroelectric power plants.
Ground water is used mainly for water supply and industrial needs. Hot and cold mineral water springs are widely spread in Tajikistan. The best-known springs are: Garmchashma, Lyangar, Anzob, Khojaobigarm, Sangkhok, Yavroz, Shaambary, and Tashbulak. Many of the mineral springs are used for medicinal, drinking, and other purposes.
Tajikistan is rich in lakes. There are over 1,000 lakes, 80% of which are located at the altitude above 3,000 masl and have an area less than 1 sq.km. The total area of large lakes exceeds 680 sq.km. In the origin, the lakes are subdivided into tectonic, erosive, and glacial. The largest lake of Tajikistan, Karakul (3,914 m above sea level), is located in the Eastern Pamirs; according to the latest scientific data, it was formed in the large meteorite crater; its area is 380 sq.km, water is salted; the lake is non-outlet. The deepest freshwater lake of Tajikistan is Sarez Lake (3,239 m above sea level), 490 m deep; the area is 86.5 sq.km. Sarez Lake is located in the Western Pamirs, in the steep-sloped canyon of the Bartang River; it resulted from the huge landslide in February 1911. The water volume in the lake exceeds 17 cubic km. Governmental authorities and local people are very concerned about Sarez Lake’s dam stability.
Four vertical high-altitude zones of soil cover are distinguished in Tajikistan: plain and low-mountain, with gray soils; middle mountain, with brown soils; high mountain, with meadow-steppe, steppe, and desert soils; and nival. The plain and low-mountain zone occupies the altitudes from 300 to 1,600 masl, middle mountains - from 1,600 to 2,800 masl, high-mountains - from 2,800 to 4,500 masl, and nival zone above 3,000-4,500 masl. Gray soils are used for irrigative agriculture, and brown soils for rain-fed agriculture.
The flora of Tajikistan is rich and diverse, and includes nearly 4.5 thousand species of vascular plants, many endemic and rare species. As a typical mountainous country, Tajikistan is characterized by a high-altitude zonation of the vegetation cover and a geographical isolation of plant communities.
The following types of communities are characteristic for Tajikistan: broad-leaf forests (Acer turkestanicum, Juglans regia), tugai flooded forests (Populus pruinosa, Elaeagnus angustifolia, Tamarix laxa, Phragmites communis), small-leaf forests (Salix turanica, Hippophae rhamnoides, Populus tadshicistanica, Betula tadshicistanica), juniper forests (Juniperus turkestanica, J. seravcshanica, J. semiglobosa), xerophytic light forests (Pistacia vera, Cercis griffithil, Amygdalus bucharica), shrubs (Rosa kokanica), woody deserts (saxaul), dwarf semi-shrub high-mountain and lowland deserts, steppes, semisavannas, meadows and others.
The animal world is rich and distinguishing. The area of Tajikistan represents a variety of habitats for 84 species and subspecies of mammals, 346 species of birds, 47 - reptiles, 52 - fish, 2 - amphibians, over 13 thousand species of invertebrates. Such diversity is mostly due to favorable geographic situation of Tajikistan within Eurasia and unique combination of natural environments ranging from hot deserts of southern Tajikistan to cold Pamir deserts. Few rare and endangered species of animals should be listed such as: Tajik markhur, argali, urial, Bukhara red deer, snow leopard, Central Asian cobra, gray monitor lizard, peregrine falcon, serpent eagle, etc.
Last update 03/03/2003