The transnational site is located in the Tien-Shan mountain system, one of the largest mountain ranges in the world. It spans over three countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Western Tien-Shan covers 467,550 ha at an altitude ranging from 700 to 4,503 m. It features diverse landscapes, which are home to exceptionally rich biodiversity. It is of global importance as a centre of origin for a number of cultivated fruit crops and is home to a great diversity of forest types and unique plant community associations.
It spans over three Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs):
- the Aksu-Dzhabagly State Nature Reserve,
- the Kenshektau Mountains and
- the Bashkyzylsay Unit of the Chatkal Mountains Biosphere Reserve.
The nominated property includes:
- the Aksu-Dzhabagly and Karatay Reserves,
- the Sairam-Ugam National Park (all located in the Republic of Kazakhstan),
- the Padisha-Ata,
- Besh-Aral and
- Sary-Chelek Reserves (all located in the Kyrgyz Republic), and
- the Chatkal Biosphere Reserve (located in the Republic of Uzbekistan).
Incredibly biodiverse, Western Tien-Shan showcases a wide array of landscapes, ecosystems, fauna and flora. It is home to a considerable number of endemic species and communities, as well as a large number of wild, rare and threatened species. Close to half of its species are endemic to Central Asia. Among the vertebrates found in the region are 61 species of mammals, 316 species of birds, 17 species of reptiles, 3 species of amphibians and over 20 species of fish. This World Heritage Site also supports 14 species of flora and 18 of fauna listed as globally threatened by the IUCN.