Airag lake

Surface area: 73.348ha
Elevation: 1.030-1.079m

Protection status: Partially protected by Khyargas Lake National Park.

Site description: The freshwater lake, Airag, located in Khyargas Lake Depression, is one of beautiful freshwater lakes of Great Lakes Depression. The lake freezes over from November to April. The site covers Zavkhan river delta, Airag Lake and its surrounding sparsely vegetated semi-desert area. The major uses of land are livestock grazing and small-scale fishing. Because of its remote location, tourism is less developed. Degradation of pastureland, desertification and illegal hunting are main threats at the site. There aren’t any protection management plan and protecting measures not taken here. Carrion of juvenile Dalmatian without beaks is evidence of illegal hunting taking place at the site. The Airag Lake is included in Ramsar site.

Importance for birds: The site is one of few places where Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus) of the East Asian bird populations harbor. Nationally threatened bird species such as White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala), Swan Goose (Anser cygnoides), Asian Dowitcher (Limnodromus semipalmatus), Relict Gull (Larus relictus) and Pallas’s Fish-eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus) occur here. Every year about 20000 waterbirds spend the summer in Airag Lake. Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus), Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus, White Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala), Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea), Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina), Common Pochard (Aythya ferina), Kentish Plover( Charadrius alexandrines), Greater Sand Plover (C. leschenaultia) and Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) occur in numbers in excess of 1% threshold of world flyway population. The site also supports the Eurasian high montane, steppe and dessert biome.

Special flora and fauna: Mongolian grayling (Thymallus brevirostris), narrow-headed Altai osman (Oreoleuciscus angusticephalus), dwarf osman (Oreoleuciscus humilis) and Dwarf Altai osman of Western Mongolian endemic fish species live in the lake. Some rare semi-desert grassland vegetations occur around the lake. Rare mammals Goitered Gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa) and Thick-tailed Pygmy Jerboa (Salpingotus crassicauda) occur here. The rarest aquatic plant of Mongolia, Typho minima grows at the site.