Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 25, Issue 12, pp 2521–2541 | Cite as

Persistent and novel threats to the biodiversity of Kazakhstan’s steppes and semi-deserts

  • Johannes KampEmail author
  • Maxim A. Koshkin
  • Tatyana M. Bragina
  • Todd E. Katzner
  • E. J. Milner-Gulland
  • Dagmar Schreiber
  • Robert Sheldon
  • Alyona Shmalenko
  • Ilya Smelansky
  • Julien Terraube
  • Ruslan Urazaliev
Original Paper


Temperate grasslands have suffered disproportionally from conversion to cropland, degradation and fragmentation. A large proportion of the world’s remaining near-natural grassland is situated in Kazakhstan. We aimed to assess current and emerging threats to steppe and semi-desert biodiversity in Kazakhstan and evaluate conservation research priorities. We conducted a horizon-scanning exercise among conservationists from academia and practice. We first compiled a list of 45 potential threats. These were then ranked by the survey participants according to their perceived severity, the need for research on them, and their novelty. The highest-ranked threats were related to changes in land use (leading to habitat loss and deterioration), direct persecution of wildlife, and rapid infrastructure development due to economic and population growth. Research needs were identified largely in the same areas, and the mean scores of threat severity and research need were highly correlated. Novel threats comprised habitat loss by photovoltaic and wind power stations, climate change and changes in agriculture such as the introduction of biofuels. However, novelty was not correlated with threat severity or research priority, suggesting that the most severe threats are the established ones. Important goals towards more effective steppe and semi-desert conservation in Kazakhstan include more cross-sector collaboration (e.g. by involving stakeholders in conservation and agriculture), greater allocation of funds to under-staffed areas (e.g. protected area management), better representativeness and complementarity in the protected area system and enhanced data collection for wildlife monitoring and threat assessments (including the use of citizen-science databases).


Horizon scanning Protected area Land-use change Grazing Agriculture Saiga tatarica 



We thank Sarah Robinson, Navinder Singh and two anonymous reviewers for insightful comments, and Marina Chirikova and Til Dieterich for providing literature. Authors AS and RU were funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, project BALTRAK (Project Ref-No. A112025). Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Supplementary material

10531_2016_1083_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (111 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 111 kb) Appendix S1: List of all compiled potential threats assessed by the contributors


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johannes Kamp
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maxim A. Koshkin
    • 2
  • Tatyana M. Bragina
    • 3
  • Todd E. Katzner
    • 4
  • E. J. Milner-Gulland
    • 5
  • Dagmar Schreiber
    • 6
  • Robert Sheldon
    • 7
  • Alyona Shmalenko
    • 8
  • Ilya Smelansky
    • 9
  • Julien Terraube
    • 10
  • Ruslan Urazaliev
    • 8
  1. 1.Institute of Landscape EcologyUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany
  2. 2.University of East Anglia, School of Environmental Sciences, Norwich Research ParkNorwichUK
  3. 3.Kostanay State University and Naurzum State Nature ReserveKostanayKazakhstan
  4. 4.U.S. Geological Survey, Snake River Field StationBoiseUSA
  5. 5.Department of ZoologyUniversity of Oxford, The Tinbergen BuildingOxfordUK
  6. 6.KasachstanreisenBerlinGermany
  7. 7.Ornithological Society of the Middle East and Central Asia (OSME), c/o RSPBSandyUK
  8. 8.Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK)AstanaKazakhstan
  9. 9.SibecocenterNovosibirskRussia
  10. 10.Department of BiologyUniversity of Turku, University HillTurkuFinland

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