Kyrgyzstan is home to at least 27 wild tulip species, more than a third of the global total. At the height of spring, these beautiful species carpet mountain slopes in a brilliant show of yellow, orange and red. Such sites are, however, becoming increasingly rare. Tulips are in decline across the country, with most species struggling to cope with high levels of grazing pressure on these same mountain slopes. The loss of these species is an indicator of the declining health of these pastures. Intensive grazing also degrades soil, adversely affects other native plants and invertebrates, and reduces the quality of forage needed to sustain healthy livestock (which form a major part of local livelihoods and culture).
With support from the UK government’s Darwin Initiative and Finnis Scott Foundation, FFI is working to conserve wild tulips and restore 500 hectares of degraded pasture land. In partnership with Cambridge University Botanic Garden and Bioresurs, we are gathering vital field data on tulip distribution, ecology and threats, helping to pinpoint priority sites in order to protect the most vulnerable species. In these areas, and with our partner Association of Forest Land Users of Kyrgyzstan, we are working directly with pastoralists to help restore larger-scale areas of tulip habitat and grazing pasture. Key activities include development and implementation of pasture management plans, in which degraded areas of tulip habitat will be set aside and given time to recover. Lastly, the project will celebrate and build local and national pride in tulips as one of Kyrgyzstan’s most charismatic species, helping to build broader support for their long-term conservation.