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Lake Buir

Geographical Coordinates
47°48’ N, 117°40’ E

Geographical Location
Republic of Mongolia, Dornod Province. At boundary with China, 969 km east from Ulaanbaatar, 314 km east from Choibalsan town of Dornod aimag, and about 20 km southwest from Khalh gol soum. Lakes northeastern part lies in the territory of China.

Area:  104,000 ha of which the lake covers 615 km2 or 61,500 ha

Altitude: 581 m

Wetland Type
Ramsar classification -  L, Tp, O, M

This is largest freshwater lake in the eastern Mongolia at teh border with China includes a large portion of wetlands. Many small lakes located to the west of the lake.
The Lake and its surrounding wetlands are an important breeding and resting ground in Mongolia for a great variety of water birds. The lake basin belongs to the Mongol-Daguur eco-region, which is one of the 200 global eco-regions, identified by the WWF for its conservation importance.
Created on March 22, 2004.

Lake Buir is 40 km long, 21 km wide, and has 118 km long shoreline. Its maximum depth is 10,4 m and water volume is 3,73 cub.km. Main tributary is Khalkh River and excess water goes to the Orshuun River, which is flowing to the Lake Dalai-Nuur in China. There is a number of small lakes in east to south of Buir Lake, such as Bayan, Khar, Nariin, Zuun Zahiin, Zahiin, Baruun Zahiin, Takhi, Khukh Us and Shart Lake. Water temperature of the lake is 25 - 28ºC in summer. Freezes from November to April,
and ice thickness varies 1,1—1,5 m. Mineralization of the lake varies 298,7—365,9 mg/l in the western part of the lake and 200,5 - 294,1 mg/l in the east. pH = 8,5. The wetland is of fundamental importance for the ground water recharge of the area.

Steppe plant communities surround the wetland. Bushy plants (Papurus etc.) are found abundantly in the Khalkh River delta, and natural scene at the north-east of the lake is extremely beautiful. The surrounding of the Buir Lake, as a migration route for endangered species in the worldwide, contains many species of plants and animals. Salty small lakes and muds  occur in the low depression and salty valleys in the south of the lake.

The Buir Lake is surrounded by the steppe vegetation system, which are formed from Daguur type from the north, Mongolian type from the south and Manjurian (China) vegetation type from the east. The wetlands contain 100 species of humidarid plants, 102 species of humid favoured plants, 19 water plants, 28 species of wetland plants, and 64 species of halophytic plants. White Peony (Paeonia lactiflora) False spirea (Sorbaria sorbifola), Gas plant (Dictamnus dasycarpus), Common valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Bunge Anemarrhena asphodeloides, Lilium dahuricum that are listed in the Mongolian Red List of Threatened Species (1997) are found in the area.

The Buir Lake and its surrounding area support totally 236 birds species. 37 species of them are settled and 199 species are migratory. This is the world’s largest aggregation of molting Swan Goose (Anser cygnoides) reaching 40,000 birds. The Buir Lake, the most nourishing lake in Mongolia, supports 29 species of fish,
such as, Taimen (Hucho taimen), Lenok (Brachymystax lenok), Amur grayling (Thymallus grubei), Amur pike (Esox reicherti), Amur ide (Leuciscus waleckii), Flathead asp (Pseudaspius leptocephalus), Mongolian redfin (Erythroculter mongoliacus), Look up (Culter alburnus), Gold fish (Carassius auratus), European carp (Cyprinus carpio haematopterus), Amur catfish (Parasilurus asotus). 25 species of mammals known in the surrounding areas of the lake, among which 15 are abundant, and 10 are rare. Thousands of Mongolian gazelle (Procapra gutturosa) herds migrate into the area during fall and spring.

Semi-nomadic, animal husbandry is the principal livelihood of the local population. The herdsmen breed sheep, goat, horse, cattle and camel. There is no crop production or indus try near by the lake, except commercial fishing. There are no settlements within the wetlands, except small fishing village in the eastern bank.

Directions of the Khalkh River flows change constantly and one side of the bank are eroded by water while others are regenerating. Global warming, the most important environmental and ecological problem has caused decreasing water supply and shrinking lake area. Fish resources are extensively used, mostly by Chinese commercial fishermen. Oil mining by foreign companies has experienced skyrocketing growth in adjacent areas.

Establishment of protected area was proposed several times by domestic and international experts and it was finally taken under local protection in 2014. During 2006-2008, the Institute of Biology of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, the Wildlife Science and Conservation Center and the Korean National Science Museum have jointly
conducted a study on the Swan Goose in Buir Lake. No tangible measures were undertaken yet on wetland conservation of the Buir lake and its surrounding area. There is a need to conduct complete assessments on fish resources and plan conservation measures.

© Wetlands International, 1998
Updated by WWF-Mongolia in 2016