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Ecoregion Description

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Species Richness

# of Endemic Species


444: Lake Van

Major Habitat Type:

xeric freshwaters and endorheic (closed) basins


Brian Coad




This ecoregion is defined by the basin of Lake Van. It is bordered by the Kura- South Caspian Drainages ecoregion [434] on the east and the Upper Tigris & Euphrates ecoregion [432] on the other borders.

Drainages flowing into:

Endorheic Lake Van

Main rivers or other water bodies:

Lake Van and its tributary rivers.


Lake Van lies at 1719 m above sea level and has a catchment area of 18,298 km2. It is about 129 km long and 56 km wide. A lava dam on the west isolates the lake from the upper Euphrates River. It is surrounded by mountains of the Turkish Taurus Range, which reach 4434 m.


The ecoregion has a continental climate with hot, dry summers and cold winters. The mean annual temperature is 6.7 °C. Temperatures range between an average mimimum -10 °C  and average maximum of 27 °C. Mean annual precipitation is 514 mm.

Freshwater habitats:

Lake Van is a large saline and soda lake with no outlet. The three main rivers that drain into the lake − the Bendimahi, Karasu, and Hosap − flow through a bare undulating landscape.

Terrestrial Habitats:

The Lake Van basin falls within the Eastern Anatolian montane steppe terrestrial ecoregion. It is generally mountainous but bordered by limited arable plains on the north and east. The vegetation is mixed forest, much of which is now degraded.

Fish Fauna:

The fish fauna of this ecoregion is very limited, with only three known cyprinids, including tarek (Alburnus tarichi), Barbus plebejus, and Capoeta kosswigi, and one balitorid (Nemacheilus pulsiz).

Description of endemic fishes:

There are no endemic genera, but three species are endemic (Alburnus tarichi, Capoeta kosswigi, Nemacheilus pulsiz). 

Other noteworthy aquatic biotic elements:

Bacterial extremophiles are known from the highly saline Lake Van.

Ecological phenomena:

Tarek (Alburnus tarichi) is adapted to the alkaline lake environment and forms the basis for a fishery.

Evolutionary phenomena:

The Lake Van basin was isolated from the Tigris-Euphrates basin by the eruption of Mt. Nemrut during the Pleistocene. Relict species resulted from this isolation.

Justification for delineation:

Lake Van is the fourth largest terminal lake and has an unusual alkaline chemistry (pH 9.7). It was delineated based on its isolation and relict species.

Level of taxonomic exploration:



World Wildlife, Fund (2001). "Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World" 2005 (2005;

The Nature Conservancy World Wildlife Fund
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