The most part of the territory of Turkmenistan is in limits of Turanskaya lowland. The desert Kara Kum («black sand») occupies a median part of the republic. In the west prevail stony and rubble deserts, in the east – sandy deserts. Mountains and heights are located mainly in the southern part of the country. Only 3 % of the Turkmenistan area is suitable for the agriculture.
In the most southerly point of the country it is located the range Kopet Dagh (the highest point is the mountain Rizer, 2942 m). Low residual mountains Small Balhan (height above 777 m) and Big Balhan (mountain Arlan, 1881 m) are its northeast continuation. To the north from Kopet Dagh the plain passing in the west in extensive Near-Caspian lowland is stretched. Near of the coast of the Caspian sea the small Krasnovodsk plateau (height is about 308 m) is allocated. In the northwest the southern suburb of Ustyrt plateau comes into the limits of Turkmenistan with heights to 400–460 m.
In the most southern point of the country there are uplands of Badhyz and Karabil with the maximum heights according to 1267 m and 984 m. These are foothills of Paropamisus which proceed in territory of Afghanistan. Kugitangtau mountains with the highest point of Turkmenistan mountain Ajrybaba (3139) are in the most southeast point.
Country climate is droughty continental with the big differences of temperatures, a small amount of precipitation and high evaporating capacity. Summer is usually hot and dry, with average temperatures of July 28–32 °C. Winters are soft, with little snow, however in separate years it is happened plentiful, but short-term snowfalls and temperature can go down to–20 °C. Average January temperatures differ from –5 °C in the northeast of the country to +4 °C in the south. The average annual sum of precipitations makes approximately 80 mm on the average current of Amudarya, 150 mm in Kara Kum, 200–300 mm in foothills and intermountain valleys and over 400 mm in mountains. Hot dry winds and dusty storms are typical for the plains.
Almost all territory of Turkmenistan, except for southeast and southwest suburbs, has no constant superficial drain. The largest river Amudarya receiving a ice-snow recharge in the mountains of Pamir, comes on the territory of Turkmenistan in the average current. From this river Kara Kum canal (nowadays – a name of Turkmenbashi) over 1000 km is to the west taken away extent. Besides river, it is also fed by ground waters. In the south of the country three considerable rivers – Murghab, Tedzhen and Atrek – receive a snow-rain food in the mountains of Paropamisus and Kopet Dagh (in territory of Afghanistan and Iran). From Kopet Dagh and other medium-altitude mountains also flows down a number of the small rivers with a crenogene-rain food.
In the spring water levels in the rivers the highest, in some years happen strong high waters. In the summer many rivers also shallow and dry up. Even such rivers as Tedzhen and Murghab, remain without water in the bottom current. Usually the rivers come to an end with so-called "irrigation fans» – small sleeves and artificial channels on which water pass on irrigation fields. The main reason of the shallowness of the rivers is a big taking of water for the irrigation, but a considerable part of a river drain gets and to ground waters and is spent for evaporation. Along the rivers and channels numerous oases settle down.
Soils, vegetation and fauna
The flora of Turkmenistan is rather peculiar. For not irrigated plains are characteristic xerophytic semi bushes and low shrubs. Many of them have no leaves or dump them when there comes a drought. Roots are branchy and also get deeply (for example, at the camel prickle they are longer than 20 m). Seeds of deserted plants are often downy or supplied by the original wings facilitating wind carrying over. Many plants of sandy deserts are adapted for fast rooting even in moving grounds.
As a part of flora of Turkmenistan is a lot of endemic species. It is possible to judge about riches of flora taking into consideration the fact that only in Kopet Dagh there are about two thousand kinds of the higher plants; moreover in deserts and low-hill terrains – not less than 1 thousand species. Genetically all this flora has close connections with the Mediterranean, the Average and the Near East.
In Turkmenistan the deserted type of vegetation on gray-brown soils and gray soils prevails. Here are extended abstinthial, salt marshed, saxaul, ephemerous and other biocommunities. The vegetation is strongly rarefied and has small phytoweight, but thanks to summer-winter-spring vegetation provides with forages a cattle livestock. Depending on the ground character (the sand, salted and rubble substrate and so forth) the structure of deserted communities also changes.
In low-hill terrains ephemerous communities are usual on gray soils; sometimes they are very peculiar, for example, rarefied thickets high (to 2,5–3m) umbellate grasses (ferula, sumbul). The background for them makes ephemerous short grass (sedge, a meadow grass, poppies, etc.). In the summer when magnificent herbage burns out, the district takes a fantastic form: black stalks of the dried up umbellate are allocated on the brown surface deprived of a grass.
There are communities of ephemerous tall grass species in the bottom parts of slopes of mountains on dark gray soils. For example, they are wheat grass, brome grass that sometimes named as steppe. By the summer they burn out too. Above 900–1000 m is the area of полынных deserts on light brown soils.
Above 2000 m on more damp windward slopes there are thickets of bushes (a barberry, hawthorns, etc.) and juniper light forests on brown soils. In a grassy circle there is a rich set of the kinds often beautifully blossoming (irises, tulips, a mandrake, etc.). In the same circle, but on drier slopes communities of prickly grasses and pillar structure bushes (astragalus, prickly thrift, etc.) are developed; and also mountain sheep fescue and feather grass steppes on brown soils. As steppe communities occupy the greatest areas, often weigh this motley area is named steppe.
Animals of Turkmenistan are well adapted for the existence in deserts. Many of them conduct nocturnalism. Some of them can long do without some water and differ with the ability to run quickly on the big distances. In the country there are 91 kinds of mammals, 372 kinds of birds, 74 kinds of reptiles and approximately 60 kinds of fishes. From large mammals most typical are granulated gazelle, wild sheep, a jackal, a dog fox; from rodents – chickweed, gophers and jerboas; from reptiles – agamas, monitor lizards, a cobra, saw-scaled viper, blunt-nosed viper, turtle.
During spring and autumn flights in deserts there are flights of ducks, geese, bald-coots, cranes and many other birds. Involved with water and forage, they are late on rest at reservoirs, rivers, channels. In cities a background kind is the Indian starling – Indian myna. For the winter there are such kinds of birds, as saxaul desert jay, clested lark, saxaul and deserted sparrows, and also predators – white-headed griffon and vulture. The fauna in lower reaches of Atrek is especially various; where spend winter many kinds of taiga, tundra and steppe birds, including seagulls, ducks, geese, swans, a flamingo, herons, and also insectivorous birds (wagtails, millerbirds etc.). The wild boar, a cane cat, a jackal are found in flood plains of the rivers in тугайных thickets, and from birds – a pheasant.
Among rare species of deserts animal outstand a desert monitor, granulated gazelle, a cheetah, a hyena and various venomous snakes. Protection of these animals makes one of the main tasks of reserves of Turkmenistan. For example, in Badhyzsky nature reserve it is protected Koulan (a wild horse) with its entire natural environment, and in Krasnovodsk nature reserve – waterfowls, including flamingo, pelicans, swans, geese.