South Caucasus Eco-Region

Case Study by: Magnus Sylven

The South Caucasus region of Southwest Asia is a superb example of planning for Nature Needs Half in an ecosystem of great natural beauty, critical biodiversity importance, and long established human settlements.  Officials are aiming for  43% of their territory to be managed with biodiversity as the primary objective .  An important, life-sustaining target has been established!

This region is located between Russia, Turkey and Iran, and between the Black Sea on the west and the Caspian Sea on the east. It is ranked among the planet’s 34 most diverse and endangered hotspots by Conservation International and is one of WWF’s Global 200 Ecoregions, identified as globally outstanding for biodiversity.  The 2010 IUCN Red List identifies around 50 species of globally threatened animals in the Caucasus. The Caucasus Mountains harbour a wealth of highly sought-after medicinal and decorative plants, as well as unique relic and endemic plant communities.

In 2006, an “Ecoregional Conservation Plan for the Caucasus” (ECPC) was launched. Through its unique coverage of the Caucasus region and its participatory development approach, involving more than 150 experts from all six Caucasus countries as well as abroad, it has ever since served as the main blueprint for the conservation of the unique ecosystems, fauna and flora of the Caucasus. The work was coordinated by WWF in collaboration with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), KfW – the German Development Bank, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, and the MacArthur Foundation. In addition to targets and actions set for the main biomes and cross-cutting issues, Priority Conservation Areas and Corridors were identified and briefly described.

For the South Caucasus countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, the area of Priority Conservation Areas is 57,398 km² and of Corridors 23,109 km², which together account for 43.2% of the total land surface of 186,100 km². The total area of existing protected areas is 18,081 km² or 9.7% of the region. In addition to establishment of protected areas and preserving critical wildlife corridor, different measures have been identified such as zoning for different forms of land-use (agriculture, industry, infrastructure development) and promotion of sustainable natural resource use.

Majestic trees characterize the ancient forests in the Hyrkan National Park in the Talysh Mountains on the border between Azerbaijan and Iran. The forests provide protection for one of the last refuges of the Persian leopard and are situated in the Hyrcanic Region south of the Caspian Sea with plants dating back to the Tertiary period.

In the shadow of the 5,033 m Mount Kazbek, the third highest mountain in Georgian Greater Caucasus. Everywhere in the Caucasus, human history and culture is present. Mount Kazbek is associated with Amirani, the Georgian folklore version of Prometheus, who was chained on the mountain in punishment for having stolen fire from the gods and having given it to mortals. The location of his imprisonment later became the site of an Orthodox hermitage located in a cave called “Betlemi” (Bethlehem) at around the 4,000 meter level.

More information can be obtained from:

Dr. Giorgi Sanadiradze, Director, WWF Caucasus Programme, M. Aleksidze str. 11. 0193 Tbilisi, Georgia, +995 32 223 75 00, gsanadiradze@wwfcaucasus.ge


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