Azerbaijan – Biodiversity conservation data

    MAIN PHYTOGENETIC RESOURCES OF AZERBAIJAN AND THE MAIN THREATS

    General description

    About 4,500 species of higher plants are registered in Azerbaijan, which houses about 65% of the Caucasus region’s floral diversity, and 11% of the world’s flora. The main areas for plant diversity in Azerbaijan are the highlands of Najichevan (where 60% of species can be found), the Kura-Araz plain (40%), the Devechi East Guba region in the Greater Caucasus (38%), the central Lesser Caucasus (29%), Gobustan (26,6%), the Lenkoran Talysh mountains (27%), and the Absheron region (22%).

    Azerbaijan has over 400 endemic plant species, including about 210 species of lower endemic plants (including ten endemic species of lichen). About 16 species of algae are endemic to the Caspian Sea. 210 species (98 genera and 32 families) of higher plants are considered endemic in Azerbaijan.

    Forests are considered to be amongst Azerbaijan’s most valuable natural resources. Over the last 200 years, the extension of wooded areas has halved. In the 8th-9th centuries, 35% of Azerbaijan was wooded. Today, forests cover 1.29 million hectares, that is, 11% of the national territory.

    There are extensive forests in the north-eastern part of the Greater Caucasus leading up to the frontier with Dagestan and including the administrative regions of Guba, Gusar, Davachi, and Siyazan Khizi towards the south-east where they are become gradually sparser and are finally replaced by areas of drought.
    4,500 species of higher plants are distributed round the country. 450 tree and shrub species, 48 genera and 135 taxa can be found in the woods of Azerbaijan. 70 regional endemic species can be found in the dendroflora of Azerbaijan, that is, 16% of all the country’s trees and shrubs. In spite of this natural wealth, the main forestry species are declining.

    The main forestry formations in Azerbaijan are:

    • Conifer forests of Garmagvari pines
    • Juniper forests
    • Oriental pistachio formations
    • Oak formations

    a) in Talysh, mixed forests with chestnuts
    b) low mountain areas, Georgian oak forests
    c) high mountain areas, eastern oak forests
    d) flatland forests
    e) some productive oak forests in Araz

    The conifer forests mainly comprise the Garmagvari pine (Pinus silvestris v. hamata). On an area of 400 hectares at the Eldar Oyughu mountains are Eldar pines (Pinus eldaricas) and yew (Taxus baccata) either in combination with deciduous species or forming small stands. These can be seen in the region of Hamzali Gabala, Piriguli Oghuz, in Khizi, Dahar, Gey-Gol, in the Gadabay forests, the Talysh, and the Hamazat Lerik region. The most common type of conifer is the juniper (Juniperus Sabina). Altogether, conifer forests (pine and juniper) account for 1.6% of the country’s forest land.

    Main threats for biodiversity

    The main cause of loss of diversity in Azerbaijan is the reduction, destruction and loss of natural ecosystems, mostly related to human (anthropogenic) factors. Industry and construction have had a great impact on natural habitats. For example, construction and urbanisation in the Absheron Peninsula has reduced the surface area of natural, virgin habitats, leading to a trading reduction in the peninsula’s biological diversity.

    Moreover, political events led 248,000 people to feel from Armenia to Azerbaijan, and over 700,000 people were displaced from Armenian-occupied territories. They settled in cities, temporary camps, hostals and unfinished buildings. New settlements have been built with a view to improving living standards for these people, but the continuing shortage of public services is causing health and environmental problems in these areas.

    STATUS OF IN-SITU AND EX-SITU CONSERVATION

    In-situ conservation

    A network of protected areas has been set up in Azerbaijan with a view to preserving areas of natural importance from the negative impact caused mainly by human action. These areas are classified as follows: nature reserves, including biosphere reserves / national and nature parks / ecological parks / natural monuments / zoological parks / botanic parks / spas and tourist centres.
    Protected areas are not evenly distributed all over the country, although the landscapes of greatest ecological importance are included within the protected areas system. The Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources manages the protected areas of biological importance, including the National Parks, State Reserves, Restricted Zones and Natural Monuments. In spite of all these measures, over recent decades the total surface area of protected forests has decreased from 15,097 to 6,944 hectares.
    The number and category of protected areas in Azerbaijan are as follows:

    National Parks……………………………………………………………………… 3

    Nature Reserves………………………………………………………………….16

    Restricted Zones………………………………………………………………….22

    Protected Trees (aged over 100)……………………………………….2,038

    Protected Sites (of geological and palaeontological interest)…….37

    National Coastal Park (Baku)…………………………………………………..1

    Historical Reserve (Gobustan)…………………………………………………1

    In 1988 the government published a plan for the development of the national protected areas system with the aim of covering a total of 954,000 ha by 2010. So far, five of the protected areas have been expanded by 36,600 ha, covering a total surface area of 70,700 ha. Also, a Presidential decree has established the Ordubad National Park (12,131 ha), the Shahbuz Nature Reserve (3,139 ha), the Gakh Restricted Zone (36,836 ha), the Shirvan National Park (54,373 ha) and the Ag-Gol National Park (17,924 ha).

    With regard to agricultural species, old native and traditional varieties of cereals are grown (wheat, barley, rice) as well as legumes (chickpeas, lentils, green beans, broad beans, peas), fruits (apple, pear, apricot, pomegranate, fig, almond, persimmon, grape, etc.), forage and others (melon, watermelon), etc. The priority laid down in the National Programme for Conservation is to develop a methodology for the in-situ conservation of cultivated biodiversity, by promoting traditional farming and/or by setting up experimental farms.

    Ex-situ conservation

    Since 1996, work has been done on the inventory, collection, renovation, duplication and preservation of phytogenetic resources in line with the objectives of the National Programme, with the collection of samples of cereals, legumes, vegetables, and melon, fruit and grape crops. However, financial difficulties are preventing the implementation of actions covered by the Programme for Phytogenetic Resources.

    The main facilities for the ex-situ conservation of biodiversity are the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences Mardakan Dendrary, the Central Botanic Garden, the Genetic Resources Institute and the Botanic Research Institute (the latter is not included below because no data of specific interest for this study are available). There is also a number of research centres under the Azerbaijan Ministry of Agriculture working on farming, forestry, etc. The main data of interest are given below.

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