National Parks and Nature Reserves of Armenia

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Armenpress Sept 7, 2005

GYUMRI, SEPTEMBER 7, ARMENPRESS: The basin of Lake Arpi and Akhurian River, situated in the Ashotzk mountains, close to the borders with Turkey and Georgia, approximately 110 km northwest of the city of Yerevan, in northwestern Armenia will be turned into a national park.

Financial aid is expected from Germany to launch the first phase of this program that was supposed to kick off three years ago, but was delayed due to lack of money. The project will be started next year with support to come from the government.

Lake Arpi is a natural wetland of botanical importance, although the water level has been raised by an artificial dam. It supports several plant species which are rare in Armenia. The lake is fed by several small rivers, springs and melt-water, and freezes over during the winter months.

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A network of specially protected areas was first established in Armenia in 1958 to protect ecosystems, habitats and rare, endemic and threatened species. There are currently five State Reserves, 22 State Reservations and one national park registered, which together cover around 311,000 ha, or 10% of the surface of the country. Around 60% of Armenian species are represented within the protected area network, however there is a bias towards forest habitats, and a need to expand the system to include better representation of other ecosystems.

a r m e n i a

state reserves State Reserves are established to provide high levels of protection for important habitats and species, and human use within reserves is restricted to scientific research and are under overall responsibility of the Ministry of Nature Protection. State Reserves represent strict nature reserves, with respect to IUCN criteria.

Erebuni reserve Managed by the Ministry of Nature Protection The Erebuni Reserve is situated near Yerevan on tertiary red lay soil. This precious and ancient collection of wild cereals has existed here for millions of years. Approximately 300 sorts of plants grow here on the area of 90-100 hectares. This collection consists generally of year-old wild cereals - Triricum araraticum Jakubz., T.urartu Tumanian.ex Gandil., T.boeoticum Boiss., numerous sorts of Aegilops and Secale vavilovii Grossh. Out of the presently known four wild species of wheat three species are growing on the territory of this protected area. All wild species of wheat, barley, rye and many species of Aaegilops which can be found in the reserve are characterized by side specific and intraspecific polymorphism. The most dense, pure and fluffy cereals 70-75cm tall found in the reserve give the impression of a densely sowed wheat field. Here one can see rich material for scientific, practical and selection activity - over 100 kinds of wheat. Some interesting endemic kinds such as Amblyopyrum muticum (Boiss.) Eig, Actinolema macrolema, Szovitsia callicarpa and Cichorium glandulosum can be found only here. Some of them - unique Umbellate Hohenackeria excapa and small (1-2cm tall) Rhizocephalus orientalis - are disappearing kinds and are included in the Red Book of Armenia and the former Soviet Union. There are also plant associations with Iris reticulata and Iris elegantissima that grows on the southern slopes of the Erebuni Reserve. The avifauna is quite diverse and represented by Quail, Chukar, Grey Partridge, Turtle Dove, Common Kestrel, Little Owl, Nightjar, European Rollers and others. The common species of mammals in the reserve are fox, vair and field mouse. Sometimes one can see marten, wolf, badger and Persian and Vinogradov's launces. Near the reserve live many rare species of beetles, reptiles as well as 9 species of snakes and lizards such as marsh frog, green toad, hyla, mountain and slender racers, Gluss-lizard and five-streaked lizard, Pleskes and Strauch's racerunners, golden grass skink and others.

Dilijan reserve Managed by 'Hayantar' State Enterprise (under the authority of the Ministry of Nature Protection) "Dilijan" National Park is situated in the north of Armenia, in one of most picturesque areas. Established in 1958. Area: 27995 ha. The main subjects of protection are beech and oak forests that also include some pines (Pinus kochianus), well as the shady yew grove of Hakhnabad with impressive Taxus baccata trees and a few springs-fed lakes. The number of species growing in the reserves is around 900. The most beautiful of the latter, Parz Lake, is situated in the heart of the dense forest at the altitude of 1400m above sea level. While the National Park doesn't present the whole diversity of the flora of Northern Armenia, it has over 1000 species of plants in the area of 28 000 hectares. The main wood and bush types are oak (Quercus iberica), beech (Fagus orientalis), different types of hornbeam (Carpinus caucasicus, C.orientalis), as well as ash-tree, some types of lime tree, maple, caprifoil, spindle tree and others (Fraxinus, Tilia, Acer, Lonicera, Euonymus). Numerous plants like rare Job`s-tears (Lycnnis flos-cuculi), different orchids, and fritillaria (Orchidaceae, Fritillaria) are included in the Red Book. In the park's fauna 107 species of birds are distinguished such as Common Buzzard, Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, Black Kite, Lesser Spottled Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Wood Pigeon, Eagle Owl, Tawny Owl, Caspian Snowcock, Caucasian Black Grouse, Golden Eagle, Lammergeier, Griffon Vulture, Quail, Grey Partridge, Twite, Red-fronted Serin, Rock Sparrow, Rock Buntiag, Skylark, Crested and Horned Larks, Choug, Raven, Western Rock Nuthatch, Hoopoe, Kingfisher, White and Grey Wagtails, Dipper, Black-necked Grebe, Great White Egret. There are 45 species of mammals such as brown bear, wolf, fox, badger, beech marten, vair, bobcat, and even a small number of leopards. Very common are wood mice, Persian squirrel, loir, dormouse, brown hare, wild boar, axis deer and roedeer. There are 16 species of reptiles and 4 species of amphibians, Armenian, Rostombekov's and three-lined lizards, marsh and common tree frogs and green toad among them. There are numerous historical-architectural monuments and archeological sites on the territory of the National Park. These include the Goshavank and the Matosavank Monasteries, the Hakhnabad Church, and the pearl of medieval architecture, the Hagartsin Monastery of the XIII DE. In the National Park one will find ancient.

Shikakhogh reserve Managed by 'Hayantar' State Enterprise (under the authority of the Ministry of Nature Protection) Established in 1958. The Shikakhogh Reserve is situated in the nortern slopes of the Meghri ridge that protects the area from hot air masses from the Iranian Plateau, while the high Zangezur range stretches from north to south and slows humid air from the Caspian Sea. Such a system of mountain ranges and ridges creates a wide diversity of climate conditions. Here, as elsewhere in the mountains of the Southern Caucasus each small gorge has its own special microclimate with peculiar fauna. The general climate here is warm and humid. In 10 000 hectares 1074 species of plants can be found. It is the only reserve where gorgeous primreview forests with rare relict ferns have survived since the dinosaur era, and where Ophioglossum vulgatum and Pteridium tauricum are preserved. The Reserve is a sanctuary for many disappearing and endemic species like Galanthus transcaucasicus, G.artjuschenkoae, Tulipa confusa, Pyrus zangezura, Symphyandra zangezura, Hypericum Eleonorae. There were over twenty types of local plants included in the Red Books of Armenia and former Soviet Union. Due to the mild climate and numerous close gorges not only single representatives, but whole communities and islands of tertiary flora have survived here such as yew grove (Taxus baccata), the only beech grove in Southern Armenia as well as ivy, persimmon, plane and walnut, Fagus orientalis, Hedera helix, Diospyrus caucasicus, Platanus orientalis, Juglans regia, Periploca graeca etc. It is also possible to find Castanea sativa, Zelcova carpinifolia. At lower altitudes there are thin forests of Araxes oak, pomegranates and maples (Quercus araxina, Paliurus spina-christis, Celtis glabratas, Punica granatums, Acer ibericums). The main part of the reserve is occupied by the leaf trees - generally oak and oak/hornbeam forests - occupy the middle area of the vegetation belt at altitudes of 1000-2200m above the sea. At the altitudes of 2200-2400m highland oak creates thin forests, change into sub-alpian meadows with high grass and byriads of blossoming bluebells and orchids at higher elevations. These meadows are especially beautiful when the endemic Tulipa confusa - lemon yellow, deep pink, and red - the unique tulip with a tender lemon scent, is in full blossom. At the highest altitudes of ridges small multi-coloured carpets of alpine meadows are scattered. In the reserve there are Levantine and Orsinis vipers, sand boa, collared dwarf and southern flowered snakes, Slender racer, golden grass and Snider's skinks. The Reserve is home to brown bear, wild boar, roedeer, wolf , beech and pine martens and porcupine. Occasionally one can find bobcat, Primary-Asian leopard, Bezoarian goat or wild sheep (Armenian mouflon). Due to such diversity of biotopes the fauna of birds is also richly presented: Black and Griffon Vultures, Hoopoe, Common and Black Redstarts, Turtle Dove, Blackcap, Tawny and Scops Owls, Green Woodpecker etc. There are numerous historical monuments everywhere on the territory of the reserve - nearby the roads, at the rocky slopes, and in the deep canyon Iron Age tombs, ancient fortresses, shrines, bridges, medieval churches and monasteries are situated.

Khosrov reserve (Managed by 'Hayantar' State Enterprise (under the authority of the Ministry of Nature Protection) As far back as the 4-th century, approximately 1700 years ago, the Armenian king Khosrov II Kotack declared the southern slopes of the Gueghama mountains a restricted area. He "planted a forest" and made it a hunting-ground for the palace. Over the centuries the Khosrov Reserve has been mentioned in the history of Armenia as a hunting-ground for the nobility and animals were brought and bred in the Reserve from various regions, especially Persia. In 1958 the Khosrov forest, consisting of 8 separate lots, was officially declared a reserve and its borders were widened to create a single parcel of land (in 1992). The Khosrov Forest Reserve is situated south-east of Yerevan, at the foot of the Gueghama volcanic mountain, in the basins of the Azat and Vedi rivers. The Reserve is situated 1400-2250 meters above sea-level, and extends over an area of 29196 hectares, 9000 of which is covered with forests. The importance of the Khosrov Forest extends beyond the local margins and plays a significant role in the entire ecology of the region. It is the only Caucasian reserve with such diversity of climatic areas and plant types. Khosrov Reserve has very complicated relief with amazing landscapes. As everywhere in Armenia the results of tectonic activities - fractures, steeps, etc. - can be seen. Atmogenic processes, hot climate and water create numerous fantastic monuments - figures, pyramids, towers, quaint cliffs etc. The reserve has rich flora. Within its borders grow more than 1800 kinds of plants (more than half of species growing in Armenia), 156 of which are considered rare, endangered and disappearing. Numerous rare and disappearing species are mentioned in the Red Book and grow only here. It is the only Caucasian Reserve of mountain xerophytes, where semi-deserts, various phryganoid formations, different types of arid thin forests, tragacanthys steppes and others. Fauna of the reserve is also rich. Invertebrate animals and in particular insects are presented by unique diversity of specific composition. There are amphibians, 7 types of fish, and over 30 reptiles living there such as the Levantine viper, the Montpellier snake, the dotted dwarf and the collared dwarp snakes, the Pleskes racerunner, the five-streaked and the three-lined lizards, the golden grass and the Snaider's skinks, the eastern spadefoot and others. In the Khosrov Reserve 40 kinds of mammals, 18 of which are registered in the Armenian Red Book, including the Primary-Asian leopard, the Bezoarian goat, wild sheep (the Armenian mouflon), the Transcaucasian gray bear, the lynx, and more. Among 67 kinds of birds registered in the Armenian Red Book, in the territory of the Reserve there are 16 nesting birds of prey, including Egyptian, Black and Griffon Vultures, Lammergeier, Golden and Lesser Spotted Eagles and Northern Goshawk. The Khosrov Reserve includes numerous natural attractions: huge "rock organs", mysterious caves, shady canyons and alpine meadows, ancient oaks and unique flowers. Numerous historical monuments, cave dwellings, early medieval monasteries, khachkars (cross-stones), churches and fortresses have been preserved. The pearl of medieval architecture - the cave monastery of Geghard (Spearhead in Armenian) is also situated here. The acoustics of the church hall, where the Spearhead of Golgotha was kept for centuries, will impress even the most demanding audience and is perfect for classical music recordings. Armenian reverence for their historic monuments has allowed this forest to remain almost untouched for almost 17 centuries.

Sevan national park "...A piece of fallen blue sky", "...a mountain mirror" - Lake Sevan is the second highest lake in the world , situated at an altitude of 1900 meters in a hollow of the picturesque Geghama Mounts. The surrounding highland steppes fade to alpine meadows and groves, crowned with snow-capped peaks. Add fresh mountain air, the rich blue sky, elusively changing shades of the Lake and you'll understand why Sevan is a beloved place for rest and travel. Simply, its a source of endless surprise and discovery: Amateur geologists can observe rainbow-colored fields of cracked magma and huge basalt cliffs while they gather rich collections of stones and minerals. Botanists will be particularly interested in the endemic species with ancestors dating back to the post - mounts formation era. Ornithologists will find a fascinating diversity of resident and migratory birds. Archaeologists will be amazed by the hundreds of historical monuments, numerous excavations and pieces of Bronze Age crafts and fine art. The beauty of Lake Sevan and its surroundings is difficult to express in words. It must be seen. One who has seen the dawn with golden ribbons on the turquoise water and colonies of pelicans and flamingos will remember Sevan forever. Lake Sevan provides 80% of Armenia's water resources (1585 billion cubic m.), and plays an important role in regulating the country's water balance. From 1933 to 1981, the lake was used to support agricultural, industrial and energy sectors and its level dropped dramatically. The lake system and its ecological balance were greatly disturbed by this use. The only National Park in Armenia was established in 1978 to protect Lake Sevan and the surrounding areas. Overall, including buffer zones, 150,100 ha are protected, including 24,800 ha of dry land. Sevan National Park falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Nature Protection, and is managed as a research centre, which monitors the ecosystems, and undertakes various conservation measures (including regulation of use and tourism, and protection of historical and cultural monuments). Licensed fishing on the lake is also regulated. Three main zoning areas exist: the core (reserve) zone, a recreation zone and a zone for economic use. The core protection zone includes the watershed for the lake, as well as a park which incorporates a number of smaller reserves and reservations. Protection is aimed at the rare and endemic species of the lake and surrounding habitats. The diversity of habitats and conditions in the area supports a wide range of plants and animals, including:

     Plants - Acantholimon gabriljanae, Astragalus goktschaicus,

Isatis sevangensis, Sorbusjunstanjca, S. hajastaria, and Adonis wolgensis.

     Fish - Nine species, including whitefish, Sevan trout, barbel,

'kogak' and carp.

     Amphibians - Six species, including the green toad (Bufo

viridis)and frog (Rana ridibunda).

     Reptiles - Seventeen species, including rock lizards (Lacerta

unisexualis, L. narensis, L. rostombekovi, L. armeniaca) and snakes (Natrix natrix, Coronella austriaca, Vipera erivanensis).

     Birds - 267 species, including Greylag Goose, Red-crested

Pochard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Coot, Mallard, Whopper Swan, Shelduck, Armenian Gull, Great and Pigmy Cormorants, Glossy Ibis , Black-winged Stilt and others.

     Mammals - 34 species, including marbled polecat, otter, manul,

leopard, wild goat, wolf, fox and beech marten.

One of the key sites in the park is the Artanish peninsula (25,000 ha), which, being very isolated, is relatively undisturbed. Approximately 1000 higher plant species (including 94 trees and shrubs) are found in this area, which also supports a range of endemic and rare animal species. Three main zones are recognized within the Artanish peninsula, including the lakeshore habitats (planted forests containing pine, poplar, apricot-tree, oleaster, and sea-buckthorn), a medium altitude zone (20-100m) where species such as juniper and rose are common, and an alpine zone (> 100m) dominated by meadow habitats. However, the first two zones were severely affected by illegal felling during the energy crisis. The decline in the water level of Lake Sevan (by 19m since the 1950s) has severely affected aquatic, coastal swamp and marshland habitats of the park. In addition, a further 10,000 ha of marshland was drained for agricultural use. In particular, the birds using Lake Sevan were affected by these habitat changes, and z number of species no longer breed on the lake. Between 1922 and 1996, the areas used by nesting waterfowl on the lake nearly halved, and the number of Armenian gulls on the lake has also declined dramatically. There is a need for further research in the Lake Sevan national park, particularly to help with reserve demarcation and to identify the best management approaches for the park and its water resources. It has also been suggested that the park be expanded to incorporate the area previously covered by Lake Gilly, before it was drained, and to undertake some form of habitat restoration of the lake area. Sevan Lake and Sevanavank monastery

natural monuments Natural monuments have been established to protect unique and typical natural sites of academic, historic or cultural importance (following a law on specially protected areas passed in 1991). Such sites are protected from disturbance, to avoid loss of small areas of high international importance or of aesthetic value. Each site is considered independently and an appropriate agency is specified for protection. Some monuments include living trees, such as the wide-leaf pines around Tsaghkavan village (Meghri region), Vardan's oak (a national hero), and a Judas tree. Other natural monuments include volcanic formations, various mountain lakes, mineral springs, and waterfalls. However, natural monuments are not under full legal protection, and inventory and identification procedures are underdeveloped. These sites are considered to be the most threatened within the protected areas system. As a result of human impacts (including mining, tree-felling and constructions) many natural monuments are being degraded and destroyed.

Sev Lich Managed by the Ministry of Nature Protection Established in 1987 in the southern part of Armenia and covers the rater and eastern slope of the Mets Iskhanasar Mont. The reservation rests at an altitude of 2658 m. protecting the unique alpine watershed with plant and animal communities. Area: 240 ha.

Juniper Forests Established in 1958 to protect the unique and relict juniper forests and local wild life in the eastern slopes of the Sevan Ridge.

Yew of Akhnabat Established in 1958 to preserve the unique park of relict yew at the western slopes of the Miavor Ridge at altitudes of 1400-1700m.

Hazelnut Established in 1958 to protect the relict hazelnut and yew parks in the Khajakhbur River basin at altitudes of 1500-1800m

Pine of Banx Established in 1959 to protect he unique arboretum park of pine of Banx located in the northern slopes of the Tsaghkuniats Ridge and in the Marmarik River basin at altitudes of 1800-2000.

Sands of Goravan Established in 1959 to protect the residual quick sands and boasts unique plants and wild life at the steep slopes at altitudes of 1100-1200 of the Ararat Valley.

Juniper Forests of Her-Her Established in 1958 to conserve the relict juniper forest/pear orchard and supports wildlife in the Her-Her River basin at altitudes of 1400-1700.

Jermuk forests Established in 1958 to protect Armenian mouflon, besoar goats, wild boars and mountainous forests at altitudes of 1100-2800 in the Arpa River basin

Jermuk (hydrological) Established in 1983 to protect the mineral water springs at the upper watershed of the Arpa River

Pine of Giulagarak Established in 1958 to conserve the relict pine forest found at the slopes of the Bazum and Pambak Mountains at altitudes of 1400-1900.

Park of Plane Tree Established in 1958 to protect the only natural plane-tree park in the Caucasus, found at altitudes of 700-750m in the basin of the Tzav River.

Rose Bay Rhododendron Established in 1959 to conserve the Caucasian rosebay at altitudes of 1900-2200m in the Pambak and Tskaghkuniats Ridges.

Mrgahovit Established in 1959 to protect goats, bears, Caucasian Grouses fount at altitudes of 1900-2200m in the northern slopes of the Pambak Range and in the Pambak River basin.

Aragats Established in 1959 to protect the alpine flora around the Kari Lake and the adjacent grassland of the Aragats Mountain at altitudes of 3250-3350.

Arzakan/Meghradzor Established in 1971 to protect goats, deer, grey bears, wild boars and Caucasian Grouses in the basisn of the Marmarik and Dalarik Rivers at altitudes of 1600-2100m.

Ijevan Established in 1971 to protect rare and endemic animal species such as besoar goats, wild boars, grey bears, panthers and porcupines at mountain ranges at altitudes of 900-2100.

Ghandzakar Established in 1971 to protect rare and endemic animal species such as besoar goats, wild boars, grey bears, panthers and porcupines in the Paytajur River basin at altitudes of 1500-2700m.

Getik Established in 1971 to protect rare and endemic animal species such as besoar goats, wild boars, grey bears, panthers and porcupines in the Getik River basin at altitudes of 1500-2700.

Yeghegnadzor Established in 1971 to protect rare and endemic animal species such as besoar goats, wild boars, grey bears, panthers and porcupines in the Tsagheghis River basin at altitudes of 1200-2800.

Goris Protects rare and endemic animal species such as besoar goats, wild boars, grey bears, panthers and porcupines in the Vorotan and Vararakh Rivers basin at altitudes of 1400-2800m.

Boghakar Established in 1989 to protect Armenian flora and fauna in the southern slopes of the Zangezur Ridge at altitudes of 1400-2180.

Vordan Karmir Established in 1987 to protect the unique plant community of the Vordan Karmir in the desert areas of the Ararat Valley at altitudes of 800-1200m.

Hankavan Established in 1981 to protect mineral water springs at the upper watershed of the Marmarik River.

conservation outside protected areas

A number of ecosystems and species are not well represented in protected areas, and their survival will rely on conservation efforts outside the protected areas network. Environmental activities are currently only regulated by out-dated laws which relate to control of activities in river valleys, environmentally sensitive areas and collection of particular species. In addition the Ministry of Nature Protection operates three mechanisms which serve to limit damage to biodiversity: a system of hunting licenses; provision of special licenses for the collection of medicinal plants; and environmental impact assessment for business development. However, given the current rate of social, economic and political change, a new series of measures is needed to address conservation and land use outside protected areas. These might include legislation, education and improved administration, supported by independent ecological assessments and monitoring of all industrial and other activities.

botanical gardens and nurseries The Botanical Gardens of the National Academy of Science is responsible for plant collections in Armenia. The Botanic Garden of Yerevan is situated in the north-eastern part of city (80 ha of semi-desert habitat). Further botanic gardens and nurseries have been established in other regions (Vanadsor, Sevan, Ijevan). The Botanic Institute holds rich herbarium as well as ex situ collection of 1070 species wich represent 40% of the national collection (650 species) and shrubs which represent 51% of the collection (850 species). It holds the important collection of Armenian flora (1.5 ha, with around 750 species (25% of the Armenian flora) represented). The collection includes around 200 species of endemic, rare and declining plant species, and provides a basis for the study of Armenian flora, and the ecological interactions of species, in a relatively natural environment.

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