Biodaversity of Georgia
Flora of Georgia’s Protcted Areas
From 4130 species of plants spread in Georgia, more than 3000 species can be found on the small territories of protected areas, including about 300 the Caucasian and Georgian endemic. High mountainous and Colchi Valley protected areas are distinguished by high level of endemism. Approximately 75% of protected areas are covered by forestes, where there are quite extensive coniferous massives and important ecosytems of broad-leaved plnts.
Some of the protected areas are created to protect the last, local and unique habitats of rare, endangered endemic plants, including: Imeretian Oak (Quercusimeretina) and long graft oak (Quercuspedunculipholia), Zelkova ((Zelcovacarpinifolia), yew (Taxusbaccata), Colchis box-tree ((Buxuscolchica), pistachio tree ((Pistaceamutica), mountain maple (Acer trautvetteri), chestnut (Castanea sativa), hackberries (Celtiscaucasica), Sakhokia wild pear (Pyrussachokiana), the Euphrates asp (Populuseuphratica) and others.
A special ateention deserves Tertiary relict endemic yew (Taxusbaccata) ecosystem represented app. on 240 hectares area of Batsara State Reserve. In the worldwide, where the age of yaw is defined by 1500 years, they are rare and need special care and protection.
In this protected area, in particular in Babaneuri State Reserve, quite a big Zelkovagrove is spread, which is also rare. Zelkova can also be found sparsely and in individual samples in Ajameti Managed Reserve and Sataplia State Reserve.
Quite a big forest of Imeretian Oak – Georgin and Imeretian endemic, is represented in Ajameti Managed Reserve. It is endangered species and needs a special care. Itsindividual samples can be found in other protected areas.
Oak and walnut groves are spread in the river flood plain forests and can be found in Oak bay Natural Monument and GardabaniManged Reserve.
Colchis box-trees are also noticeable, which are often represented in the form of underbrush in: Sataplia Reserve, Kintrishi Protected area, Borjomi-Kharagauli, Mtirala and Colchi National Parks, rarely – in Tbilisi National Park.
Also it should be noted the existing complex of plants ‘Shkeriani” in the gorge of the river Namtsvavistskali (water of burnout) inMtirala National Park, which creates the community of Pontus, Smirnov and ungernii rhododendron, azalea, also Pontus oak, cherry-laurel and Pontus ruscusplants.
Nearby grows a thyroid epigea, which in Georgia can be found only here and is very rare.
Tusheti and Kazbegi highlands are domain of raddeana birch (Betularaddeana) and its significant area is protectd with other species of birch.
A special attention should be paid to Colchis loawland domed bog (RAMSAR sites), the uniqueness of which is stipulated partially by 3 species of sphagnum, which originate European sphagnum species, these are: Spagnumimbricatum, Sp. palustre, Sp. acutiflium.
Fauna of Georgia’s Protected Areas
Protected areas of Georgia, distinguished by biodiversity, 75% of which is covered with forests, are living environment of many animals.90 species of rare and endangered animals live in protected areas, which is 67 % of Georgia’s „Red List“. The most notable are: East Caucasian tur (Capra cylindricornis Bl.), Chamois (Rupicaprarupicapra L.), goat (Carpaaegagrus L), red deer (Cervuselaphus L.), brown bear (Ursusarctos L.), lynx (Ursusarctos L.),otter (Lutralutra L.), bottlenose (Tursiopstruncatus M.), brown trout (Salmofario Linnaeus), Russain sturgeon (Acipensergueldenstaedti), Caucasian salamander (Mertensiellacaucasica W.), Caucasian Viper (Viperakaznakovi), bechstin’s bat (MyotisbechsteiniiKuhl.), barbastelle (BarbastellabarbastellusSchr.), Caucasian squirrel (SciurusanomalusGüld.) and others.
14 species of vertebrate animals are the Caucasian endemic, and qbout 30 species are globally endangered. It is notable, that in the protected territories 27 worldwide endangered species of birds can be found. According to the available information, protected areas totally are habitat areas of 314 species of birds.
Even in the last century, gazelle and leopard were considered as animals of symbolic meaning. Currently both species are extinct and nowadays it possible to see gazelles in Vashlovani Protected area reintroduced from Azerbaijan. In 2006-2007, a leopard moved from Azerbaijan was observed by phototrap. Since then this leopard, which was called “Noah”, has been detected by phototrap several times. In recent years “Noah” has not appeared in Vashlovani. Its historical location was not only limited with Vashlovani and in the 50s of the last century it included Tusheti.
No less important is the Goat, in particular the species which became extinct from the territory of Brjomi-Kharagauli National Park and only in 2007, it was possible to bring this species from Armenia, on the initiative of the Caucasian office of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), within the framework of the Goat reproduction project. Now, goats are in a special enclosure of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park Atskuri section.
Important population of Red deer live in Lagodekhi Protected area and Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, however, single indviduals take shelter in Tbilisi National Park and Gardabani Managed Reserve. It should be noted, that for the last 20 years, not a single individual of these animals has been observed in Tusheti protected area, and in the summer 2013 it was possible to reveal a large herd of deer, which is the result of improved protection and the creation of proper environment.
No less important is the existence of striped hyena in Chachuni Managed Reserve, although the latter is rarely met in recent yesrs.
A part of sea water area of Kolkheti National Park is created for protection of whitside dolphin, sea bottlenose and sea pig, which live near to the sae coast. Also it is noteworthy, that in this part of the park there are species included in the “Red List”, for example: the Atlantic sturgeon, the Black Sea salmon, bastard sturgeon, hop and others. Representatives of sturgeon family gather at Rioni outfall in spawoning season and Paliastomi Lake has always been considered the Blak Sea Laguna.
In terms of Ichtiofauna, Javakheti protected areas take a very important place. There are many species of fish in Javakheti lakes and consequently, local lakes are wonderful living environment for migratory and nesting birds. In the territories of Javakheti protected areas and in KolkhetiNational Park there is an important migration corridor for birds. Pelicans, cormorants and cranes are dominant species here, but it is also notable the diversity of bird species.
The living places for predator and scavenging birds of prey, such as vulture eagle and gyps, are open fields and narrow canyons, hills and open valleys. Such places can mostly be found in Tusheti protected area, Kazbegi and Algeti National Parks, Lagodekhi and Vashlovani Protected areas, including eagle gorge, also Chachuni Managed Reserve.
There are lots of monuments of archaological and paleontological significance in protected areas. It is noteworthy a fossils of elephants shoulder bone and marine mollusks uncovered in Vashlovani Protected Area, which indicates that these territories were onece covered with water and now the seabed is represented in the form of land.
In the recent years in ChachuniManged Reserve there were revealed: different parts of mastodon skeleton fossils: the second tusk, humerus and ulna in a natural joint, phalanx, some vertebrae, ribs. Also parts of other animal fossils and remains are found: namely 2 reptile species of turtles: Greek tortoise (Testudograeca), water turtle ( Emys sp.), from mammals: horse ancestor hipparion (Hipparion sp.), cows (Tragocerinaeindet.), roe ancestor (Procapreoluscusanus) and others.