Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences - Biogeography

Caucasus project

    Photo: Volker C. Radeloff

The Caucasus Ecoregion, at the intersection of Europe, Middle East, and Central Asia is one of the most biologically diverse and culturally rich regions on Earth. The Caucasus was among the first areas in the world to be listed as a ‘biodiversity hotspot’, owing to its unique but endangered biodiversity. This ecoregion harbors over 6500 species of vascular plants, among which at least 1600 species are endemic (the highest level of endemism in the temperate world). Also, around 147 species of terrestrial mammals inhabit the Caucasus, including many iconic species such as Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor), European bison (Bison bonasus), Gmelin’s mouflon (Ovis orientalis), and goitered gazelles (Gazella subgutturosa). However, many of these species are severely threatened from habitat loss and overexploitation, and generally hold out only in small numbers and their population are fragmented.

The Caucasus, encompassing Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, as well as parts of Iran, Russia, and Turkey, also has experienced several drastic socioeconomic and political shocks in the recent decades, including the collapse of Soviet Union (1991) and several episodes of armed conflict (e.g., the Nagorno-Karabakh armed conflict). These shocks had both local- and national-scale impacts on land-use patterns, people’s livelihoods, exploitation of natural resources in these countries. Despite these drastic changes at the local and national scales, the trends and spatial patterns of human pressures – and how they threaten wildlife or create conservation opportunities - remain largely unknown.

In our Caucasus work, we carry out research, academic and technical capacity building, and evidence-based decision support for conservation planning.

Main contact: Dr. Arash Ghoddousi