Caucasus-Anatolian-Hyrcanian Temperate Forests

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A field of summer snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum), South of Lake Beyslhin, Turkey.
© WWF-Canon / Michel GUNTHER

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 6 terrestrial ecoregions: Kopet Dag woodlands and forest steppe; Caucasus mixed forests; Euxine-Colchic deciduous forests; Northern Anatolian conifer and deciduous forests; Caspian Hyrcanian mixed forests; and Elburz Range forest steppe.

The mountain range falling in the overland from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea, and a related stretch of forests in Bulgaria on the other side of the Black Sea and south of the Caspian Sea, together form the Caucasus-Anatolian-Hyrcanian Temperate Forests and represent some of the most diverse and distinctive temperate forests in Eurasia.

The combination of a moderate climate, rugged topography, varied geology, and geographic proximity to both Europe and the Near East, help account for the uniqueness and complexity of plant and animal life here. Endemism is high throughout - in the Caucasus alone up to 20% of the flora is considered endemic.

Caucasus mixed forests contain a mixture of species from Central and Northern Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa. It also contains a remarkable number of endemic species, including more than 1,500 plants. Two wetlands in Colchida are so important for waterfowl and wetland species that they have been designated as RAMSAR sites - and given official protection.

Northern Anatolian conifer and deciduous forest is classified as an ‘Important Bird Area’ by Birdlife International because it provides critical habitat for the Dalmatian pelican, purple heron, and black stork. Numerous types of ferns and herbs are among the 2,400 species of plants known to occur in this region.
Size:
520,000 sq. km (200,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Temperate Coniferous Forests

Geographic Location:
Straddles southern Europe and central Asia: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered

Local Species

Selected species of the region include the Caucasian tur (Capra caucasica), maral (Cervus elaphus maral), chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), red deer (Cervus elaphus), and the Caucasian bison (a subspecies of European bison, Bison bonasus). Predators such as the wolf (Canis lupis), bear (Ursus arctos), lynx (Lynx lynx), and the extremely rare Central Asian leopard (Pantera pardus tullianus) also roam these forests.

Two birds found here and nowhere else are the Caucasian black grouse (Tetrao mlokosiewiczi), which nests in thickets of rhododendron, juniper, and birch, and the Caucasian snowcocks (Tetraogallus caucasicus), flocks of which can often be seen near mountain goats.

More than 10,000 plants, 700 vertebrates, and 20,000 invertebrates have been catalogued in the Caucasus Mixed Forests. The Euxine-Colchic deciduous forests together with the swampy broadleaf forests of the Colchic lowland, boast 130 endemic species of plants and animals.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Hartmut JUNGIUS
Maral (Cervus elaphus maral), Sakha Republic (Yakutia), Siberia, Russian Federation.
© WWF-Canon / Hartmut JUNGIUS

Featured species

The west Caucasian tur (Capra caucasica) is a large, heavy-set goat. Males are larger than females in terms of size and weight, and are easily distinguishable in the field by their larger horns. The summer coat of the west Caucasian tur varies from rusty grey to rufous-brown, while in winter the coat dulls to a grayish-brown. The body is massive with a relatively long, deep trunk; the legs are short but strong.

The diet of Caucasian tur contains over 100 recorded species of plants. Salt licks are visited regularly throughout the year, typically in the evening; herds have been recorded traveling up to 10 km in order to reach mineral sources. They are seasonal breeders; a single kid is the norm, although twins are known. West Caucasian tur vocalize using sharp, intermittent whistling which sounds almost like a high-pitched sneeze. The life span of west Caucasian tur in the wild is not precisely known, but most adult animals die before the age of 10 or 12; on rare occasions, individuals may survive into their 15th or 16th year.

They are listed by IUCN as vulnerable.

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Threats

Aggressive forestry techniques including clear felling and replanting with alien species, coastal development in narrow coastal strips, overgrazing, recreation, and dam construction in large and small catchments, threaten the integrity of this ecoregion.

An international consortium, BTC Co., headed by BP, is proposing to build a 1700 km pipeline to convey Caspian crude oil from Baku in Azerbaijan to Ceyhan on the Turkish coast of the Mediterranean. Preliminary construction work for the project commenced in 2003. Without proper planning, such projects could have a devastating impact on the biodiversity of the ecoregion.

67 botanical species of the Kopet Dag Mountains are threatened with extinction, and 15 may already have disappeared. The commercial collection of bulbs is a threat to some native bulb species, including Scilla, Galanthus, Lilium, and Cyclamen. Peat cutting and mining are problematic in certain locations as well.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Michel GUNTHER
Logger felling tree, Rodopi Mountains, Greece.
© WWF-Canon / Michel GUNTHER

WWF’s work

WWF works to preserve biodiversity in the Caucasus, addressing threats such as the BTC pipeline. It has also formed a partnership, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, which focuses on the conservation of globally threatened species, priority sites and conservation corridors by providing funding and technical assistance for the scientific community and civil society groups.

Another example of WWF’s work is the Mtirala National Park, covering 15,806 ha, which will protect a unique ecosystem of forests and wildlife in Georgia’s eastern part of the Black Sea Basin in the west Lesser Caucasus mountain range. WWF provided technical assistance in drafting the government bill that established the Mtirala National Park. WWF will continue to work with local and regional authorities in developing a management plan for the new park, which includes promoting and implementing sustainable conservation measures that are compatible with other land uses.

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