The Caucasus: A biodiversity hotspot

Geographical location:

Europe/Middle-East > North Asia/Mongolia > Georgia (GE)

Limestone mountain range with high biodiversity, a potential nature reserve. Caucasus, Georgia.
© WWF-Canon / Hartmut JUNGIUS

Summary

The Caucasus region spans across Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia, northeast Turkey and a small part of northwestern Iran. This is one of the world’s biologically richest yet most threatened areas.

In an effort to protect the region’s biodiversity from habitat loss and poaching, WWF and its partners set up the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. The initiative focuses on conserving a number of endangered species, including the critically endangered Saiga antelope, Siberian crane and Baltic sturgeon in 5 priority areas: Greater Caucasus, Caspian, West Lesser Caucasus, East Lesser Caucasus and Hyrcanian.

Background

Biodiversity hotspots are the focus of the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), a joint initiative of Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation, the World Bank and WWF.

In 2003 WWF Caucasus coordinated preparation of the CEPF ecosystem profile, a strategic document directing CEPF's activities in the Caucasus. The profile defines universal conservation outcomes for the region and identifies conservation targets on species, site, and landscape corridor levels. It formulates CEPFs niche and recommends a 5-year investment strategy that will contribute to the conservation of biodiversity in this globally significant region in the future.

This funding strategy was developed based on stakeholder workshops and background reports. More than 130 experts representing a variety of scientific, government, and non-government organizations (NGO) in 6 countries participated in preparation of the document.

Alongside the CEPF Ecosystem Profile, WWF Caucasus is working on an Ecoregional Conservation Plan (ECP), a comprehensive strategy for action to conserve and restore the biodiversity of the Caucasus ecoregion over the span of several decades. The ECP is a guiding document for medium-term conservation (20 years). It is hoped governments, NGOs, and donor organizations will use this document to assist in planning and coordinating conservation activities in the Caucasus.

The ECP is based on a biodiversity vision elaborated by stakeholders from the region. The vision covers the next 50 years and sets long-term goals for conservation of the region's biodiversity, identifying priority conservation areas and strategies regardless of national borders.

Objectives

Conserve 51 species at risk, including the critically endangered Saiga antelope, Siberian crane and Baltic (Atlantic) sturgeon.

Solution

The CEPF programme focus is based on the need to suppress proximate threats to biodiversity and their root causes in the Caucasus. Within the ecosystem profile, 5 target corridors of the 10 total corridors have been delineated to conserve globally threatened species and their major habitats.

Government institutions and civil society are active in conservation in the region, but often lack the capacity to implement environmental programmes. CEPF can build on their existing programmes to further biodiversity conservation, in particular, through increasing transboundary cooperation, strengthening existing protected areas systems, strengthening mechanisms for biodiversity conservation, promoting sustainable resource use and increasing awareness and commitment.

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