Global protection for Colchic Wetlands in Georgia

Posted on 27 July 2021

World Heritage Site status for wetlands provides greater protection for rich biodiversity, including endangered sturgeon species
It's official. Georgia's Colchic Rainforest and Wetlands are a critical part of our global shared heritage and extraordinary enough to be inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The biodiverse area is home to around 1,100 species of plants and 500 vertebrates, including 19 threatened animal species, notably the critically endangered Colchic Sturgeon. Indeed, five species of endangered sturgeon - Ship, Beluga, Stellate, and Russian, as well as the endemic Colchic - still survive in the Rioni river, which runs through the World Heritage Site.

The site also contains an important area of peatland.
 
The decision follows a joint effort by the Agency of Protected Areas of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, the German Government, WWF Caucasus and Michael Succow Foundation to assess and submit the site for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
 
Georgia is located entirely within the Caucasus ecoregion - one of the world’s Biodiversity Hotspots, which hosts 2,791 plant species and 21 genera that are found nowhere else in the world; the level of plant endemism – more than 25% of the region’s plant species – is the highest in the temperate world. More than 120 species of vertebrate animals are endemic to the Caucasus Ecoregion.

Sturgeon are the most threatened family of species on Earth with 7 of the 8 species in Europe facing extinction.

Securing international protection for the Colchic wetlands is a major boost to the sturgeon species that still survive there," said Beate Striebel, WWF Lead, Global Sturgeon initiative. "It is vital to conserve the few remaining refuges of sturgeon in Europe so it is wonderful to hear that Colchic is now a World Heritage Site."
 
Ancient bridge - Kintrishi Protected Areas
© WWF/Nugzar Zazanashvili
Five species of endangered sturgeon live in the Rioni river, which runs through the Colchic World Heritage Site
© WWF Caucasus