Country Profiles

Armenia - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The Republic of Armenia is considered a small landlocked country located in the Caucasian region of Eurasia. The landscape diversity in Armenia and the peculiarity of its terrain represent critical factors for the formation and evolution of the flora and fauna in the country. The biodiversity in Armenia includes more than 200 edible plant species, 40 edible fungi species, more than 1000 fodder plants, 350 species of honey plants, 350 ether bearing plants, 120 dye plants, 100 vitamin producing plants and 60 rubber producing plants; around 10% of the flora in Armenia are considered to have medical properties. About 3% of the flora (123 species) are local endemics of Armenia.

A comprehensive study of Armenia’s fauna and flora was undertaken between 2007 and 2010. In 2010, an update of the Red Book was approved by the Government of the Republic of Armenia and given legal status. The new edition includes 452 plant species (12.5 % of flora) and 308 animal species (2% of fauna), as well as 40 fungi species and 155 invertebrate animal species. Assessment was based on the criteria of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and on aerial data regarding these species mapped with the use of a GIS system. The leopard (Panthera pardus - "Critically Endangered”), Armenian mouflon (Ovis orientalis - “Endangered”), Bezoar goat (Capra aegagrus - “Vulnerable”), Trans-Caucasian brown bear (Ursus arctos - “Vulnerable”), European marbled polecat (Vormela peregusna - “Vulnerable”), Eurasian otter (Lutra Lutra - “Endangered”) and the Pallas' Cat (Otocolobus manul - “Regionally Extinct”) are among the most threatened mammals.

The Caucasus is included in the list of Global 200 Ecoregions by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and considered an endangered area. The region is also ranked among the planet's most 25 endangered biodiversity hotspots by Conservation International. Aquatic biodiversity is also at great risk. For instance, until the 20th century, Sevan Lake contained three endemic fish species however two of these species have almost disappeared since the l920s as a result of lower water levels.

The connection between bioresources and the country’s socioeconomic situation is clearly expressed. Bioresources are the main factor supporting the Armenian economy, especially in terms of supplying agriculture, food and other industries with raw materials and recreational development. From an economic standpoint, forests are arguably the most important natural ecosystem in the country. Open forests are used by the local inhabitants mainly as a source of wood and seasonal pastures. Open forests also contain herbs and edible plants which are gathered by the local inhabitants for personal use and sale in domestic markets.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

Biodiversity loss has been most rapid in the last century as a result of the development of industry, agriculture, urbanization, energy and the intensive exploitation of forests, grasslands and other ecosystems. The main threats to biodiversity are directly or indirectly connected with anthropogenic forces and include habitat change, overexploitation, pollution through wastewaters and mineral fertilizers, overgrazing, plowing and illegal logging, tourism development, introduced alien species, climate change and poor irrigation systems that cause salinization and soil erosion. Around 40% of the country’s farmland is eroded (eroded land provides 3-4 times less harvest than un-eroded land). The results of anthropogenic influence are more substantial on the forest, semi-desert and steppe ecosystems, as well as on the aquatic ecosystem of Lake Sevan.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The main goal of Armenia’s NBSAP is to ensure the conservation, sustainable use and regeneration of the landscapes and biological diversity of the Republic of Armenia for sustainable human development. As part of the NBSAP, 13 tasks have been proposed with a total of 245 actions and measures. Each of these actions and measures is relatively prioritized.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

Specially protected areas serve as a means to effectively preserve biodiversity in Armenia. Their total area comprises 379,187 hectares or 12.7% of the country’s total area (or 7% of the total area if the surface of Lake Sevan is excluded). Fifty-four percent of the specially protected areas consists of forest ecosystems; 70% of the country’s flora and fauna is protected in specially protected areas. Armenia’s protected area system includes 3 state reserves (Khosrov, Shikahogh, Erebuni), 26 state sanctuaries, 4 national parks (Sevan, Dilijan, Lake Arpi, Arevik) and 230 natural monuments. The process of establishing specially protected areas is ongoing. The establishment of an additional 2 protected areas is expected in the south of Armenia (Gnishik and Khustup), as is the establishment of the Shikahogh biosphere reserve on the state reserve in the Syunik region through financial support provided by the KfW Development Bank (Entwicklungsbank).

Forest management plans have been developed for approximately 46,000 hectares of forests and the development of forest management plans for an additional 1,789,000 hectares is under way.

Special strategies and survey programmes have also been set for particular species, such as populations of the Armenian moufflon, bezoar goat and panther. Consequently, some threatened species are now recovering. For instance, the decline of the black griffon vulture population in Armenia has been stopped and the population stabilized (there were 4 pairs of the bird in 2002 and 7-8 pairs in 2005-2008). In the last years, new populations of some rare plant species were found. These species were included in the first edition of the Red Data Book of Armenia (1989) as “extinct”, but thanks to special investigations have been located again (e.g. Sternbergia colchiciflora, Glycyrrhiza echinata, Nuphar lutea, Cyclamen vernum).

Legislation and infrastructure related to biodiversity protection have also been improved. Armenia’s Red Book has been updated and environmental education programmes are in process. Yet some steps still need to be taken, notably in regard to the conservation of genetic resources, especially as relates to food production and agriculture management. Development in this domain continues to be hindered by the absence of a national strategy and a comprehensive national programme on the use of genetic resources, insufficient coordination and deficiencies in regard to the availability of a comprehensive national information database and mechanisms for information exchange.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

Three main strategic documents have been developed in Armenia which are directly connected to biodiversity conservation, namely: Second National Environmental Action Programme of the Republic of Armenia (approved by the Government of Armenia in 2008, containing priorities for biodiversity conservation that are directly related to the 2010 Biodiversity Target); Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan of Armenia (1999); Strategy for Developing Specially Protected Areas and National Action Plan of Armenia (2002). Biodiversity conservation is also mainstreamed into several policy fields, notably in the agricultural sector (through the Land Code of Armenia and the Agricultural Sustainable Development Strategy) and the forestry sector (through various texts such as the action plan for mitigating actions to help address the problems associated with illegal logging and the National Forest Program of the Republic of Armenia). Finally, the first Poverty Reduction Strategic Program (PRSP) recognizes that the overexploitation of natural resources is a serious environmental problem. The strategy pays considerable attention to forest rehabilitation and puts forward a number of suggestions for improving environmental conditions.

While biodiversity policy implementation suffers from a general lack of efficient coordination, efforts have been made in the field of agrobiodiversity to enhance capacity-building and information-sharing. An interdepartmental committee for plant genetic resources for agriculture and food safety was created in 2005 to coordinate the development of national programmes and strategies in the field of plant genetic resources conservation.

Biodiversity policies are supported by international donor organizations whose financial assistance is mainly targeted at the creation of new protected areas, conservation of endangered species and awareness-raising activities for the local population.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

Multiple tools exist for monitoring and reviewing implementation. Within the framework of the Natural Resource Management and Poverty Reduction Project, the mapping of national parks, inventorying of biodiversity components and introduction of a system for biodiversity monitoring have been carried out.

Regarding aquatic ecosystems, the “Environmental Impact Monitoring Centre” (EIMC) (a State non-commercial organization of the Ministry of Nature Protection) carries out periodic monitoring of water quality in regard to more than 14 water basins in Armenia each year. Since 2007, the EIMC has annually conducted activities to monitor surface water quality with full capacity, in regard to 1,200 samplings from 131 observation points (6-12 samples from each observation point). Regarding the monitoring of surface water quantity, there are currently 7 hydrological stations and 92 observation points currently in operation in the country. Within the framework of state programs and with the assistance of international organizations, considerable aid has been given to improving state surface water monitoring.

Furthermore, the Center for Ecological-Noosphere Studies of the Armenian National Academy of Science (NAS) has comprehensively studied the concentration of heavy metals and their impact on the biodiversity of cities and near-city areas. Finally, the second edition of the Red Book of Armenia constitutes a valuable tool for monitoring species conservation trends.