Country Profiles

Azerbaijan - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

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

Situated at the juncture of several bio-geographical areas, the country contains species of European, Central Asian and Mediterranean origin and forms an integral part of the Caucasus Ecoregion (a region with exceptional levels of biodiversity according to the WWF’s Global 200 Project). Azerbaijan also shares the Caspian Sea with four other countries (Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan). The number of endemic fish species in the Caspian Sea region is very high, and includes one lamprey species, 11 herring species, 24 species of Caspian gobies and five anadromous sturgeon species, all of which are fished commercially. The Caspian seal is the only resident endemic mammal.

Approximately 4,500 species of vascular plants have been recorded in the country, of which 210 are considered endemic. Agricultural development is of significant importance for economic development. The country is also considered to be a center of origin for a number of globally important food crops. The country is especially noted for fruit and nut trees, and the forests of the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains and the Talish Mountains contain wild ancestors of apples, persimmons, walnuts, chestnuts, pistachios and many other species that have been widely domesticated into many different varieties and strains. Species of grains (e.g. wheat, maize, barley, rye, rice) are also widely cultivated. Medicinal plants, such as Carpodium platycarpum (the source of camphor) and Valeriana officinalis (valerian) are dried and packaged by “AzerfarmLtd.” primarily. Species exported abroad for commercial purposes include Glycyrrhiza glabra (the source of liquorice), among others. Moreover, the country’s economy has benefitted historically from cotton-growing, carpet-making, livestock-breeding, trade in oil and minerals, and tobacco-growing. Biotechnological activities are also supported with genetic variations of some of the species listed having been developed to date.

Approximately 25,000 species of invertebrates have been recorded from the country, of which 90% are within the phylum Arthropoda. Azerbaijan also hosts 667 species of vertebrates: fishes (102), amphibians (10), reptiles (54), birds (394), mammals (107). The diverse and threatened large mammal fauna includes wild goat, chamois, red and roe deer and their predators, such as lynx, wildcat and leopard. Azerbaijan is an important migratory path for many bird species (including the globally threatened Lesser White-fronted Goose) travelling from Europe and Russia and south to Africa and Asia.

The second edition of the Red Book of Azerbaijan (2013) lists 338 species of higher plants, 12 species of fungi, 23 species of lower plants and 223 species of fauna (including 74 insect species, 6 amphibian species, 14 reptile species, 9 fish species, 72 bird species and 42 mammal species). This represents a significant increase in the number of rare, threatened and endangered species that were recorded in the first edition published in 1989, although this may in part be attributed to an improvement in the research and monitoring capacity of the National Academy of Sciences. The fifth national report (April 2014) indicates that, since submitting the fourth national report (March 2010), there have been no changes to the country’s six broad ecosystem complexes (forest, swamp, wetland, grassland and semi-desert, coastal and marine, high mountain).

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

The main pressures on Azerbaijan’s biodiversity include: (i) land degradation (extensive salinization, widespread soil erosion, weak regulation of building and construction activities, and pervasive use of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides); (ii) habitat fragmentation (harvesting of timber, conversion of grasslands for agriculture, damming of rivers, expanding the network of irrigation channels in steppe ecosystems, outbreak of wildfires); (iii) unsustainable levels of natural resource use (overgrazing in grasslands and semi-arid areas, hunting of wild birds and game species, over-fishing of sturgeon and other commercial fish species, and poorly maintained water distribution systems); (iv) pollution (limited infrastructure and capacity for effective waste management, weak storage capacity for hazardous wastes, residual oil pollution, incoming municipal, industrial and agricultural wastes from trans-boundary rivers); (v) invasive species (marine and terrestrial spread); and (vi) climate change (weak adaptation and mitigation capacities).

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

To date, implementation of the National Strategy and Plan of Action on Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity in the Republic of Azerbaijan (2006-2010) has resulted in the completion of 2 of the 13 overarching activities contained in the Action Plan (the remaining activities are either ongoing or have been partially implemented). Outcomes include the publication of the second edition of the Red Book of Azerbaijan (2013) and the identification and assessment of ecosystems with rich biodiversity. In the latter regard, the Ecoregion Conservation Plan for the Caucasus (2012) identifies the Priority Conservation Areas to focus conservation actions in the Caucasus ecoregion of Azerbaijan, and the National Caspian Action Plan (NCAP) identifies the Priority Conservation Areas to focus conservation actions in Azerbaijan’s territorial waters of the Caspian Sea.

Azerbaijan is currently in the process of updating its NBSAP for the 2015-2020 period, including developing national biodiversity targets, with the global framework being taken into account.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The fifth national report (April 2014) indicates that, to date, the country has made “good progress” in regard to actions taken to achieve Target 10 (pressures on vulnerable ecosystems reduced), Target 12 (extinction prevented), Target 13 (genetic diversity maintained), Target 15 (ecosystems restored and resilience enhanced) and Target 17 (NBSAPs adopted as policy instrument). On the other hand, “limited progress” has been achieved regarding Target 3 (incentives reformed), and “fair/reasonable progress” in regard to the remaining 13 global targets (with Target 16 on the Nagoya Protocol not being applicable to Azerbaijan).

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

Key biodiversity mainstreaming activities undertaken in the last four years for each of the key production sectors in Azerbaijan are described below:

Energy sector: wind farm in the Gobustan rayon; hybrid solar-wind farm projects in Gobustan and Absheron; Yashma wind park project; Sumgait Power Station project; optimization of AzDRES; biogas installations in 5 upland villages; Balakhani Landfill projects; ISO 14001-compliant EMS developed for BP; and SOCAR ‘zero-waste’ strategy.

Agricultural sector: introducing state subsidies for cultivation costs associated with biofuels; developing large-scale cattle husbandry complexes for more intensive development of livestock; exempting approved agricultural producers from tax; securing preferential loan rates for approved farmers; improving the knowledge and skills of more cost-effective and sustainable farming approaches; improving insurance mechanisms for farmers; development and cultivation of agricultural plant varieties which are more resistant to the effects of drought, frost, diseases and pests; improvement of irrigation methods and water-use efficiencies; and reducing and eliminating the use of dangerous pesticides and fertilizers.

Forestry sector: expanding the national forest coverage; greening urban areas; and rehabilitating the ecological functioning of degraded forests.

Water sector: construction/expansion of water-sewage treatment plants in regions; and installation of module type water treatment facilities in villages.

Fishing and aquaculture sector: new draft version of the ‘Law on Fishing’; 12 fish breeding enterprises (sturgeon, carp and salmon); enforcement of fishing quotas and restrictions, notably sturgeon.

Impact management: draft law on ‘Assessment of Environmental Impact’.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

Azerbaijan does not yet have a consolidated biodiversity monitoring system that would enable it to systematically report on progress in the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets. However, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources (MENR) is developing a National Biodiversity Monitoring System (NBMS). The first version of the NBMS (2013) defines 20 pressure, state and response indicators, of which 15 are considered priority indicators for the country. Once fully developed, the NBMS will be integrated into the revised and updated NBSAP.