The Materials of the First National Report on Biodiversity of Armenia, presented by the Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic of Armenia, are used in this chapter.
You will be traveling in one of the most diversified ecosystems in the world. Five of the seven primary topographies exist in our small country of some 30,000 square kilometers. You will experience a remarkable range of flora and fauna. With snow capped mountains only a few hours drive from subtropical valleys, in the changes in altitude and local climates, you can experience seven springs in one visit.

Main landscape zones
The mountainous nature of Armenia results in a series of highly diverse landscapes, with variations in geological substrate, terrain, climate, soils, and water resources. These landscapes support a great variety of habitats, which support distinctive flora and fauna, and different human use. Seven distinct landscape zones are described in Armenia: deserts, semi-deserts, dry steppes, steppes, woodlands, sub-alpine and alpine lands.

(in meters above sea level)
Deserts & semi-deserts
Mountain steppes
(wet grassland)
(dry grassland)
Forests, trees & scrubs
Alpine & sub-alpine meadows


Climate The diversity of landscape creates great range of climate zones in Armenia. The country is located centrally in sub-tropical zone and thus is prone to arid (desert and semi-desert) conditions, while altitude variation results in further diversity in climatic zones in addition to existing latitudinal lines. Average annual precipitation is around 600mm and general part occurs in the spring. Relative humidity ranges from 44% in summer to 78% in winter. In general, country receives a high amount of sunshine - from 280 to 320 sunny days per year in different regions - and visitors have a good opportunity to get a nice light golden/brown tan. The average temperature throughout the year varies geographically from 2.7°C at Mount Aragats to 14°C at Meghri. In Ararat Valley and capital average temperature in June-August is 25-27°C; however, low humidity makes even higher temperatures like absolute maximum of 42°C imperceptible. June-September is favorite months for mountain trekking and alpine sports - the temperature decreases for 1°C for each 200m of elevation and lowest temperature recorded was -46° in surroundings of highland Arpi Lake. Autumn is unanimously recognized as Golden Season - mild sunny weather, multitude of landscape colors, abundance of fruits and grapes add special beauty to these months. In winter Lake Sevan is covered by ice and average temperature in mid-highlands is -10-12°C. It's time for winter sports and Tsakhkadzor - former Soviet Olympic Training Center - attracts numerous skiers, as well as ones who prefer mountain hiking in extremes. In Yerevan, however, winter is much milder and snowy New Year and Christmas is a pleasant present to children.

Geological Peculiarities
The tectonic activity that shaped Armenian Plateau, created kind of geological museum where all types of rocks are presented. The magma thickened in higher levels of earth's crust carried numerous minerals - iron, gold, molibdene, silver, lead, zinc, mercury and other ores can be found in Armenia. It also created rich depositories of tufa stone - excellent construction material in wide variety of colours from different shades yellow, orange and pink to deep black. Country is also reach in marble and lime-stone.

The diversity of semi-precious stones is quite impressive - agate, jasper, turquoise, amethyst, onyx, but the most richly is presented the obsidian - volcano glass of shades from transparent sylvester to rich golden and deep black.

All territory of Republic is spotted by mineral water springs of which over 700 are studied to the present moment. They differ in gas/chemical composition and temperature varies from 4°C at Gridzor to 83°C at Sevaberd. The most famous are Jermuk, Bjni, Arzni, Dilijan, Sevan and Hrazdan where resorts and sanatoriums are situated; the bottled waters are also exported. However, the experienced traveler can await the exploration of one of hidden springs deep in mountains or in forests.


A network of specially protected areas was first established in Armenia in 1958 to protect ecosystems, habitats and rare, endemic and threatened species. There are currently five State Reserves, 22 State Reservations and one national park registered that together cover around 311,000 ha, or 10% of the surface of the country. Around 60% of Armenian species are represented within the protected area network, however there is a bias towards forest habitats, and a need to expand the system to include better representation of other ecosystems. At present time the activities for establishment of second National Park in Vayots Dzor province are almost completed.
A number of problems linked to design and effectiveness of protection affect the State Reserves.

Use by local people.
Lack of resources.
Lack of precise map marking.
Poor reserve design.
Lack of research-based data.


State Reserves are established to provide high levels of protection for important habitats and species, and human use within reserves is restricted to scientific research. State Reserves therefore represent strict nature reserves, with respect to IUCN criteria. The Ministry of Nature Protection has overall responsibility for State Reserves, and manages two reserves (Erebuni and Sev Lich). Three more reserves (Dilijan, Shikahogh and Khosrov) are managed by 'Hayantar' State Enterprise (under the authority of the Ministry of Nature Protection).

Khosrov reserve was established in 1958 to cover one of two forests that due to Armenian historian of V C Movses Khorenatsy, were planted in III C during the reign of king Khosrov II Kodak (Short) for royal hunt at Ararat Valley. The summer residence of Armenian Kings was situated here at Azat River canyon edge, providing one of the most picturesque views to observer.
Nowadays the major part of the Preserve is located in the area of Geghama Mountain ridge. The importance of conserving the Khosrov Forest is unquestionable, and aside from being an important site for scientific research, the Reserve also serves as the "lungs" for the city of Yerevan and prevents many of rivers running through central Armenia from decimation. The importance of the Khosrov Forest extends beyond the local margins and plays a significant role in the entire ecology of the region. It is the only Caucasian reserve with such diversity of climatic areas and plant types.
Khosrov reserve includes numerous natural attractionsand historical monuments: the huge "rock organs", mysterious caves, shadycanyons and alpine meadows, ancient oaks and unique flowers. The pearl of medieval architecture - cave monastery of Geghard (Spearhead in Armenian) is also situated here. The acoustics of church hall, where Spearhead of Golgotha was kept for centuries, can impress the most demanding audience and are perfect for classical music recordings.

The Dilijan Reserve is found in the north part of Armenia and is one of the most scenic landscapes in the Republic. The main areas for conservation are woods and lakes of Pambak, Aregani, Gugark Ridges, of which the most beautiful is Parz Lake at altitude of 1400 m above sea level amidst a thick forest.
There are numerous historical-architectural monuments and archeological sites on the territory of the Preserve. These include Goshavank and Matosavank Monasteries, Hakhnabad Church, and the pearl of medieval architecture - Hagartsin Monastery of XIIICE.
The reason to establish the reserve in 1958 was to protect beech and oak communities of Caucasus mesifile forest type, mountain and forest lakes, mineral water springs, unique taxus relict park of natural and historical-architectural monuments.

The Erebuni Reserve where there are many wild grains is located in close proximity to Yerevan on red clay soil. This ancient and quite valuable reserve of wild grains has existed for millions of years. That reserve on a territory of 90 hectares was founded in 1981 to protect endemic xerophite and unique natural mountainous complex - hundreds varieties of wild cereal on redlands.

Shikahogh Reserve in distant southern region was least of all "touched by civilization". The mountain chains prevent the influx of hot air currents from the Iranian deserts while maintaining the humidity approaching from the Caspian Sea. Each mountain pass has its own unique micro-climatic region and this is the only preserve that conserves oak and hornbeam virgin forests and wide diversity of wildlife.

Sev Kar Reserve was established in 1987 in southern part of Armenia and covers the crater and eastern slope of Mets Ishkhanasar Mount. The reserve on the altitude of 2658m is to protect unique alpine watershed with plant and animal communities of volcanic origin

Sevan National Park

State Reservations were established to protect a range of rare and important habitats and species in Armenia, and to improve the balance between economic use and nature protection in the country. In reservations, some economic activities are allowed, although these are expected to be regulated to prevent ecological damage. 'Hayantar' State Enterprise manages most reservations, but some are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Nature Protection and Ministry of Agriculture, and one is managed by the National Academy of Science.

Juniper forests The reservation was established in 1958 to protect unique and relict juniper forests and local wildlife at the eastern slopes of Sevan Ridge (Gegharkunik Province).

Yew of Akhnabat Conserves the unique park of relict yew at the western slopes of Miavor Ridge at the altitudes 1400-1700m in Gegharkunik Province. Established in 1958.

Hazelnut Established in 1958 with aim to protect relict hazelnut and yew parks in Khajakhbur River basin at altitudes 1500-1800m in Gegharkunik Province.

Pine of Banx Established in 1959 with aim to protect unique arboretum park of pine of Banx at northern slopes of Tsaghkuniats Ridge and in Marmarik River basin at altitudes 1800-2000m in Kotayk Province.

Sands of Goravan The reservation was established in 1959 to protect residual quick sands with unique plants and wildlife at the steep slopes (alt. 1100-1200m) of Ararat Valley (Ararat Province).

Juniper forest of Her-Her Founded in 1958 to conserve the relict juniper forest/pear orchard with wildlife at the Her-Her River basin at the altitudes 1400-1700m in Vayots Dzor Province.

Jermuk The reservation was established in 1958 to protect Armenian mouflon, besoar goats, wild boar, mountainous forests at the altitudes 1100-2800m in the Arpa River basin (Vayots Dzor Province).

Jermuk Established in 1983 to protect mineral water springs at upper watershed of Arpa River in Vayots Dzor Province.

Pine of Giulagarak Founded in 1958 to conserve the relict pine forest at slopes of Bazum and Pambak Mountains, altitudes 1400-1900m in Tavush Province.

Park of plane tree Was established in 1958 to protect the only natural plane-tree park in the Caucasus Altitudes 700-750m in basin of Tzav River in Siunik Province.

Rose bay Rhododentrn Founded in 1959 to conserve the Caucasian rosebay at the at the altitudes 1900-2200m at Pambak and Tskghkuniats Ridges (joint of Kotayk, Lory and Tavush Provinces).

Margahovit Established in 1959 to protect goat, bear, caucasian wood grouse at altitudes 1900-2200m at northern slopes of Pambak Range and in Pambak River basin (Lori Province).

Aragats The reservation was established in 1959 to protect alpine flora around Kari Lake and adjacent grasslands of Aragats Mount at the altitudes 3250-3350m in the Aragatsotn Province.

Arzakan/Meghradzor Founded in 1971 with aim to protect goat, deer, grey bear, wild boar, caucasian wood grouse in the basins of Marmarik and Dalarik Rivers, altitudes 1600-2100m in Kotayk Province.

Ijevan Was founded in 1971 to protect rare and endemic animal species: besoar goat, wild boar, grey bear, panther, porcupines at mountain ranges (alt. 900-2100m) in Tavush Province.

Ghadzakar Established in 1971 with aim to protect rare and endemic animal species: besoar goat, wild boar, grey bear, panther, porcupines in Paytajur River basin (alt. 1500-2700m) in Tavush Province.

Ghetik Founded in 1971 to protect rare and endemic animal species: besoar goat, wild boar, grey bear, panther, porcupines in Ghetik River basin (alt. 1500-2700m), Tavush Province.

Eghegnadzor Was established in 1971 to protect rare and endemic animal species: besoar goat, wild boar, grey bear, panther, porcupines in Tsagheghis River basin (alt. 1200-2800m), Vayots Dzor Province.

Goris Has the aim to protect rare and endemic animal species: besoar goat, wild boar, grey bear, panther, porcupines in Vorotan and Vararakh Rivers basin (alt. 1400-2800m) in Siunik Province.

Boghakar Founded in 1989 to protect typical for Armenia flora and fauna species at southern slopes of Zangezur Ridge (alt. 1400-2180m), Tavush Province.

Vordan Karmir Was established in 1987 to protect unique plant community of Vordan Karmir in desert areas of Ararat Valley at the altitudes 800-1200m) in Ararat Province.

Hankavan Established in 1981 to protect mineral water springs at upper watershed of Marmarik River in Kotayk Province.

Reservations suffer many of the same problems as reserves, particularly in relation to over- use of biological resources.

Other activities
Design of reservations.


Protected Areas
monuments have been established to protect unique and typical natural sites of academic, historic or cultural importance (following a law on specially protected areas passed in 1991). Such sites are protected from disturbance, to avoid loss of small areas of high international importance or of aesthetic value. Each site is considered independently and an appropriate agency is specified for protection. Some monuments include living trees, such as the wide-leaf pines around Tsaghkavan and ancient walnuts in Shamb (Zangezur province), "King's" oak (35m height, 1,7m diameter), rare and a Judas tree.
Other natural monuments include volcanic formations, various mountain lakes, mineral springs, and waterfalls.
But the real hidden attraction are the caves, numbering over 10.000 in Armenia. The studied part of Bear's cave in Vayots Dzor province has the length of 3,3km on 7 levels and contains numerous lakes stlaktite/stalagmite halls and labyrinths. The smaller nearby cave of Magili was inhabited since Neolithic times and discovered rich archaeological material. That natural monuments of world significance need improvement and preparation to be opened to tourists, while almost all other caves can be visited freely.
The most famous among the natural attractions in the Republic is "Devil's bridge" in Vorotan River canyon. Here few fallen rocks created a monolith construction 15m long and 10m high, ornamented by stalaktites and interlaced branches of bush. Adjacent warm mineral water spring adds the number of visitors.
Another natural bridge on Bakhtak River - "Tsak Kar" was used in Medieval Ages by local folks, who adjusted the water-mill under smaller of its 2 spans. Down by river there are few caves, of which the largest is 60m long.
Worthy of mention is very elegant Bjni arches in Hrazdan River canyon. The larger one is 20m long and 18 tall and another is 4m long and 5m high.

However, natural monuments are not under full legal protection, and inventory and identification procedures are underdeveloped. These sites are considered to be the most threatened within the protected areas system. As a result of human impacts (including mining, tree felling and constructions) many natural monuments are being degraded and destroyed.




"...A piece of blue sky fallen", "...mountain mirror" - Lake Sevan is the second highest in the world situated at the altitude of 1900 meters in hollow of picturesque Geghama Mounts. The surrounding highland steppes elevate to alpine meadows and groves, crowned by snow-capped peaks - add fresh mountain air, rich blue color of the sky, elusively changing shades of Lake and you'll get why it is the beloved place for rest and travel.
In other words, it's a source of endless surprises and discoveries:

An amateur geologist can observe rainbow-colored fields of cracked magma and huge basalt cliffs, to gather rich collection of stones and minerals.

For researchers in botany of special interest will be the endemic species with ancestors dating back to post - mounts formation era.

Ornithologist will find fascinating diversity of resident and migratory birds.

For archaeologists this area presents hundreds of historical monuments and numerous excavations providing amazing pieces of Bronze Age crafts and fine art.

The beauty of Sevan Lake and its surroundings is hardly expressed - you have to see it. One who had seen the dawn with golden ribbon on turquoise water and colonies of pelicans and flamingos will remember it forever.

Lake Sevan contains 80% of Armenian water resources (33 billion cubic m.), and plays an important role in regulating the country's water balance.
During the period 1933 to 1981 the lake was used to support the agricultural, industrial and energy sectors and its level dropped dramatically. The lake system and its ecological balance were greatly disturbed by that process, which reduced the volume of the lake by 42%, with areas round the edges of the lake drying out. The changes in the conditions within the lake have led to degradation of the whole ecosystem, and changes in various processes within the area of the lake (including bio- degradation, sedimentation and diffusion).
The drainage of the lake also had important effects for the fauna. Drying of parts of the rocky bottom of the lake destroyed the principal trout breeding sites. In addition, around 10.000 ha of wetland and semi-wetland areas also dried out. These areas were previously used by up to 160 species of migratory birds, and only 50 of these species are now recorded. The populations of mammal and reptile species in the area have also declined significantly, and there is evidence of changes in species composition.
In response the problem of entrophication, the decision was made to increase inflow to Lake Sevan from neighboring rivers (including the River Arpa). Since 1982, between 250 and 270 million m? of water has been carried from the Arpa River each year, through the 48km long Arpa-Sevan tunnel. As a result, the volume of water in the lake has risen, and between 1984 and 1990 the level of the lake increased by l.2m. In addition, a number of physic-chemical, biochemical and bio-production processes have stabilized, and changes in the lakes biota have been reversed, resulting in significant decreases in the levels of eutrophication.
However, demand for water from Lake Sevan for energy production rose dramatically during the period 1991 - 1995, and this resulted in a 2.2m drop the level of the lake, and further destabilization of physical, chemical and biotic processes, leading to build up of organic residues in the water of the lake. Analysis of the causes and effects of eutrophication in Lake Sevan indicates that mitigation of the negative processes associated with eutrophication will require an increase of 6m in the level of the lake. This will buffer the lake from changes in the related watersheds and from accumulation of organic matter from sediments. Since establishment of National Park in 1981 efforts to preserve that huge reservoir of potable water is generally directed towards minimizing of pollution resulted by agricultural activity and proper organization of services at recreation area. Tree planting is an important step in that direction and number of forest areas is increasing. The problems associated with Lake Sevan have bee n analyzed and an action plan has been developed for the lake by the World Bank (May 1998), which includes detailed activities for the recovery of the lake.

Sevan National Park

The only National Park in Armenia was established in 1981 to protect Lake Sevan and the surrounding areas. Overall, including buffer zones, 150.100 ha are protected, including 24,800 ha of dry land. Sevan National Park falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Nature Protection, and is managed as a research centre, which monitors the ecosystems, and undertakes various conservation measures (including regulation of use and tourism, and protection of historical and cultural monuments). Licensed fishing on the lake is also regulated.
Three main zoning areas exist: the core (reserve) zone, a recreation zone and a zone for economic use. The core protection zone includes the watershed for the lake, and the park also incorporates a number of smaller reserves and reservations. One of the key sites in the park is the Artanish peninsula (2243 ha), which, being very isolated, is relatively undisturbed. Around 1000 higher plant species (including 94 trees and shrubs) are found in this area, which also supports a range of endemic and rare animal species. Three main zones are recognized within the Artanish peninsula, including the lakeshore habitats (planted forests containing pine, poplar, apricot-tree, oleaster, and sea-buckthorn), a medium altitude zone (20-100m) where species such as juniper and rose are common, and an alpine zone (>100m) dominated by meadow habitats. However, the first two zones were severely affected by illegal felling during the energy crisis.
Protection is aimed at the rare and endemic species of the lake and surrounding habitats. The diversity of habitats and conditions in the area support a wide range of plants and animals, including:

Plants - Acantholimon gabrieljanae, Astragalus goktschaicus, Isatis sevangensis, Sorbusjunstanjca, S. hajastariaand Adonis wolgensis

Fish - nine species, including whitefish, Sevan trout, barbel, "kogak" and crocian carp.

Amphibians - six species including the green toad (Bufo viridis) and a frog (Rana ridibunda).

Reptiles - seventeen species including rock lizards (Lacerta unisexualis, L. nairensis, L. rostmbekovi, L. armeniaca) and snakes (Natrix natrix, Natrix tessellata, Coronella austnaca, Vipera erivanensis).

Birds - 267 species, including Greylag Goose, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Coot, Mallard, Whopper Swan, Ruddy Shelduck, Armenian Gull, Great Cormorant, Glossy Ibis, Black-winged Stilt and others..

Mammals - 34 species, including marbled polecat, otter, leopard, wild goat, wolf, fox and beech marten.

The decline in the water level of Lake Sevan (by 19m since the 1950s) has severely affected aquatic, coastal swamp and marshland habitats of the park. In addition, a further 10,000 ha of marshland was drained for agricultural use. In particular, the birds using Lake Sevan were affected by these habitat changes and a number of species no longer breed on the lake. Between 1922 and 1996, the areas used by nesting waterfowl on the lake nearly halved, and the number of Armenian gulls on the lake has also declined dramatically.
There is a need for further research in the Lake Sevan national park, particularly to help with reserve demarcation and to identify the best management approaches for the park and its water resources. It has also been suggested that the park be expanded to incorporate the area previously covered by Lake Gilly, before it was drained, and to undertake some form of habitat restoration of the lake area


The miniatures from ancient Armenian manuscripts are used in this website
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