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Support Development of Biodiversity Conservation Policies and Practices in Mountain Regions of the South Caucasus

The Caucasus is one of the most biologically rich regions on Earth and is ranked among the planet’s 34 most diverse and endangered biodiversity “hotspots”. Organizations such as Conservation international and the WWF have identified these forest and high mountain ecosystems as most vulnerable and as priority biomes for conservation efforts at eco-region levels. With its high level of diversity and endemism as well as specific evolutional processes and unique historical floral and faunal development, the Caucasus Eco-region is of great significance in terms of environmental and biodiversity preservation. The Caucasus has been named a large herbivore hotspot by the WWF and 50 species of globally threatened animals and one globally endangered plant have been identified in the Caucasus. The Caucasus Mountains harbor a wealth of highly sought-after medicinal and decorative plants, as well as unique relic and endemic plant communities. Yet biodiversity in the Caucasus is being lost at an alarming rate due to unsustainable logging, overgrazing, poaching, infrastructure development, and pollution. Immediate actions and long-term Eco region-based conservation strategies are required to halt the destruction and guarantee protection of this globally important center of biodiversity.

The Major Goal of the project ‘’Support Development of Biodiversity Conservation Policies and Practices in Mountain Regions of the South Caucasus’’ implemented by REC Caucasus is to build capacity of local communities and authorities to address biodiversity loss in forest ecosystems of mountain regions of South Caucasus in order to improve participatory biodiversity management.

The project is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and focuses on three mountain regions of the South Caucasus: The Racha region in Georgia, the Yeniyol and Shehriyar regions in Azerbaijan and the Koghb and Jujevan regions in Armenia. The Project duration is 2011 – 2014.

The following Specific Objectives were identified:

·       Raise awareness and knowledge of local communities, local authorities in mountain regions and decision-makers at national level on values of forest ecosystems services and biodiversity, as well as benefits of conservation and sustainable use,

·       Increase willingness to protect biodiversity

·       Introduce practices of participatory biodiversity management planning at local level

·       Demonstrate practical application through implementation of pilot projects on restoration of degraded forest ecosystems and respective enhancement of their values.

To achieve the above mentioned project goal and objectives the following Activities will be performed:

1.     Awareness raising and increasing willingness to protect biodiversity:

1.1.   An economic assessment of values of ecosystems services and biodiversity (including forest ecosystems) in surrounding areas of selected communities will be performed at initial stage of the project, as a pilot study (TEEB evaluation). The assessment is vital for local communities and authorities, as well as desicion makers at national level to better understand the importance of biodiversity conservation as well as the benefits from it, to make reasonable and proper decisions and to conduct efficient and well informed planning proceses based on the latest approaches.

1.2.   Conduct awareness raising activities, such as social events, media-tours, publications.

1.3.   Conduct regional conference/meetings for knowledge and experience sharing.

2.     Introducing biodiversity management planning

2.1.   Perform forest resource use study in surrounding areas of selected target communities in Racha region in Georgia, Yeniyol and Shehriyar regions in Azerbaijan and Koghb and Jujevan regions in Armenia.

2.2.   Development of the GIS database/maps of forest ecosystems in surrounding areas of selected target communities.

2.3.   Conduct gap analysis of existing regional / local policy, strategies, programmes in light of reflection issues related to biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and community forest management and elaborate recommendations to mainstream biodiversity and community forest management issues into policy/regulatory documents.

2.4.   Conduct capacities need assessment at local level to mainstream biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and community forest issues into local development policies and develop recomendations to enhance respective capacities.

2.5.   Trainings for decision makers and local population on value of ecosystems services, biodiversity conservation and sustainable use planning (including community forest planning and implementation), on-job trainings targeting practical needs of communities will be designed and implemented.

2.6.   Development of the local plans for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, community forest management plans for target communities based on participatory approach.

3.     Implementation of pilot projects

3.1.   Design and implementation of demonstration projects of restoration of degraded forest ecosystems to enhance their values.

The following Major Results are expected upon implementation of activities:

  1. Knowledge on economic values of ecosystem services and biodiversity is created;
  2. Public awareness is raised on importance of biodiversity conservation, which encourages the local population to use bio-resources in sustainable manner;
  3. Local capacity to recognize values of biodiversity and ecosystem services is enhanced to ensure sustainable use of biodiversity;
  4. Biological resources are managed in a sustainable manner, which facilitates maintenance of biodiversity in target communities;
  5. The local government and community qualification in participatory biodiversity management planning is raised so that beneficiaries are able to independently administer the process.