Nature in Armenia

11 October 2013 | Article

Armenia is located in the north-eastern part of the Armenian Plateau and occupies 29,740 km2 at altitudes ranging from 380 to 4,095 meters above sea level. This difference in altitudes has created a series of highly diverse landscapes going from deserts to Alpine meadow, with mountains, steppes and forests. The geographical location, geological complex structure, vertical zonation and location of the country at the junction of major biogeographical zones have contributed to the evolution of rich biodiversity and different types of natural ecosystems.

The biodiversity of Armenia is especially rich in economically valuable, rare and endemic species. There are approximately 2,000 valuable species of plants, with characteristics ranging from nutritive and curative properties, to fodder or oil, honey and resin production. Animals are also economically valuable for their fur and meat. There are numerous species of wild crop relatives and animal genes, making Armenia one of the centers of cattle breeding and agriculture.

Despite its small area, about 3,600 species of vascular flowering plants and more than 17,500 animal species (including 545 species of vertebrates) are found in Armenia. To imagine the wealth of the flora it is worthwhile to mention that more than half of the plant species of the Caucasus occurs in Armenia, which only occupies 6.7% of the whole territory. In fact, some 3,500 species of vascular plants have been recorded, giving a density of higher plants (100 spp./km2) that is one of the highest in the world.

The rate of endemism is also very high: there are 125 endemic vascular plant species, which is about 3% of the total flora diversity of the country, and 339 endemic species of terrestrial fauna, including 316 invertebrates.

Armenia hosts many various fauna species, as 17,000 invertebrate and 541 vertebrate species, of which 355 are birds. The diversity of avifauna is impressive if compared to other territories: the area covered by the former Soviet Union is home to 750 species and the Caucasus eco-region to about 400, whereas Armenia alone holds 355 bird species. 11% of the fish, 17% of the amphibians, 24% of the reptiles, 23% of the birds and 24% of the mammals in Armenia have been estimated to be rare and endangered and have been included in the Red Book of Armenia (1988). The Caucasian Leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor), the Armenian Moufflon (Ovis orientalis), the Bezoar Goat (Capra aegagrus), the Syrian Brown Bear (Ursus arctos syriacus), the Marbled Polecat (Vormela peregusna), the Common Otter (Lutra Lutra), and the Pallas' Cat (Felis manul) are among the most threatened mammals.

In the country, 12.8% of the area representing at least 60% of the flora and fauna species, is currently protected. There are 3 State Reserves, 26 State Reservations, 4 National Parks and 232 Natural Monuments.

There are two IUCN Members in the country. The Armenian Society for the Protection of Birds (ASPB), a BirdLife affiliate organization, and the Foundation for the Preservation of Widlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC) which joined in 2011.