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Caucasus

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Poppy field in Armenia. Credit: Anush Nersesyan.

The Caucasus is located between the Black and Caspian seas, and encompasses Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia and Iran. Among its 6,500 known plant species this 'biological crossroads' hosts over 2,000 endemic species. During the 10 year partnership between Kew and partners in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan we have safeguarded 2482 species. Currently three active projects are running across the region; Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change, Global Tree Seed Bank and Saving the Flora of the Caucasus.

  • The Caucasus has a huge tapestry of different habitats and is internationally recognised as one of the world's 34 biodiversity hotspots.

  • Many of the plants are still used by local people for medicines, food, fire wood, building materials, and cultural practices. Wild relatives of agricultural crops, such as apples and wheat, are also found here, making it an important source of genetic material to farmers and economic botanists (Vincent et al, 2013).

  • The region faces significant threats from illegal logging, over-grazing, poaching, urban development and climate change.

  • The MSB and its regional partners have been working to collect and conserve seeds within the Caucasus with the ultimate objective of safeguarding the whole flora of the region.

  • Partners prioritise the most important species, which are generally endemic, threatened and useful, including those with cultural significance.

  • The MSB supports partners in staff training as well as resource and capacity development.

  • This programme aims to develop a sustainable network of plant conservation personnel with the skills and facilities to carry out this vital work both today and into the future.

Current projects

Saving the Flora of the Caucasus

Georgia:

The MSB has worked in Georgia since 2006 with the Institute of Botany and the National Botanic Gardens. Seeds from over 1,000 species have been collected under this partnership.

The collections are quality assessed, viability tested, then stored both in-country and at the MSB and made available for conservation and research activities. Some have been propagated and can be found in the RBG Kew, Wakehurst Gardens and the National Botanic Gardens in Georgia.

Armenia:

In Armenia the MSB have an ongoing partnership with the Institute of Botany of the Armenian Academy of Sciences which began in 2011. To date, the team have collected and conserved over 200 plant species, and continue to collect at least 60 new species each year.

Azerbaijan:

In Azerbaijan, the MSB ran a 2-year pilot project in 2012, which saw the collection of over 100 species through the Institute of Botany of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Science. This project is under renewal with a target to collect 60 wild and useful plants per year. The MSB is also partnering with the Genetic Resource Institute in Azerbaijan for the Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change project.

Project partners

GeorgiaNational Botanical Gardens of Georgia (NBGG)
GeorgiaInstitute of Botany, Ilia University of Georgia
ArmeniaInstitute of Botany, National Academy of Science of the Republic of Armenia
AzerbaijanInstitute of Botany, Azerbaijan National Academy of Science
AzerbaijanGenetic Resource Institute, Azerbaijan National Academy of Science