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Caucasus

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Bulgaria | Central Asia | Caucasus | Greece | Macedonia | Mongolia | Russia | Ukraine

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Overview

The Caucasus region is rich in natural and cultural resources. Three countries, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, make up the Southern Caucasus while the Northern Caucasus are comprised of several territories and regions of the Russian Federation. Bordered by the Black Sea to the west and the Caspian Sea to the east, the Caucasus are characterized by variable climate and topography. Diverse ecological landscapes including semi-desert, grassland steppe, wetlands, shrublands, forests, and mountain communities coexist within a relatively small geographic area and are home to important wildlife species. Due the juxtaposition of temperate and sub-tropical climates, the Caucasus boast higher biological diversity than areas of similar latitude, including numerous endemic and threatened plant and animal species. Two major bird migration corridors also pass through this region. Forests cover nearly twenty percent of the Caucasus. Forest type varies by elevation and climate, from relic forests along the Caspian Sea to coastal temperate rain forests on the Black Sea coast of Georgia and from pine forests on rocky slopes to lowland riparian forests. By percent area, Georgia is the most highly forested country in the Caucasus (nearly 40%), while Armenia's forests are concentrated in the north and south and occupy approximately 10% of the country's territory.


In addition to being ecologically diverse, the Caucasus region is a mosaic of cultures, nationalities, ethnicities, languages, and religions. Political and ethnic conflicts and struggles over natural resources and territories, especially in the Northern Caucasus, have affected the geo-political stability of the region. Despite this challenge, countries in this region have been working to ensure that their rich natural resources are sustainably managed by reforming natural resource agencies and legislation and increasing protected area systems.


Threats to the Resource Base
The Caucasus occupy a strategic but vulnerable geographic location. Caucasian landscapes have been significantly altered by humans throughout history. The political and economic instability that have affected the region since the early 1990s have intensified threats to the forests and natural resources, especially near urban centers and rural communities. Pressures contributing to resource degradation include increased fuel wood consumption; encroachment; rural poverty; overgrazing; illegal logging and export; soil degradation and erosion; desertification; environmental pollution; and natural disasters.


Why Does the US Forest Service Work in the Caucasus?
The Caucasus region is rich in natural resources, which are under increasing threat by numerous pressures.  Meanwhile, natural resource management has yet to stabilize after the drastic decrease in resources and trained professionals and the numerous reorganizations that followed the fall of the Soviet Union.  The pressures facing forests in the Caucasus indicate that technical assistance would be beneficial in this sector.  In 2010, US Forest Service conducted a preliminary assessment of the Georgian and Armenian forestry sectors.


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Georgia

In the fall of 2010, the US Forest Service fielded a team to Georgia to develop potential strategies for addressing the increasing threats to Georgian forests. Future opportunities for collaboration with Georgian environmental NGOs and government agencies are in development. The first activities are scheduled to occur in 2011.


In 2011, US Forest Service will support one Georgian participant to the International Seminar on Watershed Management and another Georgian participant to the Seminar on Climate Change and Natural Resource Management.


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Armenia

In the fall of 2010, the US Forest Service fielded a team to Armenia to conduct a preliminary assessment of the forestry sector to determine potential partners and areas of priority. This assessment will be followed by initial technical cooperation activities to take place in 2011.

In 2011 USFS will also support the participation of an Armenian participant in the International Seminar on Climate Change and Natural Resource Management.


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