The Caucasus is an ecoregion with many diverse ecosystems, cultures, communities and industries. Biodiversity doesn’t follow political or national boundaries and the need for an organized approach to conservation as well as sustainable land use management was identified by WWF in the early nineties. Since then, WWF has been working to protect nature in Caucasus. In partnership with the governments of the region and international donors, WWF has succeeded to strengthen and expand the network of protected areas in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan to a total of 112 legally established protected areas of different categories.
For biodiversity to be maintained, it needs to be preserved inside and outside protected areas. The Ecoregional Conservation Plan (ECP) for the Caucasus was prepared as a collaborative effort by experts from all Caucasus countries in 2006 and updated 2012, with another update in progress. The ECP outlines the ecological network of protected areas, priority conservation areas and interconnecting corridors for the entire Caucasus.
ECF (Eco-Corridors Fund) was created to secure the conservation of biodiversity outside protected areas by safeguarding the protection of ecologically significant species and habitats while maintaining local culture and economy. Nature conservation should not mean that communities experience a loss in income or a negative effect on livelihoods. ECF puts local people in control of conservation action so that sustainability becomes a part of the culture, economy and decision-making, with the intention that these ideas ultimately lead to a more prosperous local economy and increase the strength and longevity of protected areas.
Across the Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan there are a number of different distinctions for protected areas. In order to support the strategy of maintaining connectivity between all types of protected areas, ECF aims to establish a network of conservation actions, increasing and maintaining connectivity among populations of plant and animal species threatened by human development. Using community-based participatory approaches as well as a landscape models, the goal is to provide local, community-based conservation organizations with the tools and funding to sustainably manage their lands in a way that preserves nature and local culture.
By introducing funding for ecologically sustainable land use in selected eco-corridors in the Caucasus the ecological integrity of the ecoregion is enhanced as the eco-corridors interlink chains of protected areas.
Photo: Jernej Stritih