Arevik National Park, Armenia
by Andranik Ghulijanyan and Nelli Sargsyan
"Arevik" National Park was established by the decision of the Government of Armenia N1209-N from 15 October 2009. The same governmental decision established a management body – “Arevik” State Non-Commercial Organization under the Ministry of Nature Protection to manage the National Park.
The purpose and scope of the activities of “Arevik” National Park is to ensure the conservation, natural development, reproduction and sustainable use of natural ecosystems, landscape and biological diversity, unique natural monuments, transboundary habitats of endemic and rare fauna species.
“Arevik” National Park is located in the south-eastern part of the Republic of Armenia, in Syunik Province and the distance from the capital Yerevan is 375km. The area of the park is bordering Nakhijevan Autonomous Republic in the west, Islamic Republic of Iran in the south and Nagorno Karabakh Republic in the east. The total area of the park is 34402 ha.The average elevation of the area is 2200 meters. The highest point is Baghats mount with the height of 3256 meters, while the lowest point is the Valley of Aras River at 375 m.
The main rivers of the area are Aras, Meghri, Nrnadzor, Shvanidzor and a few shallow-water rivers.
Aras is one of the major rivers of Armenia flowing through the lowest point at the borderline. The total length of Aras River is about 1072 km. In the adjacent plain the width of the river reaches 30-130m, while the depth is 3-4,5m. The waters of the river are turbid during almost the entire year. Aras is a swift-flowing river (1.5 m /s). It flows through the territories of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran. At the downstream the river passes through the Caspian Plain where it joins with Kura River and pours itself into the Caspian Sea. The river yearly diverts approximately 3 billion cubic meters of water into the Caspian Sea. The main river of Armenia is the second silt-bearing river in the world after Nile. According to estimations of specialists Aras annually carries more than one million carriages of silt.
The second largest river of Armenia is Meghri River which originates from the watershed of the Meghri mountain ridge at the altitude of 3250m. Meghri River is the right tributary of Aras River and flows solely in the territory of the province stretching in the direction of the meridian. The length of the river is 36km and the catchments area is 340 km2. The river is swift-flowing with a high stream gradient. The river is feeding on snowmelt and storm waters and partially on groundwaters. The average annual flow rate is 3.34 m3/s, while the annual average flow volume is 102 million m3.
Freshets start during the first decade of March earlier as compared to other rivers of Armenia reaching its peak level in May. At the end of spring it is affluent with ravine stream. In the beginning of autumn when the rainfall events are at the minimum, river flow severely reduces. Autumn freshets are rare. In the winter water flow is less as compared to autumn. In the adjacent areas river waters are used for irrigation of vineyards and orchards and drinking purposes.
The main climatic types of the region are conditioned by vertical zonality and location of mountain ridges. Elevations above the sea level, morphological characteristics and isolatedness of river valleys and depressions of the area have a significant impact on the formation of climatic conditions.
The area of “Arevik” national park is situated within 4 agro-climatic zones.
1. Dry sub-alpine zone includes areas at altitudes of 400-700m above sea level. In this zone the winters are mild with unstable snow-cover. Summers are long, (May to September) hot, dry, with predominance of sunny days. The average temperature during July-August reaches 23-26° C, while the absolute maximum temperature is 40° C. Monthly rainfall is 30-50 mm. The annual precipitation is not exceeding 300mm. In this zone the main cultivated cultures are grapes, peaches, apricots, pomegranates, fig, apples, thermophilous vegetables and etc.
2. Moderately warm zone includes areas at altitudesbetween 700-1000m and 1400mabove sea level.Winters are moderately cold with stable snow-cover. Springs are moderately humid and long with 50-100mm monthly rainfall. During the daytime relative humidity rarely descends from 30%. Average air temperature during July and August is 18-20°C, while the maximum temperature is 34°C. The annual quantity of precipitation is 600-700 mm. The main crops are tobacco, grain, corn, potatoes, etc.
3. Moderately humid zone includes areas at altitudes between 1400-2000m above sea level. Winters are long with stable snow-cover. Springs are long, cold and humid. Monthly average rainfall is 60-100mm. summers are warm and relatively humid. Average air temperature during July and August is 18° C, while the maximum temperature is 32°C: The monthly quantity of precipitation is 30mm and the annual 600mm. The main crops are grain, corn, potatoes, vegetables, stone fruit crops and seed cultures.
4. The border of the cold zone is situated at altitudes between 2000-2500 meters above the sea level. Winters are severe, long-term (4-5 months) with a thick snow cover. Springs are cold and long, summers are short, cold and humid. The average temperature in August is 15°C, while the maximum temperature is 35°C:
Wind regime, direction and velocity are conditioned by relief. In valleys, they mainly blow upwards and downwards along the slopes.
The territory of "Arevik" National Park is located in the south of Zangezur physiographic area in the southern part of the Lesser Caucasus mountain range. The average elevation of the area is 2200 meters. The highest point is Baghats mount with the height of 3256 meters, while the highest point of Zangezur mountain ridge 3904meters /Kaputjugh/ which is seated in the center of the mountain ridge. The lowest point is the Valley of Aras River at 375 m.
The mountain ridge is of asymmetric structure. In the south it descends with steep rock-like slopes. At some places offsets hang over Aras River. These are divided by deep valleys of Meghri, Malev, Shvanidzor and Nrnadzor rivers. In order to combat erosion processes multilevel artificial terraced uplands were constructed which are used for cultivation of subtropical plants (grapes, peaches, figs, pomegranates, almonds).
Flora and Fauna
The area is a typical mountainous area and the biological and landscape diversities were formed under the influence of unique climatic conditions.
The territory of the park is a natural complex of different ecosystems including semi desert, mountain forest, mountain and meadow steppe, subalpine and alpine landscapes /vegetation types/.
Mountain phryganoid vegetation peculiar to the semi-desert zone occurs in the vicinity of Meghri, Agarak and Nrnadzor rivers, which is predominantly distributed on steep, rocky slopes of lower areas of Meghri at altitudes between 800-1000m.
Forests occupy 21335 hectares /62%/. Forests are distributed at altitudes of 500-2500m ASL are characterized by high-level zonality. Only 19.4% is located at an altitude of 1200m ASL, while 46.3% is located between 1200-1800m and 34.3% is located at an altitude of 1800m and higher. 0.2% of forests are located on 10º slopes, 10.6% are located on 20º slopes, 44.8% on 21-30º while 44.4% of forests are located on 31 º and higher slopes.
Predominating tree species in the forest enterprise is oak. Oak stands occupy 15151.4 hectares which is almost 71% of the total forest-covered area, juniper stands occupy 6021.8 hectares (28.3%), hornbeam stands occupy 0.5% of the total forest-covered area and other tree species together, including pine, Greek walnut, wild apple and others occupy only 0.2% of the total forest-covered area
1462 species of higher plants grow on the territory of Arevik National Park. It means that 50% of the whole number of the species of Armenian flora is represented here. 18 endemic species of Armenia grow in Arevik NP and 92 species are included into the Red Data book of Armenia (2010):
Park’s fauna is characterized by extraordinary richness and remarkable peculiarity of invertebrate fauna. The ANP plays most important role in conservation of rare and endangered invertebrate species. Fauna of vertebrate animals is represented by 270 species. There are 10 species of animals included in IUCN Red Data List. The park area is an important area for conservation of globally threatened Persian leopard (EN), European marbled polecat, Bezoar goat and Armenian mouflon (VU), Turkish hamster, Vesper bat, stripped hyena, Eurasian otter (NT), and "Arax myotis (DD). There are 17 species of animals included in the Red Data book of Armenia.
Currently the establishment of “park of peace and friendship” on the common border of “Dizmar” protected area of Islamic Republic of Iran and “Arevik” National Park of the Republic of Armenia, as well as separation and mapping activities of ecological corridors and migration routes are underway which will allow unimpeded movement of wildlife species and are important for the establishment of communication between populations.
An increase in the number of forest and grassland fires and burned areas has already been observed in the past decade in Armenia. The severe fire seasons usually coincides with prolonged hot periods or heat waves and low precipitation. Especially in the extremely hot and dry year of 2010 a great increase in the number of and total fire-burnt forest area was observed. The South-Eastern part of the country, the Syunik region where the national park is situated was identified as extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts. Between 2001 and 2010 wildfires burned about 430 hectares of forest lands in the region. In recent years, great attention is paid to the protection of forests of the Syunik region. These forest ecosystems belong to the Caucasus-Anatolian-Hyrcanian Temperate Forests Ecoregion that has been listed by WWF as a Global 200 Ecoregion, and by Conservation International as a biodiversity hotspot. The National Conference on Fire Management, held in 2011 in Yerevan, was a major effort to provide a clear overview on the wildfire situation in the country and to analyze the existing fire management capabilities and the needs for enhancement. The primary outcome of discussions was the need for the development of a national fire management policy and an implementation strategy for Armenia.