“Tusheti Biosphere Reserve establishment in the climate-vulnerable region of Kakheti in Eastern Georgia – working towards the nomination”

Tusheti, © David Kharatishvili
Tusheti, © David Kharatishvili

The project “Tusheti Biosphere Reserve establishment in the climate-vulnerable region of Kakheti in Eastern Georgia – working towards the nomination” was launched in March 2019 by the Michael Succow Foundation to continue work on the creation of one of the first UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in Georgia. The project is the next phase of the work done within two one year-projects in which the potential for biosphere reserves in Georgia was studied, the feasibility of the region of Kakheti was analysed, capacities of relevant actors were strengthened and an implementation plan for the planned Kakheti BR was developed.

The project aims at development of a concept and a nomination document of the planned BR meeting the requirements of the UNESCO for biosphere reserve nomination; raising of acceptance and awareness of the planned BR among the local, regional and national stakeholders; and conceptual preparation of a BR management structure allowing multi-stakeholder participation.
The target region Tusheti is located in the north of Kakheti bordering with Russia. It is an area mainly located at the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus characterized by high mountain ranges with meadows and forests. Tusheti Nature Reserve, Tusheti National Park, Tusheti Protected Landscape and other protected areas are located within the target territory.

Tusheti is one of the richest regions of Georgia in respect of flora and vegetation. There are more than 1,000 vascular plant species from about 90 families. This means that one fourth of Georgia’s flora species and one sixth of all Caucasian plants are found in Tusheti. The vegetation cover includes montane forests dominated by birch and Pine (Pinus kochiana), subalpine forest, alpine and subalpine meadows, subalpine shrub (mainly Rhododendron caucasicum), sub-nival vegetation and scree vegetation complexes. Each of these vegetation classes is in turn represented by numerous variants differing in structure and species composition. Sheep farming is the most widespread agricultural activity in Tusheti. Grazing takes place in Tusheti Protected Landscape as well as in the traditional use zone of Tusheti National Park. The present-day sheep farming is entirely based on a transhumant system. Tushetian sheep herders use high mountain graze lands in Tusheti as summer pastures and migrate to the lowlands (Shiraki and Vashlovani in the south-east of Kakheti) in winter.

Tusheti is threatened by climate change especially due to more heavy storms and rainfalls that lead to increased erosion and landslides. As in most high mountain regions, climate change primarily and directly affect the glaciers and thus the watercourses and connected vegetation that depend on them. With almost 3,000 meter-altitudinal gradient Tusheti’s vegetation has distinct vertical distribution patterns and some of them are adapted to relatively narrow altitudinal bands. In the long run these patterns are likely to undergo major shifts because of changes in climate. High altitude plant communities such as subnival plant complexes, which include many endemic species and genera, are likely to become threatened with extinction as less space will be available for them. Lower altitude communities are likely to move upwards which will affect the existing plant communities. Wildlife is also likely to be heavily influenced. For example, the East Caucasian tur (Capra cylindricor-nis), a Caucasian endemic ungulate, may be affected by the loss of glaciers, which is an important element of tur habitat.
Establishment of the BR, as a promising instrument for the climate change adaptation, will promote implementation and testing of measures and strategies for strengthening the resilience of the climate vulnerable region of Tusheti in Eastern Georgia.

The project is implemented within the GIZ program “Capacity Development for Climate Policy in the countries of South East, Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia, Phase III”, as part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI) supported by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). Local implementing partner of the project is Regional Environmental Center for the Caucasus.
Project duration is 12.2018 – 03.2021.

Project lead: Michael Succow Foundation

Partner: Regional Environmental Center for the Caucasus

Project duration: 12.2018 – 03.2021

Founded by:

Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ),

German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU)