Because of natural and human impacts, almost half the plant species present in Armenia may face some threat of extinction. To date, 35 plant species of economic importance are known to have become extinct in Armenia. A further, 386 species (12% of the flora) are listed in the Armenian Red Data Book (produced in 1988). At a regional level, 61 plant species are listed in the Red Data Book of the former Soviet Union (produced in 1984). Of critical concern are species such as sweet flag bulrush (Acorus calamus), a valuable medicinal herb, and the beautiful Judas tree (Cercis griffithii), which is endangered because of agricultural use of the land. Other examples of endangered plants include a newly discovered endemic species of saltwort Salsola tamamschjanae, threatened as a result of sand processing, and the regionally endemic iris, Iris grossheimii. In addition, the status of lower plants has not been fully assessed, but at least 15 species of mushroom are considered to be under threat.
Of around 17,500 species of invertebrate and vertebrates recorded in Armenia, approximately 300 are considered to be rare or declining. A total of 99 vertebrates are currently listed in the Armenian Red Data Book, of which 39 are also listed in the Red Data Book of the Former Soviet Union, and a number are considered internationally threatened (according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals; Table). However, updating the Armenian Red Data Book would be likely to lead to the inclusion of many more species (perhaps doubling the existing list). The Armenian Red Data Book for Invertebrates is not yet available, but initial assessments indicate that over a hundred species will be listed. The Red Data Book of the Former Soviet Union already lists 48 invertebrate species which are found in Armenia.
Among the vertebrate species listed in the Armenian Red Data Book are 12 amphibians and reptiles, and 18 mammal species · many of these species are critically endangered. The threats facing these species have increased recently as a result of the effects of natural disasters and economic crisis, coupled with the lack of effective environmental legislation. Among the mammals listed, six species are at particular risk of extinction: Armenian mouflon (Ovis orientalis gmelinii), wild goat (Capra aegagrus), marbled polecat (Vormela peregusna), European otter (Lutra lutra), brown bear (Ursus arctos), and manul (Felis manul). In addition, the striped hyaena (Hyaena hyaena), and the Caucasian birch mouse (Sicista caucasica) are probably extinct in Armenia.
Number of vascular plants and vertebrate species listed in the Red Book of Armenia, and regional and international Red Lists. Threat categories are given for species listed in the Armenian Red Data Book (Ex = Extinct, Th = Threatened, Ra = Rare, De = declining, Dd = Data deficient).
No.in Armenian Red Book
|No. of species||No. in USSR Red Book||No. in International Red List|
The greatest threats to biodiversity result directly and indirectly from human activities. The key threatening processes include: (1) habitat loss and modification; (2) over-use of biological resources; (3) pollution; (4) effects of introduced and non-native species; and (5) climate change. All these threats can result in declines in populations of animals and plants, loss of species and degradation of ecosystems. In Armenia, the growth of the agricultural, industrial, construction and energy sectors have led to extensive habitat change across all landscape types. Urban and industrial areas have grown, while forests have been logged and over 20,000ha of marshes and wetlands have been drained. This has led to the destruction of natural habitats, and has brought a number of species close to the brink of extinction. Habitat degradation is likely to be exacerbated in future as a result of land privatisation. Direct use of biological resources is common in Armenia, including the use of pastures and meadows for grazing, collection of wild plants, fisheries and hunting. The current levels of use for a number of species appear to be unsustainable, and population declines have been recorded in some species. Continued overuse is likely to result in species extinctions, and changes in ecosystems. Outputs from the industrial, energy and transport sectors have resulted in substantial levels of air, soil and water pollution in Armenia. The legacy of Soviet industry is clear in heavy metal levels still recorded in soils today. Such levels of pollution have direct impacts on the health of species and integrity of ecosystems. A number of species of foreign origin have been introduced to the natural ecosystems of Armenia. The effects of introduced species through competition with native species, is not clear and their broader effects on biodiversity are unknown. The impact of climate change on biodiversity remains unclear but a temperature rise of 2-3°C is predicted, which would result in increased desertification, and possibly to species extinction.
All types of natural resource use affect biodiversity in some way. The most important sectors affecting natural systems in Armenia, and their impacts, are listed below:
Importance - Status - Pressure - Protected Areas - Wetlands - National Aims - Links & References - About