Biodiversity Report - Georgia '99
Current State

 

 

 

Forest Cover



Forest Resources
Data Source: State Forest Department


The Georgian forests constitute a resource of great environmental, economic, cultural, scientific and recreational value. Georgian forests social and economic functions include soil protection, water regulation, climate regulation and recreation.

Some 43% of Georgia's total territory of 6.95 million ha are recorded as forest areas (around 3 million ha) of which 2.75 million ha (40%) are actually covered with forests. About 2.2 million ha are classified as state forests under the responsibility of State Forest Department and the remaining consists of former "Kolkhoz lands" part of which are now in the process of being transferred to the State Forest Department.

Over 80% of the state forests are composed of deciduous and 20% of conifers. The main species are: beech which is covering 49% of the lands, oak 10%, fir 8%, hornbeam 7%, spruce 6%, pine 5%, alder 3% and chestnut 3%. The remaining 9% constitute a mix of other tree and bush species. In terms of age structure, 48% of the state forests (area-wise) are medium-aged, 15% maturing and 30% mature and overmature (7% are considered as young). Very few data are available for the "Kolkhoz" forests. There is evidence that they are much younger and more intensively harvested than the state forests - for example, about 75% of the "Kolkhoz" areas have trees younger than 60 years.

In terms of biodiversity, the forests contain more than 4,100 species (mainly ferns, gymnosperms and angiosperms) of the estimated 6,350 species in the entire Caucasus region. The fauna includes some 330 bird species, 100 mammals and 59 amphibians/reptilians.

The total standing volume of wood is estimated at around 434 million m3 sob - including the protected areas - or close to 80 m3 per person based on a total population of 5.5 million (three times more than the European average). The annual growth increment is estimated at 3.9 million m3 whereas the actual (official) harvesting carried out is of the order of only 400,000 m3 per year. The State Forest Department intends to gradually raise the annual harvesting level to one million m3 by year 2005. In addition to the State Forest Department's harvesting, it is a fact that because of the lack of alternative sources of energy and official controls, large volumes of wood are being illegally cut for fuel each year. Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources is of the view that a minimum of 2.5 million m3 is harvested (officially and illegally) each year. It is also a fact that a large part of the official harvesting is classified by the State Forest Department as "sanitary cuts" although it seems that undamaged trees are being removed in several instances. There is also the danger that the outdated harvesting machinery/techniques presently used cause serious damage to the remaining trees in particular and to the environment in general, thereby offsetting the beneficial effects of the sanitary cuts.

The map was created according to the land use data of Georgia, 1989.

A large part of the state forests are located on mountain (often steep) slopes. It is estimated that less than 10% of the standing volume can be reached with normal ground-based systems (slope less than 150), involving mainly farm tractors and draught animals. Close to 70% of the volume is found on slopes of more than 250 and requires the construction of logging-roads as well as the use of winching or skyline systems. The "Kolkhoz" forests are normally located on lower slopes and should be more easily harvested with ground-based systems. The difficult terrain makes the introduction/use of low-impact (environmental friendly) harvesting techniques even more important. Another factor restricting efficient harvesting is that there are only 9,500 km of forest roads in the country (around 60% in working conditions), giving an average road density of 3.5 m/ha which is very low.


Main aspects of forest diversity


Text: Revaz Kvachakidze
Data Source: Noah's Ark, Centre for Recovery of Endangered Species.
Contacts: Zura Gurielidze


Ecologically, Georgian forests are diverse; they include a great number of phytocenoses, differing in ecology and genesis, grouped into approximately 200 associations. More than 120 species of trees, 250 species of bushes and 2500 species of grasses grow in forests of Georgian plains and mountains. Forest phytocenoses are composed of the following species of trees (dominant, edificator): oriental beech (Fagus orientalis), oak (Quercus iberica, Q. macranthera, Q. orientalis), chestnut (Castanea sativa), ash (Fraxinus excelsior), water elm (Zelkova carpinfolia), elm (Ulmus glabra, U.carpinfolia), hop-hornbeam (Ostrya carpinfolia), willow (Salix excelsa and others), Caucasian wingnut (Pterocarya pterocarpa), poplar (Populus nigra, P. canescens, P. tremula), alder (Alnus barbata, A. incana), pistachio (Pistacia multica), Caucasian nettle (Celtis caucasica), birch (Betula litwinowii, B. pendula, B. megrelica, B. medwedewi), maple (Acer trautwetteri, A. campestre, A. laetum, A. velutinum), mountain ash (Sorbus caucasigena, Sorbus aucuparia), fir (Abies nordmanniana), spruce (Picea orientalis), pine (Pinus sosnowskyi, P. pityusa, P. kochiana), yew (Taxus baccata), juniper (Juniperus foetidissima, J. polycarpos), box (Buxus colchica) and laurel (Laurus nobilis).

Only nine (main edificators) make up woods over relatively large territories (over 50,000 hectares). They are: oriental beech (Fagus orientalis), Georgian oak (Quercus iberica), hornbeam (Carpinus caucasica), chestnut (Castanea sativa), common or black alder (Alnus barbata), litvinoff birch (Betula litwinowii), Caucasian fir (Abies normanniana), oriental spruce (Picea orientalis), and Caucasian pine (Pinus kochiana). The other species create woods over small territories (each species composes woods on territories not exceeding 10,000 hectares). Some species make up woods on areas of less than 100 hectares. This does not lessen their scientific importance; most of these being relict and endemic woods.

The map was crated according to the Georgian Atlas.

When characterising the forests of Georgia, it seems appropriate to classify them according to their location: 1) Plains forests; 2) Mountain forests; 3) Sub-alpine forests.

Plains forests. These forests are all relict woods which makes them of great interest. Alder (Alnus barbata), hygrophilous forest of high diversity is distributed along riverbanks in groves and over marsh lands; in mountain gorges it reaches an altitude of 1100-1200m and covers a relatively greater territory in the western part of Kolkheti Lowlands and in big river gorges (Rioni, Mtkvari, Alazani, Aragvi). The total area is about 69,000 hectares.


Table 1. Plain forests

English name Latin name Endemic Relict
Alder Alnus barbata
-
+
Caucasian wing nut Pterocarya pterocarpa
-
+
Oak Quercus pedunculiflora
-
+
Oak Quercus imeretina
+
+
Polydominant deciduous Castanea sativa, Quercus imeretina, Fagus orientalis, Carpinus caucasica, Tilia caucasica, Fraxinus excelsior
-
+
Water elm Zelkova carpinifolia
+
+
Pine Pinus pityusa
+
+
Box Buxus colchica
-
+
Laurel Laurus nobilis
-
+
Oak Quercus iberica
-
+
Pistachio Pistacia mutica
-
+
Juniper forest Juniperus foetidissima, J. polycarpos
-
+

Mountain forests which are very diverse, are found in western (Kolkheti, 150-1800m) and eastern Georgia (450-1900m). Mountain forests are by far the most abundant.

Table 2. Mountain forests

English name
Latin name
Relict
Beech Fagus orientalis
-
Oak Quercus iberica
-
Hornbeam Carpinus caucasica
+
Polydominant deciduous

Castanea sativa, Quercus hartwissiana, Alnus barbata, Fagus orientalis

-
Polydominant deciduous

Fagus orientalis, Carpinus caucasica, Fraxinus excelsior, Talia caucasica,Quercus iberica

-
Chestnut Castanea sativa
-
Fir Abies normanniana
+
Spruce Picea orientalis
+
Pine Pinus kochiana
+
Yew Taxus baccata
+

Sub-alpine forests are found at altitudes of 1800 to 2500m above sea level. The total surface of these forests runs to roughly 600,000 hectares.

Table 3. Sub-alpine forests

English name
Latin name
Endemic
Relict
Birch Betula litwinowii
-
-
Birch Betula medwedewi
+
+
Oak Quercus macranthera
-
-
Oak Quercus pontica
+
+
Maple Acer trautvetteri
-
-
Beech Fagus orientalis
-
-
Fir Abies normanniana
-
+
Spruce Picea orientalis
-
+
Pine Pinus kochiana
-
-


Trend

CO2 Emissions

Text: ed.
Data Source: Department of Hydrometeorology, National Climate Research Centre.
Contacts: Tengiz Gzirishvili

Georgia's Initial National Communication unit the framework Convention on Climate Change (prepared under the UNEP/GEF -Government of Georgia project GEO/96/G31 and implemented by Department of Hydrometeorology, National Climate Research Centre) announced: that annual increment of bio-mass (evaluated in the terms of dry mass) on unused lands during 20 years made approximately 2.5 Tg, and for the process lasting over 20 years - 1.05Tg. Amount of Carbon, accumulated by bio-mass in the first case makes 1.1Tg and in the second case - 0.48 TG

Amount of Carbon, accumulated by soil on completely unused lands made 3.36 TG, that makes 12.32 TG calculated in CO2 amount. In the base year of 1990 as a result of anthropogenic activity, "Exploited forests" were characterised by the following balance:
Emission - 0.664 TG
Removal - 12.384 TG
Corresponding to net removal 11.725 TG of CO2.

During 1990-1996 maintenance and selective cutting of forests decreased in Georgia, while illegal cutting increased. These processes caused the rise of CO2 emissions. Annual amount of CO2, emitted in this period, was increasing from 16 to 161 Gg. Maximum emission took place in 1994.

In this calculation was not considered three processes: "Forest cutting out", "Burning in cut-out forest" "Transformation of hayfield and pasture", incorporated in the sub-module "Changes in land use and forestry", because in early years such processes were not specified by forest management and forest utilisation agencies in Georgia. Under the term of unused land is consider eroded lands.


Afforestation


Afforestation Deforestation in Georgia is caused by a number of factors, including: overgrazing, illegal fuel-wood cutting and selection felling of the best quality trees (regulated and unregulated). The loss of protective cover exposes soil to water and wind erosion, reduces water retention capability and leads to reduced agricultural productivity on adjacent and downstream lands. The increased erosion rates result in sedimentation of waterways and reservoirs, reducing the effectiveness of irrigation and hydroelectric investments.

Approximately 300,000 ha of degraded agricultural land were afforested during the 70-year period between 1926 and 1998. These investments were motivated by the need to mitigate the negative impacts of deforestation on soil and water resources. Afforestation programs reached their peak in the 1970s, when an average of 7,000 ha and more were afforested annually. During the last two decades afforestation rates have declined due to financial constraints. In the 1980s, an average of 5,000 ha were afforested annually in the 1980s. In the 1990s this has declined to an average of 1,000 ha annually and 1998 only 300 ha were afforested.

 

 


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Last Updated: 24/02/2000