Gey-Gel Reserve
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The Gey-Gel State Reserve (Photo by State committee for the Environment)
The Gey-Gel State Reserve (Photo by State committee for the Environment)

The Gey-Gel State Reserve was the first reserve in Azerbaijan. It was established in 1925. The fate of this state reserve can serve as an illustrative example of the wrong approach to the organization and functioning of state reserves, their dependence on immediate and determined resolutions. This reserve was liquidated in 1950, and restored again in 1958. Having existed for three years, it was liquidated once again in 1961. On July 14, 1965 the Gay-Gel State Reserve was restored for the third time. However, while restoring the state reserve, the factors contradicting the status of the reserve were not liquidated. Sanitary-recreation establishments, a number of public catering facilities, car parks, etc. were allowed to function on the reserve territory. The reserve area was used as a resting place and recreation area for people. In addition, grass haymaking was carried out on the territory of the reserve. All these factors had a negative impact on the

environment of the reserve. The reserve consists of two territories - main (The Gey-Gel reserve itself) and subsidiary, which is called "The Eldar Pine" Grove. The distance between them is 80-85 km. The subsidiary part of the reserve is protected by the arid forest landscapes on the right bank of the Gabirli River (Iory) near the border with the Georgian Republic, where on the slopes of the "Eldar Oyugu" Ridge a unique natural grove of Eldar pine has been preserved. The Eldar pine grove has been protected since the end of the 19th century and this area can be referred to as the oldest specially protected area on the territory of Trans-Caucasia. The area of the Gey-Gel Sate reserve is 7,131 hectares, of them 3,806 hectares are forest tracts. It is situated in the north-eastern part of the Lesser Caucasus Range at a height of 1,100-3,060 m above sea level. The reserve was established to protect and study the typical landscapes of mountain forests and subalpine area of the Lesser Caucasus, provision of the purity of water in the Gey-Gel Lake as a source of drinking water, as well as a unique grove of naturally growing Eldar pine. On the main territory of the reserve, the relief is mountainous and erosive.

The north-eastern slopes of the Mrovdag Ridge are a sequence of longitudinal secondary ridges and deep river valleys. The highest peak is the Kapaz Mountain (3,065 m). In 1139, a strong earthquake destroyed a considerable part of this peak. Great boulders fell down and blocked river hollows, including the Agsu River. As a result, many lakes appeared, among which was the Gey-Gel Lake. The earthquake completely destroyed Ganja city as well. Not only the lakes remind us of this terrible event, but rocks are spread along the slopes of the Kapaz Mountain creating a spectacular view.

Gey-Gel is the biggest and most beautiful lake in Azerbaijan. It is situated at a height of 1556 m. Its maximum length is 2450 m, width - 525 m, depth - 93 m, length of the coastline - 6,460 m. The area of the lake is 79 hectares, volume of water - 30 million m3, its water is fresh, transparent and seems to be blue, due to which it is called Gey- Gel ("blue lakeO in Azeri). As a whole, there are 8 big lakes on the territory of the reserve, the biggest among them are: Maral-Gel (Deer Lake), Zali-Gel (Leech Lake), Gara-Gel (Black Lake). Like Gey-Gel, all of them are surrounded by mountains and each has a different view.

The fauna of the reserve is represented by many species of animals and birds, among which there are: Caucasian red deer, roe (Capreolus capreolus), badger (Meles meles), West-Caucasian auroch, Caucasian goat, brown bear, pine marten (Martes martes) and stone marten (Martes foina), Griffon-vulture, partridge (Alectoris kakelik), Tetraogallus and others. Two species of trout: lake and river trout, are observed in the waters of the reserve. A population of the lake trout (Gey-Gel) was formed in the Gey-Gel Lake and other lakes of this region after their formation in the 12th century. More than 50 species of birds are nesting in the reserve including 35 species in the forest area. The partridge (Alectoris kakelik) and Tetraogallus caspica (included in the Red Book) and others are nesting in the Subalpine and Alpine zones.

The flora of the reserve consists of 420 species of plants including 76 species of wood and bush types. About 20 species of flora are endemic to the Caucasian region. They are:Quercus iberica, TroutfetterOs maple, Nizami's dog-rose, Aconitum, Alchemilla, Astragalus, pinks, Ruprech's geranium, and others. The main protected objects are natural complexes of the middle mountain, forest, partially subalpine areas in the region of the northern slopes of the Lesser Caucasus, as well as the ecosystems of the Gey-Gel, Maral-Gel, Zali-Gel and other mountain lakes.

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