Threatened Biodiversity Hotspots in the Caucasus

Conserving important plant species in a region of high biodiversity and endemism.

Green field with wildflowers
Kew Project Leader

Aisyah Faruk

Kew Project Officer

Ian Willey

Georgian Project Leaders

David Kikodze (Institute of Botany, Ilia University Georgia)
Tsira Mikatadze Pantsulaia (National Botanic Gardens of Georgia) 

Armenian Project Leader

Anush Nersesyan (Institute of Botany) 

Azerbaijan Project Leader

Valida Alizade (Institute of Botany) 

The region of the Caucasus is located between the Black and Caspian seas, and encompasses either all or parts of Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia and Iran.

The Caucasus has a huge tapestry of different habitats, from alpine mountains to temperate and sub-tropical forests, resulting in a fascinating mix of plants and animal species. Internationally, the region is recognised as one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots, and with over 25% of its 6,400 plant species known as endemic, the Caucasus also has the highest level of endemism in the temperate world. 

The region also harbours a remarkable concentration of economically important plants. Some 2,000 species have direct economic value and are used for a wide variety of purposes ranging from timber and fire-wood, to food and forage as well as those used in medicine, for dying fabrics and for the extraction of volatile oils (Rukhadze, 2015). 

This project would enable 600 collections of priority species to be collected and conserved in seed banks. The loss of the plant diversity of the Caucasus would have a significant negative effect on humans, flora and fauna.

Of the region’s 6,400 plant species, the MSB has only conserved 37%. Protection of important plant species, some of which survived the last ice-age, will provide the scientific community with access to genetically-diverse, endemic taxa, and will help to protect important habitats and ecosystem services. 

Major contemporary threats to the region’s biodiversity include illegal logging, fuel-wood harvesting, overgrazing and pollution. Indeed, unsustainable, illegal logging, often by large commercial operators for export, is rapidly driving wild species to extinction and it is now estimated that less than 12% of the vegetation of the Caucasus remains unspoiled (Zazanashvili et al., 2012).  

These threats are exacerbated by the interaction of climate change with habitat loss, species population decline and the disruption of ecological processes. 


Rukhadze, A. (2015) Georgia’s Fifth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity. pp 38. Accessed 18/09/2020 

Zazanashvili, N., Garforth M., Jungius H., Gamkrelidze T. with participation of Ch. Montalvo (eds.) (2012) Ecoregion Conservation Plan for the Caucasus. revised and updated edition. WWF, KfW, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Tbilisi, 2012. 


  • Collect and bank seed from at least 600 priority species.  
  • National Botanic Gardens of Georgia 
  • Institute of Botany, Ilia University Georgia 
  • Institute of Botany of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia 
  • Armenia Botanical Society NGO 
  • Genetic Research Institute of the National Academy of Sciences Azerbaijan 
  • Institute of Botany of the National Academy of Sciences Azerbaijan