Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services
Situated at the juncture of several bio-geographical areas, the country contains species of European, Central Asian and Mediterranean origin and forms an integral part of the Caucasus Ecoregion (a region with exceptional levels of biodiversity according to the WWF’s Global 200 Project). Azerbaijan also shares the Caspian Sea with four other countries (Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan). The number of endemic fish species in the Caspian Sea region is very high, and includes one lamprey species, 11 herring species, 24 species of Caspian gobies and five anadromous sturgeon species, all of which are fished commercially. The Caspian seal is the only resident endemic mammal.
Approximately 4,500 species of vascular plants have been recorded in the country, of which 210 are considered endemic. Agricultural development is of significant importance for economic development. The country is also considered to be a center of origin for a number of globally important food crops. The country is especially noted for fruit and nut trees, and the forests of the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains and the Talish Mountains contain wild ancestors of apples, persimmons, walnuts, chestnuts, pistachios and many other species that have been widely domesticated into many different varieties and strains. Species of grains (e.g. wheat, maize, barley, rye, rice) are also widely cultivated. Medicinal plants, such as Carpodium platycarpum
(the source of camphor) and Valeriana officinalis (valerian) are dried and packaged by “AzerfarmLtd.” primarily. Species exported abroad for commercial purposes include Glycyrrhiza glabra
(the source of liquorice), among others. Moreover, the country’s economy has benefitted historically from cotton-growing, carpet-making, livestock-breeding, trade in oil and minerals, and tobacco-growing. Biotechnological activities are also supported with genetic variations of some of the species listed having been developed to date.
Approximately 25,000 species of invertebrates have been recorded from the country, of which 90% are within the phylum Arthropoda. Azerbaijan also hosts 667 species of vertebrates: fishes (102), amphibians (10), reptiles (54), birds (394), mammals (107). The diverse and threatened large mammal fauna includes wild goat, chamois, red and roe deer and their predators, such as lynx, wildcat and leopard. Azerbaijan is an important migratory path for many bird species (including the globally threatened Lesser White-fronted Goose) travelling from Europe and Russia and south to Africa and Asia.
The second edition of the Red Book of Azerbaijan (2013) lists 338 species of higher plants, 12 species of fungi, 23 species of lower plants and 223 species of fauna (including 74 insect species, 6 amphibian species, 14 reptile species, 9 fish species, 72 bird species and 42 mammal species). This represents a significant increase in the number of rare, threatened and endangered species that were recorded in the first edition published in 1989, although this may in part be attributed to an improvement in the research and monitoring capacity of the National Academy of Sciences. The fifth national report (April 2014) indicates that, since submitting the fourth national report (March 2010), there have been no changes to the country’s six broad ecosystem complexes (forest, swamp, wetland, grassland and semi-desert, coastal and marine, high mountain).
Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)
The main pressures on Azerbaijan’s biodiversity include: (i) land degradation (extensive salinization, widespread soil erosion, weak regulation of building and construction activities, and pervasive use of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides); (ii) habitat fragmentation (harvesting of timber, conversion of grasslands for agriculture, damming of rivers, expanding the network of irrigation channels in steppe ecosystems, outbreak of wildfires); (iii) unsustainable levels of natural resource use (overgrazing in grasslands and semi-arid areas, hunting of wild birds and game species, over-fishing of sturgeon and other commercial fish species, and poorly maintained water distribution systems); (iv) pollution (limited infrastructure and capacity for effective waste management, weak storage capacity for hazardous wastes, residual oil pollution, incoming municipal, industrial and agricultural wastes from trans-boundary rivers); (v) invasive species (marine and terrestrial spread); and (vi) climate change (weak adaptation and mitigation capacities).