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GEOLOGICAL, AGRICULTURAL AND BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY OF ARMENIA 

Click to enlargeThe Republic of Armenia is situated in the southern part of the Caucasus between watersheds of middle streams of the Araks and Kura Rivers. The territory of the Republic is 29,800 sq. kilometres. It occupies the southern part of a vast highland area known as Armenian Upland, which is located within the Alpine-Himalayan mountain system. The average elevation of the Armenian Upland is 1,800 meters above sea level. Ancient geographers called the Armenian Upland the "Mountain Island" or the "Roof of Asia Minor". In the structure of mountain ridges extinct volcanoes play an essential role. Their activity left its mark on Armenian nature. In the Armenian Upland eruptions of volcanoes have occurred relatively recently, before eyewitnesses. The last eruption of the Nemrud volcano on the eastern shore of Lake Van (Eastern Anatolia) was in 1441. Biblical Mount Ararat dominates the Armenian Upland. It is isolated from the ridges and plateaus and rises above the surrounding plains for more than 4 kilometres. The massif consists of two extinct volcanoes - Greater Ararat (Masis), having a height of 5,165 meters, and Little (lesser) Ararat (Sis), at 3925 meters. Their peaks are located at a distance of 10 kilometres from each other. Ararat is amazingly beautiful. It has attracted travellers since ancient times. The most wonderful view of Mount Ararat is from the northern vicinity of Yerevan - the capital of the Republic of Armenia. The Armenian landscape is very picturesque and rich in numerous cultural monuments, such as rock drawings, cave towns, excavations of ancient cities and Palaeolithic settlements, remnants of the most ancient observatories and metallurgical centres, creations of old and Medieval Armenian masters (temples, cloisters and fortresses) and modern architectural ensembles. Usually tourists enjoying the beauty of Armenian Nature are astonished by the results of its "creative work" (pictorial landforms, rock sculptures, waterfalls, etc.) and are interested in knowing the causes of their formation. Armenia is one of those rare countries that, though small in territory,Click to enlarge is notable for its complexity and rich diversity of its geological structures. In a small area one can observe various signs of active geological processes ever taking place on the earth and continuing today. These include strongly transformed metamorphic rocks of the Pre-Cambrian basement and nearly "fresh" lava flows of recent volcanoes; thick layers sedimentary, volcanic-sedimentary and volcanogenic deposits of sea, deep- sea- rift, lacustrine - continental basins, and products of magmatic activity, including volcanic activity from the Middle Paleozoic up to the Quaternary Age; the results of the complicated tectonic processes that took place in the remote geological past, and signs of the contemporary tectonics. To the above series one can add numerous ore and non-ferrous deposits, sweet, thermal and mineral springs, as well as rare mineral associations and interesting results of contemporary abrasion and erosion processes. Among all this diverse Armenian geology are objects that could be assigned to the rank of rarity, and often, unique natural geological monuments are to be found. The agri- biological diversity of wild relatives of cultivated plants, medicinal, edible, wood, colouring, aromatic, fodder and many other plants including many endemic, relict and rare species is surprising. This is due to a number of factors such as:

  • The country is located at the junction of major bio- geographic zones;
  • Armenia provides an important passage and resting sites for migratory animals and birds;
  • Seven main landscape types are represented across the different altitudinal zones of Armenia within a relatively small territory;
  • Armenia has long been a center for breeding and selection of cultivated plants and livestock thus became an important endemic center for wild relatives of domestic crops.

Agricultural species are of particular importance - Armenia is considered one of the most important centres for agro - diversity since it represents a relatively large area supporting wild relatives of crops and agricultural varieties. The people of Armenia have used these natural resources for more than 5000 years, and have built important relationships between human society and agribioversity, both through breeding and through use of agricultural lands. Indeed, natural pastures and meadows represent a crucial natural resource for Armenia, occupying a third of the country's territory. The mountainous nature of Armenia results in a series of highly diverse landscape, with variations in geological substrate, terrain, climate, soils and water resources. These landscapes support a great variety of habitats, which support distinctive flora and different human use. Seven distinct altitude landscape zones have been Click to enlargedescribed in Armenia: Deserts Semi-deserts Dry steppes Steppes Woodlands Sub-alpine Alpine lands In percentage the first two cover 16%, mountain steppes 37%, forest, thin forest, shrubs 20% and alpine and sub-alpine meadows 28%. The total of species and endemic forms, from different taxonomic groups that are represented in Armenia is about 17,500 of which 339 are endemic species or sub species. The number of wild relatives of crop plants found in Armenia is 22 species and 218 sub species. Armenia is an ancient center for the breeding of livestock and also supports the wild relatives of domestic breeds. Endemic breeds of sheep were recognized as early as 9th century BC, which have been selected from their wild ancestors, the Armenian mouflon. Today mouflon are found in the south of the country. One can also find here sheep, endemic races of goats and horses, which also originated from the Armenian Plateau. Armenia became famous for its genetic variety of cows, sheep, pigs, hens and rabbits over the past years.

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