Across borders for nature conservation in the Caucasus

Bakhmaro – a settlement in the Meskhetian Mountains in the Lesser Caucasus. © LIB, N. Hein

 

The southwestern Caucasus is one of the planet’s major biodiversity hotspots. In the CaBOL project, an international research community has laid the foundation for protecting the highly diverse primeval forests and plateaus. On November 20 and 21, scientists from the Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change (LIB) and their partners from Georgia and Armenia will present the project’s results in Tbilisi, as negotiations about Georgia’s EU candidacy progress.

The Caucasus Barcode of Life Project (CaBOL) aims to inventory the largely unknown biodiversity in the Caucasus, contributing to the protection of this unique natural area with UNESCO World Heritage sites. Funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) concludes in February 2024. After three years, the participants reflect positively, having laid the groundwork for a multinational research centre in the Caucasus. What comes next?

Within CaBOL, the research community established comprehensive knowledge exchange in the Caucasus region, including Bioblitzes with citizen scientists. The group implements foundations for research labs, joint academic training programs, and international research and knowledge transfer projects in Georgia and Armenia. Institutions from the entire region, including Ukraine, Poland, and Romania, are now part of the network.

“Diplomatic efforts and treaties are prerequisites for exchanging scientific data, materials, and expertise among researchers. International scientific projects like CaBOL significantly contribute to fostering partnerships, peace, and stability in the region,” emphasizes Prof Dr Bernhard Misof, Director of LIB. “The potential EU candidacy for Georgia is among others a consequence of long-term scientific collaborations between Germany and Georgia.”

To present project results, LIB, in collaboration with Ilia State University in Tbilisi, invites to a biodiversity conference from November 20 to 21. Titled “Exploring the Biodiversity of the Caucasus – Insights from ongoing international collaborations,” researchers from the CaBOL project and other biodiversity projects in the region will share their findings and facilitate discussion.

Nils Hein, CaBOL Project Coordinator at LIB, highlights achievements, including creating a freely accessible database that will contain over 30,000 entries until the project ends. Researchers standardized collection infrastructures, developed molecular analysis lab infrastructure, and established mirrored DNA and tissue collections for shared use. Over 40 scientific studies were published during the project, identifying more than 450 species through DNA barcoding. Twenty species were newly described.

Misof emphasizes the need to align these efforts with broader environmental and conservation goals regionally and globally. LIB is in close contact with decision-makers to advance the establishment of a biodiversity research centre in the Caucasus, with plans for a permanent office as a crucial step for coordination.

 

Contact
Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change (LIB)
Museum Koenig Bonn
Dr Nils Hein
CaBOL Project Coordinator
N.Hein@leibniz-lib.de

Vashlovani National Park – a national park in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia. © LIB, N. Hein
The moth species Cilix asiatica was detected for the first time in Georgia as part of the project. © Armen Seropian
As well as the butterfly species Cynaeda dentalis was also detected for the first time in Georgia. © Armen Seropian
With the spider species Palpimanus sogdianus (here a female specimen), a new family has even been identified in the region. © Armen Seropian

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