Action Plan for the Biodiversity Hotspot Caucasus

Prof Dr Bernhard Misof speaks at the panel discussion about the endangered diversity of the unique fauna and flora of the Caucasus and the collaborative efforts of LIB and ISU on-site. From left to right: Prof Nino Doborjginidze, Rector of ISU; Dr Jens Brandenburg, Parliamentary State Secretary; Prof Dr Bernhard Misof, LIB; Carl Amirgulashvili, Ministry of Environment and Agriculture. © Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia

 

An action plan is aimed at strengthening cooperation between Germany and Georgia in the field of biodiversity research. Bernhard Misof, Director General of the Leibniz Institute for Biodiversity (LIB), led the delegation to the Caucasus, along with representatives from the Federal Ministry of Education and Science (BMBF), to discuss the action plan and the global biodiversity crisis.

The current coalition agreement of the German government emphasizes further expansion of partnerships with various institutions in the Caucasus region. The LIB has been closely connected with the Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia (ISU), for over ten years and operates the “Caucasus Barcode of Life” (CaBOL) project, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the region.

The Caucasus and its adjacent areas belong to the most biologically diverse regions of the temperate zone. Forests, wetlands, steppes, high mountains, and transitional regions offer a multitude of ecosystems with numerous endemic and yet unknown species. It is a habitat that needs to be protected, being home to the persian leopards in Europe, as well as other unique species such as the Gmelin’s mouflon, the Caucasian ibex, and the Caucasian black grouse, which are found nowhere else in the world.

In recent years, researchers from the LIB, together with colleagues from Georgia and Armenia, have already discovered numerous new animal species or provided the first regional records of certain species. An essential element of the cooperation is student exchange and the supervision of theses. The LIB is committed to building local capacities and expertise to promote sustainable development in the region.

However, geopolitical tensions in the area have already affected the joint projects of the LIB and the ISU on multiple occasions. Fieldwork in the two regions occupied by Russia in Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia) is generally not possible, and approaching the demarcation lines is problematic. Additionally, the armed conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2020 made normal scientific work impossible.

Considering the Russian aggression against the Ukrainian population and its geopolitical implications for the entire region, the German government’s concern has gained significance. Through joint funding projects, global challenges related to biodiversity, climate change, sustainable water and energy supply, and access to the European research framework program will be addressed. The LIB serves as a central and well-connected partner in the Caucasus, committed to remaining active in the region and contributing to the development of infrastructure for biodiversity monitoring, environmental protection, and nature conservation in Georgia and Armenia.

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