CEPF invested heavily in the hotspot’s protected area system, on which other conservation efforts were anchored. We contributed to system-level planning, the expansion and creation of new protected areas, the strengthening of management in existing protected areas, and the development of sustainable financing mechanisms. Awarded grants worked to develop alternative livelihoods for local communities and engage them in protected area management.
Ultimately our investment helped establish an enabling environment for biodiversity conservation, with more compatible policy frameworks; a stronger, better coordinated civil society; and greater awareness of and support for conservation issues among decision makers and the general public. In this way, CEPF helped to create conditions under which its achievements could be sustained and replicated.
The Caucasus Biodiversity Hotspot includes Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and parts of Russia, Iran and Turkey. Its deserts, savannas, swamp forests and arid woodlands boast some 6,500 species of vascular plants, a quarter of which are found nowhere else. Several large threatened mammal species, including the Endangered Caucasian tur (Capra caucasica) and the Endangered Caspian seal (Pusa caspica) are found here, too.
The hotspot is also a globally significant center of cultural diversity. Humans have inhabited the Caucasus for millennia, and today a multitude of ethnic groups, languages and religions intermingle over a relatively small area.
About 27 percent of the hotspot remains as natural habitat, but only about 12 percent of the original vegetation is considered pristine. The majority of intact habitat remains in the higher mountain regions with the lower plains experiencing the greatest destruction.