Europe and Central Asia
26 Nov 2014

Beautiful bird paradise in Armenia at risk after misuse of water resources

Armash IBA by ASPB/ M. Ghasabyan
By Alessia Calderalo

Imagine a place where the Armenian, Turkish, Iranian and Azerbaijani borders converge on the banks of the Araks River, a place home to 220 bird species, a place full of water, plants and animals. This place, well known for its natural richness and beauty, is the Armash, one of the 18 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) in Armenia and among one the richest ornithological hotspots in the Caucasus. Sadly, it has recently been declared in danger.

Originally, Armash IBA was a semi desert area, but thanks to a series of man-made changes and the introduction of fish farming practices, the IBA developed a unique assemblage of habitats including water channels and ponds with wetland vegetation that gave the area its great conservation value. Armash is home to Globally Threatened species like Marbled Teal and White-headed Duck, and hosts rarities like Eurasian Spoonbill and the graceful White-tailed Lapwing, which cannot be found elsewhere in Armenia.

Armash was recognised as an IBA of global importance due to its exceptional natural richness and its importance for migratory birds that cross its national borders during Spring and Autumn. Unfortunately, over the last decade, water resources have been misused and the water springs used for drinking and irrigation in the villages of Ararat province have begun to dry up the area, threatening its unique wildlife.

The Armenian Society for the Protection of Birds (ASPB; BirdLife Partner) has been working for several years to save the area. The organisation has collaborated with the US Embassy, USAID and the Armenian Nature Protection Ministry to find solutions its conservation. As a result of this collaboration, several alternative schemes of channelling water to Armash fish ponds have been proposed and developed.

However, despite these efforts, the water crisis persists and many ponds in the Armash IBA are quickly drying out, and are being replaced by farming lands. This is creating a transformation of the whole ecosystem in the area. Which gives an alarming prospective; if the authorities do not tackle the issue of waste water by adopting and implementing more restrictive laws, it is likely that species such as Marbled Teal, will disappear.

ASPB hopes that the Armash IBA will be preserved as the natural paradise it has been for many years, and that the surrounding countries will actively contribute to this conservation.

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For more information, please contact Tsovinar Hovhannisyan, Conservation Officer at ASPB.


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