Climate aridation is already evidenced in Armenia resulting in altitudinal shifts of forests, especially in the mountainous parts of the south-east. The semi-desert and steppe vegetation belts have expanded and the alpine vegetation belt has reduced. According to the Initial National Communication, climate aridation has accelerated over the past decade due to climate change, with the southern forests particularly vulnerable. Almost all the valuable tree species in the southern forests2 of Armenia are vulnerable. The Caucasian platans relict forest is also located in this area, as well as relict and endemic species such as Caucasian oak (Quercus macranthera), Yew tree (Taxus baccata L.) and Goats-rue (Juniperus excelsa andJuniperus foetidissima).
The research based on observations from 50 meteorological stations during 1930-1990 shows that the average annual precipitation has decreased by 5.8% and temperature has increased by 0.7°C in Armenia. This is expected to worsen in light of anticipated climate change scenarios. In addition to natural geographical conditions (arid zones by nature), climate aridation creates more favorable conditions for pest reproduction3. At present, the forest area damaged annually by insects is approximately 14,500ha (on average). It is estimated that in southern Armenia, more than 2,000ha of valuable oak forests have already died and natural reforestation and rehabilitation processes may be impossible unless targeted adaptation measures are taken. The annual loss of forest from pests is 12,252m3, or 2.8% of the total annual gain.
According to vulnerability assessment data generated by Initial National Communication, the following changes are expected to take place due to intensified aridation associated with climate change: deterioration of climate conditions for seminal forest renewal, intensification of semi-desert plant species’ penetration, expansion of hornbeam and oak dry type forest areas, and upward movement (for 100-150m) of the bottom border of forest. It is expected that the desert and semi-desert zone area will expand by 33%, a new desert zone will form, and semi-desert will move over the bottom border of the forest in the south-eastern part of the country. This expansion will take place at the expense of integrity of forest ecosystem. Reduction of the upper alpine zone may result in extinction of a number of endemic flora species as they will not have sufficient range to adapt.
1 The figures and sources and tentative and subject to further discussion during the preparatory phase.
2 Armenian habitats, as part of the 200 Global Eco-regions, contain nearly every plant community found in the southern Caucasus and 50% of the region’s floral diversity. There are more than 300 species of trees and bushes growing in the forests of Armenia, including endemic and relict rare species. The main forest-forming species are oak, beech, hornbeam and walnut.
3 The main pests among butterflies are: Ocneria dispar, Maloco lachey caterpillar, Erannis defoliaria, Euproctis chrysorrhoea, Totrtix viridana and among insects: Melasoma populi, Galerucella luteola, Curculio glandium.