The Caucasus biodiversity hotspot has the greatest biological diversity of any temperate forest region in the world—including more than 6,500 species of vascular plants, at least 1,600 of which (25 percent) are unique to the region.
The hotspot spans 500,000 square kilometers of mountains in Eurasia between the Black and Caspian seas, including Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and small portions of Russia, Iran and Turkey. Its forests, high mountains, wetlands, steppes and semi-deserts contain more than twice the plant and animal diversity found in adjacent regions of Europe and Asia.
Yet conservation efforts in the region’s protected areas face a critical funding shortage. The Global Conservation Fund (GCF) joined forces with the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), WWF and the German government to launch a Caucasus Protected Areas Fund in 2006.
The new fund will provide long-term financial support for priority protected areas in the Armenian, Azerbaijan and Georgian parts of the hotspot. It will provide up to 50 percent of the basic annual operating costs for protected areas that have been identified as having the greatest biodiversity, if the contribution is matched by the individual countries.
The government of Germany pledged $6.12 million (through the BMZ and KfW), while GCF invested $3 million and WWF Germany promised $600,000 to capitalize the fund. In 2008, GCF also disbursed an additional $500,000 for the fund. These initial commitments provide a strong basis for the fund to achieve its goal of a core endowment of $50 million.
The CEPF support, totaling $500,000, is supporting key start-up activities and assisting with the preliminary operating costs for the fund.