The deserts, savannas, arid woodlands, and forests that comprise the Caucasus hotspot contain a large number of endemic plant species.
Its rugged landscape is home to the two species of highly threatened Caucasian turs or mountain goats. Recent economic and political crises in the region are intensifying forest clearing for fuel wood, and together with illegal hunting and plant collecting, threaten the unique biodiversity of this region.
The majority of intact habitat remains in the higher mountain regions with the lower plains experiencing the greatest destruction.
†Recorded extinctions since 1500. *Categories I-IV afford higher levels of protection.
|Hotspot Original Extent (km²)
|Hotspot Vegetation Remaining (km²)
|Endemic Plant Species
|Endemic Threatened Birds
|Endemic Threatened Mammals
|Endemic Threatened Amphibians
|Human Population Density (people/km²)
|Area Protected (km²)
|Area Protected (km²) in Categories I-IV*
The Caucasus hotspot spans 532,658 km² in the nations of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, the North Caucasian portion of the Russian Federation (including the Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Northern Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachai-Cherkesia, and Adigea Autonomous Republics), the northeastern part of Turkey, and a part of northwestern Iran. In the southern reaches, this hotspot integrades with the Irano-Anatolian Hotspot.
The topography of the Caucasus comprises the Greater Caucasus Range (with the highest peak being Mt. Elburz at 5,642 meters), the Lesser Caucasus Mountain Chain (to 4,000 meters), the South Caucasian Uplands (covering parts of the Asia Minor, Armenian, and Iranian uplands), and the Transcaucasian Depression, between the Greater Caucasus Range and the Lesser Caucasus Mountain Chain. More than 2,000 glaciers cover 1,450 km² in the Greater Caucasus Range. The northern third of the hotspot is the broad North Caucasus Plain, the eastern part of which is below sea level. Climate throughout the region is variable, with annual rainfall ranging from as little as 150 millimeters in the eastern part of the hotspot on the Caspian Coast to more than 4,000 millimeters in the coastal mountains along the Black Sea.
The vegetation of the Caucasus is also quite diverse. In the northern part of the hotspot, grassland steppes in the west transition to semidesert ecosystems, and then to desert in the east. In the central Transcaucasian Depression, swamp forests, steppes, and arid woodlands are replaced by semideserts and deserts along the Caspian Sea. Scattered throughout the hotspot are broadleaf forests, montane coniferous forests, and shrublands. There are two refugia of Tertiary flora in the region: the Colchis in the catchment basin of the Black Sea, and the Hyrcanian in the extreme southeastern end of the Caucasus on the Caspian Sea coast.