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Project Document

GEF Medium-Size Project (MSP)
Government of Armenia
United Nations Development Programme
PIMS 3814

Atlas Award: 00051202

Atlas project ID: 00063634
PIMS 3814: Adaptation to Climate Change in Mountain Forest Ecosystems of Armenia

Table of Contents

SECTION I: Elaboration of the Narrative 5


A – Summary 5

B - Country ownership 6

B1. Country Eligibility 6

B2. Country Drivenness 6


C1. Program Designation and Conformity 7

C2. Project Design 7

Geographical and political context 7

Socio-economic context 8

Biodiversity context 9

Forest ecosystems 10

Forest management 10

Water resources context 10

Climate change context 12

Current climate variability in the Syunik region 12

Impact of climate variability on forests and biodiversity in the Syunik region 16

Projected climate change in the Syunik region 19

Impact of expected climate change on mountain forest ecosystems in the Syunik region 20

Legislation and policy context 21

Project Baseline 24

Anthropogenic threats to biodiversity 24

Climate related threats to biodiversity 25

Baseline programming 25

Baseline gaps and barrier analysis 29


A. Alternative GEF Scenario 30

B. Global environmental benefits of project 34

C. Incremental Costs 35

D. Sustainability 35

E. Replicability 36

F. Cost Effectiveness 36

G. Stakeholder Analysis and Involvement Plan 37


A. Project implementation/ execution arrangements 45

B. GEF Agency core commitments and linkages 46

C. Consultation, Coordination and Collaboration between and among Implementing Agencies, Executing Agencies, and the GEF Secretariat 46






PART I: 55

1. Approved MSP PIF 55

Attached as a separate document 55

2. Other agreements 55

Endorsement letter 55

Attached as a separate document 55

Co-financing letter 56


Description of protected areas in the Syunik region 58

Shikahogh State Reserve (established 1958; area 10,000 ha) 58

Plane Grove Reservation (established in 1959, area 64.2 ha) 59

Boghakar Reservation (established 1989; area 2,728 ha) 60

Goris Reservation (established 1972; area 1,850 ha) 60

Sev Lich Reservation (established 1987; area 240 ha) 60

Syunik (Goris) subregion (25.8 ha) 67

Kapan subregion (90 ha) 67

Meghri subregion (220 ha) 67



Annex 1: Biodiversity of the Syunik region 57

Annex 2: Assessment of priority area under the Vulnerability and Adaptation Section of the Stocktaking Exercise (Summary Evaluation Matrix) 62

Annex 3: Climate Variability and related impacts in Armenia 64

Annex 4: Most vulnerable forest areas in the Syunik region and selected target areas for pilot projects 67

Annex 5: Incremental cost matrix 71

Annex 6: Organization Chart and Terms of Reference for Key Project Personnel 73

Annex 7: Record of Consultations with Stakeholders 80

Acronyms and Abbreviations


Adaptation Policy Framework


Annual Project Report


Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of Germany


Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan


Climate Change


Climate Change Unit


Caucasus Environmental NGO Network


Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund


Country Office


December, January, and February


Environmental Impact Assessment


European Union


Forest Enterprise


First National Communication


Gross Domestic Product


Global Environment Facility


Greenhouse Gas


Geographic Information System


German Technical Assistance


Government of the Republic of Armenia


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


International Union for Conservation of Nature


June, July, and August


Local Agenda-21


March, April, and May


Millennium Development Goals


Ministry of Agriculture


Ministry of Emergency Situations


Ministry of Nature Protection of Armenia


Ministry of Territorial Administration


Medium-Term Public Expenditure Framework


National Capacity Self Assessment for Global Environmental Management


National Environmental Action Programme


National Execution


Non-Governmental Organization


National Statistical Service


Non-Timber forest products


Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe


Project Board


Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with European Union


Programme of Work on Protected Areas


Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper


Republic of Armenia


Regional Environmental Centre for the Caucasus


Standard Basic Assistance Agreement


Second National Communication


State Non-Commercial Organization


September, October, and November


Strategic Priority on Adaptation


Specially Protected Areas of Nature


UN Convention on Biological Diversity


UN Convention to Combat Desertification


United Nations Development Programme


UN Framework Convention on Climate Change


World Wildlife Fund

SECTION I: Elaboration of the Narrative


A – Summary

  1. Armenia’s forest ecosystems have been identified as a global conservation priority inasmuch as they fall under the Caucasus-Anatolian-Hyrcanian Temperate Forests Ecoregion1 that has been listed by WWF as a Global 200 Ecoregion. The Caucasus has also been listed by Conservation International as a biodiversity hotspot. Within Armenia, the Syunik region that falls in the south-eastern part of the country is also notable for the high level of biodiversity. The region’s forest ecosystems form part of the eco-corridor of the Eastern Lesser Caucasus that has been identified as a priority conservation area by the Ecoregional Conservation Plan for the Caucasus. From the banks of Arax, Vokhchi and Vorotan rivers up to the tops of Zangezur, Bargushat and Meghri mountain ranges, various types of ecosystems are represented, namely, semi-deserts, arid open forests, oak forests, steppes, tragacanth formations as well as aquatic and marsh growth, alpine and sub-alpine vegetation, and petrophilous vegetation. Recognizing the need to protect the unique biodiversity of this region, the government has established five specially protected areas2, and is in the process of establishing three others3 (further details on the globally significant biodiversity of the Syunik region are in Annex 1).

  2. Based on assessments of impacts of climate change, including variability, the Syunik region has been identified as a critically vulnerable region of the country, especially in terms of the risk posed by climate change to its unique mountain forest ecosystems. This conclusion comes from the first comprehensive vulnerability and adaptation assessment undertaken for Armenia in the face of potential climate change under the aegis of its First National Communication (FNC) to the UNFCCC, an initiative supported by UNDP-GEF. According to the FNC, climate change impacts are observed from the more frequent occurrence of extreme weather and climate events and disasters, climate aridization, with resultant changes in biota, as well as a decrease of land productivity. Climate change, including variability, has also led to water stress and health issues. The SNC further confirms the need to focus on forest areas where there is a likelihood of significant impacts.

  3. In spite of the vulnerability of the forests of Syunik region, under the business-as-usual scenario, climate change risks will not be taken into account in the forest and biodiversity sectors, primarily due to the prevalence of certain key barriers including: planning process that governs management of forest ecosystems does not include the climate change threat as a criterion in decision making; institutions and individuals do not have the technical capacity to observe and forecast adaptive capacity of forests, understand changes in forest species spurred by climate change including impacts on communities reliant on forest resources, identify options for autonomous and planned adaptation, and then to use this information to raise awareness and mobilize programmatic choices regarding protection of forest ecosystems in the face of climate change; there are no concrete experiences with implementing adaptation response measures, which can be leveraged to motivate wide scale acceptance and adoption of such measures.

  4. The Government of the Republic of Armenia (GoRA) is, therefore, requesting technical assistance from UNDP and GEF to address these barriers. It will bring to bear its own resources and those of the GEF to achieve the preferred normative solution whereby the forestry and biodiversity sectors in the Syunik region are managed in a way that forest ecosystems are better able to adjust to climate change. This requires (a) reducing or removing anthropogenic pressures4, and (b) by adopting policies and practices which directly assist species in forest ecosystems to adjust to climate change. Under the business-as-usual scenario, the government, along with donor support, is addressing anthropogenic pressures through various measures aimed at strengthening Armenia’s SPANs, as well as strengthening forest management (see section on baseline programming). These measures form the foundation for this GEF/SPA project on which specific measures to adapt to climate change are to be undertaken. The GEF/SPA project is fully in line with UNDP’s approach to adaptation that sets the ground to arriving at more integrated national adaptation outcomes. The project will operate at multiple levels (i) to integrate climate change risks into the critical decision-making points of forest conservation and management at national and sectorial level; (ii) to develop institutional capacities for planned adaptation by improving climate risk monitoring, data management, knowledge and skill-set for scenario-based decisions; and (iii) to demonstrate effectiveness of adaptation measures that are designed and implemented by the local stakeholders at sub-national level. The GEF/ SPA project will thus focus on strengthening the enabling environment for mainstreaming climate change risks in forest and protected area management planning, developing associated technical capacities, as well as piloting on-the-ground adaptation measures in target sites. The relevant forest enterprises and administrative units of existing and planned protected areas located in the identified vulnerable target sites will be involved in the project. Lessons are expected to be replicated in other mountain forest ecosystems in central and northern Armenia. The three main outcomes of the project are:

Outcome 1: The enabling environment for integrating climate change risks into management of forest ecosystems is in place.

Outcome 2: Forest and protected area management in the Syunik region integrates pilot adaptation measures to enhance adaptive capacity of mountain forest ecosystems.

Outcome 3: Capacities for adaptive management, monitoring and evaluation, learning, and replication of project lessons are developed.

B - Country ownership

B1. Country Eligibility

  1. The Republic of Armenia has ratified the UNFCCC (ratified on May 14, 1993, entered into force on March 21, 1994) and the Kyoto Protocol (ratified on April 25, 2003, entered into force on February 16, 2005), thus making it eligible for receiving GEF support under the climate change focal area. The country has also joined the Ramsar Convention (entered into force on November 6, 1993) and the UNCBD (entered into force on May 14, 1993). It has also ratified the UNCCD (ratified on July 2, 1997, entered into force on September 30, 1997). It is eligible to receive development assistance from UNDP.

B2. Country Drivenness

  1. Since the ratification and entry into force of the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, the Government of the Republic of Armenia (GORA) has effectively fulfilled various assessment and reporting requirements for developing a national strategy for addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation through a broad-based consultative process. The country has prepared its First National Communication (FNC, 1998), and a National Capacity Self Assessment for Global Environmental Management (NCSA, 2004). It is currently preparing (with GEF support) its Second National Communication (SNC) to UNFCCC, according to 17/CP8 and other guidance provided.

  2. The FNC identified the forest sector, and particularly the south-east mountain forest ecosystems, as some of the most vulnerable in Armenia. The SNC further confirms the need to focus on forest areas where there is a likelihood of significant impact of climate change, including variability. A comprehensive multi-criteria analysis has resulted in prioritization of the south-east mountain forest ecosystems as an area where adaptation actions need to be pursued. This is based on an analysis of vulnerable sectors conducted in three selected marzes5 of the Republic. In conducting this prioritization exercise, the following sectors (sub-sectors) were taken into account: forestry, biodiversity, and water. Options were rated on the scale of vulnerability to climate change, relevance to national development priorities and data availability. The final evaluation matrix developed under the stocktaking exercise is attached as Annex 2.

  3. During the preparation of the Second National Environmental Action Programme (NEAP-2), biodiversity conservation and the forest sector have been prioritized taking into account, among other things, the lack of introduction of integrated management approaches of biological resources, irrational management of forests, and climate change, which are resulting in degradation of natural resources, elimination of considerable forest areas affecting the ecological balance, and increasing poverty. The draft NEAP-2 stresses the importance for Armenia to undertake forest adaptation measures in the light of the vulnerability of forests.

  4. Taking into account the findings of the above national, broad-based, consultative dialogue, the Ministry of Nature Protection of Armenia (MONP) has recommended the implementation of pilot measures aimed at strengthening the resilience to climate change of the most vulnerable regions of the country. With GEF support, it hopes to set in motion a long-term process of adaptation to ensure that management of forest ecosystems also includes well-thought out responses to mounting climate change risks, with the ultimate goal of conserving the globally significant biodiversity of the region, sustaining local natural resource-dependent livelihoods, and contributing to the mitigation of land degradation in mountainous areas.


C1. Program Designation and Conformity

  1. This proposal conforms to the Operational Guidelines for the Strategic Priority “Piloting an Operational Approach to Adaptation” (SPA)6. As outlined in these operational guidelines, the project will contribute to the GEF’s stated objective of reducing vulnerability and increasing adaptive capacity to the adverse effects of climate change in the biodiversity focal area by focusing on the valuable mountain forest ecosystems of the Syunik region of Armenia. In terms of the “incrementality” concept outlined in the SPA guidelines, “the incremental cost of activities that generate GEB but do not necessarily increase resilience to climate change”, such as proper management of protected areas and forestries in the Syunik region, will be covered through various donor and government funded initiatives described in the baseline programming section of this document. The “adaptation increment”, or the incremental cost of activities that increase resilience to climate change, will be covered through resources being requested from GEF/ SPA. Through these resources, this pilot, demonstration project will address adaptation needs and reduce risks of loss of biodiversity, which is of global significance. It will reduce the vulnerability of the south-east mountain forest ecosystems to the adverse impacts of expected climate change.

C2. Project Design

Geographical and political context

  1. The Republic of Armenia is located in the North-East of the Armenian Highland, at the turn of Caucasus and Vorder (South-Western Asia). It borders Georgia in the North, Azerbaijan in the East, Turkey in the West and South-West and Iran in the South. The territory is 29,743 km2. The greatest extension of the territory from South to North is 360 km, and 200 km from West to East. Armenia is a mountainous country, with 76.5% of its territory located at 1,000 to 2,500 meters above sea level. The highest point is at 4,090 m (Mount Aragat), and the lowest point is at 370 m. 46.8% of the territory of Armenia falls under agricultural lands, 11.2% under forests, 5.6% under water surface, 7.4% under specially protected nature areas, 5.4% under settlements, industry and communications territory, and 23.6% under other areas.

  2. After the collapse of the USSR and founding of the Republic of Armenia in 1991, a number of political, economic and social reforms were implemented in the country, including land and industry privatization, as well as transition to market economy. The governance structure in Armenia consists of two levels: the republican government and local self-administration (localities, communities)7. The country is administratively divided into 11 regions, each governed by territorial administrations (marzpetarans8), which coordinate activities of the local self-administrations.

  3. The administrative region of Syunik, with a territory of 4,506 km2 (15.1 per cent of the country’s territory) is located in the South-East of Armenia. The Syunik region is gifted with wonderful landscapes created by the chain of the Zanghezur Mountains. It is notable for its large altitudinal variation. The highest point is Mount Kaputdzhukh (3,906 m), and the lowest is the depression in the Megrin gorge (375 m). The lack of plains, frequent alternation of mountain tops, impassable canyons and gorges together give the Syunik region its extraordinary picturesque-ness. It is abundant in Alpine meadows, forests, caves and rivers. The main waterways of the marz are the Vorotan, the Vokhdzhi, and the Megri. In the Soviet period, the region’s territory was divided into four administrative districts: Sisian, Goris, Kapan and Meghri. At present, there are 7 urban and 103 rural communities in the region.

Socio-economic context

  1. As of the end of 2006, the population of the Republic of Armenia was approximately 3.2 million people, with an average density of 108 per km2. The population distribution is extremely disproportionate, due to the country’s mountainous relief and the varying level of economic development. The maximum density of 686 per km2 is distinctive to altitude zones of up to 1,000 m height. The minimum density of 22 per km2 is observed in high-altitude zones of up to 2,000-2,500 m.

  2. Following the sharp economic recession of 1991-1994, Armenia successfully passed through transition and reached certain economic stability and notable economic growth. Average annual economic growth was 5.4 per cent in 1995-2000, and 12.4 per cent in 2001-2004. Political and economic stability, consistency in pursuing market transition and structural reforms, and the establishment and improvement of a legislative base became the most important pre-requisites for positive development of the economy. GDP per capita was USD 2,844 in 2007. The poverty rate is 26.5%; unemployment rate is 7.1%. In terms of human development, Armenia is ranked 83rd in the 2005 Human Development Report, with an HDI value of 0.775.

  3. Sustainable economic development and poverty reduction remain top priorities. The Government and civil society adopted a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) in August 2003. The second PRSP paper is being developed for the period 2008-2015. The main objective is to ensure high rates of economic growth and to redistribute this growth through social programmes aimed at poor and socially disadvantaged groups. To support the implementation of the strategy, the Government has adopted a Medium-Term Public Expenditure Framework (MTEF). Relevant ministries and state agencies are developing comprehensive action plans based on the PRSP strategy and goals. It is important to state that PRSP II recognizes the significance of forests for realizing biodiversity conservation. By implementing the key elements of the PRSP, the Government hopes to set the foundation for eradicating mass poverty and improving living standards by 2015 in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In this context, Armenia has also developed an MDG Report, which, among other things, sets targets under Goal 7 for sustainable use and access to water resources, rehabilitation of forests and arresting current desertification trends.

  4. The number of permanent residents in the Syunik region is 152.9 thousand people (4.74 per cent of the country’s population), including 103.7 thousand people in urban, and 49.2 thousand people in rural communities. Population density is 33.93 people 108 per km2. Mining and agriculture are the most important sectors for the region’s economic development. 76.3% of the employed population is engaged in private sector and 23.5% in public sector. Poverty rate is 25.3%. Unemployment rate in the Syunik region is around 15.4%, which is twice as high as the national average.

  5. Forest management in the region is implemented by four forestry enterprises (Sisian, Syunik (Goris), Kapan and Meghri forestry enterprises), that are comprised of 13 forestry units. Based on a survey conducted during the project preparation9, local communities depend on forests primarily for firewood for heating10 as well as for non-wood forest products. The same survey found that witnessed climate change unambiguously concurs with forecasted climate change. All the interviewed observed: (i) increase of temperature and decrease of precipitations, (ii) increase of droughts and forest fires, (iii) increase of forest pestholes and diseases. Although the interviewed people mentioned that the use of non-wood forest products remains the same, witnessed climate change and its impact on forest and forest resources is a point of concern for communities.

Biodiversity context

  1. Notwithstanding the very small size of the country’s territory, Armenia is notable for its extremely rich biodiversity. Armenia’s forest ecosystems have been identified as a global conservation priority inasmuch as they fall under the Caucasus-Anatolian-Hyrcanian Temperate Forests Ecoregion11 that has been listed by WWF as a Global 200 Ecoregion. The Caucasus has also been listed by Conservation International as a biodiversity hotspot. Except for wet subtropics, all the main ecosystems of Caucasus are represented here. Armenian flora includes more than 3,600 species of vascular plants, which is more than ½ of Caucasian eco-region plant species. There are more than 120 endemic plant species. The fauna is very diverse and rich as well. All the classes of terrestrial vertebrates are represented in Armenia by more than half of Caucasian fauna species. 86 species of mammals (of the total 153 known from Caucasus), about 350 species of birds (of 400), 53 species of reptiles (of 77) and 8 species of amphibians (of 14) are represented here. Most invertebrate species are studied less completely in Armenia as well as in Caucasus, however, as for higher taxons known in the whole Caucasus and in Armenia, the latter’s fauna is notably represented by more than a half of the Caucasus fauna. For instance, in Armenia 155 species of terrestrial mollusks (Mollusca) are found from about 280 known from the Caucasus, about 230 butterfly species (Lepidoptera-Rhopalocera) of approximately 400, 220 species of longhorn-beetles of 353, 160 species of jewel-beetles of about 250, etc.

  2. Within Armenia, the Syunik region that falls in the south-eastern part of the country is also notable for the high level of biodiversity. The region’s forest ecosystems form part of the eco-corridor of the Eastern Lesser Caucasus that has been identified as a conservation priority in the Caucasus by Conservation International and WWF. From the banks of Arax, Vokhchi and Vorotan rivers up to the tops of Zangezur, Bargushat and Meghri mountain ranges, various types of ecosystems are represented, namely, semi-deserts, arid open forests, oak forests, steppes, tragacanth formations as well as aquatic and marsh growth, alpine and sub-alpine vegetation, and petrophilous vegetation. Armenia’s BSAP (1999) notes the serious degradation of pastures and meadows which has occurred over the last 100 years, with the most significant impacts recorded inter alia in the grasslands of Zangezur (geographical name of Syunik region). The BSAP highlights the importance of ecosystems in Zangezur and underlines a number of specific sites which support ecosystems of global or regional significance.

  3. At present, there are five Specially Protected Areas of Nature (SPAN) in the Syunik region: 1 strict nature reserve (Shikahogh state reserve spanning 10,000 ha) and 4 state reservations (Sev Lich – 240 ha, Boghakar – 2,728 ha, Goris – 1,850 ha, and Plane Grove – 64.2 ha). Three other SPANs – National park “Arevik” and two reservations (Vorotan and Zangezur) – are in the process of being established (in statu nascendi). For more detailed information on the globally significant biodiversity and protected areas of the Syunik region, see Annex 1.

Forest ecosystems

  1. In Armenia, forests are unevenly distributed across the country (see map of forest cover in Annex 1, Map 3). 62% of forests, comprising about 207,000 ha of forest land, are found in the north-eastern region (marzes of Lori and Tavush). Only 18% of forests are found in the vast central and southern regions (marzes of Aragatsotn, Kotayk, Gegharkunik, Ararat and Vayots Dzor), and the remaining 20% are found in the south-east (Syunik Marz) covering about 65,000 ha of forest land. According to official data, average forest productivity coefficient is 3.6 growth class, and forest density is 0.55. Forests in the country mainly occupy lofty slopes and heavily incised landscapes at elevations of 550-2400 m above sea level. The geographical location and mountain relief has favored formation of rich biodiversity and high level of endemism. Forest areas are represented by 274 tree and shrub species. The main forest species (89.1% of forest cover) are Fagus orientalis, Quercus iberica, Quercus macranthera, Carpinus caucasica and Pinus kochiana.

  2. The area of forest lands in the Syunik region reaches 94,243 ha, including forest-covered area of approximately 65,000 ha (20% of the country’s forest-covered area). Area under crops totals 27,345 ha. At the elevation of 600-1500 m, oak forests (Quercus iberica, Quercus macranthera) are present. However, pure oak forests are not usual here. Forest areas in Syunik mainly consist of oak-hornbeam forests with a predominance of hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), ash-tree (Fraxinus excelsior), species of maple (Acer hyrcanum, Acer campestre), elm (Ulmus glabra), etc. At lower elevations, cornel (Cornus mas), nut-tree (Corylus avellana), eastern hornbeam (Carpinus orientalis), honeysuckle (Lonicera caucasica), buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), viburnum (Viburnum lantana), privet (Ligustrum vulgare) are found as underbrush with oak and hornbeam. Forests of the Syunik region have a diversity of endemic and rare plant species listed in the Red Book. Zelcova carpinifolia, which is listed in the IUCN International Red Book, is also found in the forests of the Syunik region. The Caucasus natural plane grove located in Syunik is of global significance and is under state conservation (see Annex 1).

Forest management

  1. Forests in Armenia are state owned. The forest governance structure consists of the republican body “ArmForest”, which is a State Non-Commercial Organization (SNCO). It has regional sub-units or forest enterprises. Each forest enterprise has several forest areas (forestry) under it. In the Syunik region there are four forest enterprises: Sisian forest enterprise, Syunik forest enterprise (also referred to as Goris forest enterprise because it is near the town of Goris), Kapan forest enterprise, and Meghri forest enterprise.

Water resources context

  1. Water resources are an integral part of ecosystems and they play a crucial role in the survival and health of forest ecosystems. They fulfill vital functions in terms of creation and maintenance of microclimate, sustaining habitats for forest flora and fauna species, and their natural regeneration. The Syunik region includes 3 major river basins: Vorotan, Voghji and Meghri. Water resources are relatively abundant compared to other regions. The tables below describe the region’s water resources.
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