Armenia successfully completes SGF project on wetland valuation


Armenia completes SGF project on wetland valuation

Armenia successfully completed its SGF 1999 project "Ecological and economic valuation of Armenian wetlands: a step towards elaboration of the National Wetland Policy". The project was carried out by the NGO Professional and Entrepreneurial Orientation Union (NGO Orientation) and it was financed solely by a grant provided from the Ramsar Convention Bureau. As a result the project delivered the most comprehensive list of Armenian wetlands worked out so far, a wetland database, the first nationwide economic valuation of wetlands, outputs of seasonal ecological and economic surveys at 6 typical wetland areas in different regions of the country and at different altitude, impact assessment analysis of infliction of harms on wetlands by various human activities, promotion of public awareness of sustainable (wise) use of wetland products, values and functions, and last but not least during the project implementation have been identified 4 more wetlands of international importance to be inscribed on the Ramsar List. More information on the project could be read here.

Armenia successfully completed SGF 1999 project " Ecological and economic valuation of Armenian wetlands: a step towards elaboration of the National Wetland Policy "

Main goal of the project was to provide the Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic of Armenia with valuable base for formulation and further development to the National Wetland Database as a milestone in the implementation of the wise use concept promoted by the Ramsar Convention.

The project was executed by the NGO Professional and Entrepreneurial Orientation Union (NGO Orientation) and 11 experts took part in the various types of work undertaken - literature and maps review and data collection, interviewing, fieldwork, database design and programming, data input into the database, computer processing, economic and ecological valuation, impact assessment, administrative tasks and reporting.

One of the project outputs is the most comprehensive so far list of wetlands of Armenia comprising 255 wetlands in total of 24 different inland wetland types as follows: 30 reservoirs of volume >0.001 km3, 72 rivers and watercourses with average annual water expenditure >0.2 sec-1, 96 lakes, ponds and fishponds of surface >1 ha, 20 largest mires and peatlands, 37 other types of wetlands (seasonal and permanent marshes, bogs, etc.).

All the data from the interviews, literature review and field work on abiotic and biotic features of wetlands were stored in a database specially designed and created for the purpose of this project. The database was programmed under MS Access software. Preliminary data input was done using MS Excel spreadsheets.

Among the hundreds of Armenian wetlands 4 more wetlands meeting criteria of international importance have been identified: Armash Fishponds (ca. 1,000 ha), Relict Ponds and Mires of Lori Upland (ca. 600 ha), Poqr Vedi Marshes (351 ha) and Lake Ardenis (10 ha).

For seasonal ecological and economic valuation were chosen 6 wetland laying at different altitude: Armash Fishponds (800 m a.s.l.), Lori Valley Relict Ponds (1,500 m a.s.l.), Noradus Fishponds (1,900 m a.s.l.), Lake Arpi (2,023 m a.s.l.), Madina Valley Floodplain (2,280 m a.s.l.) and lake Gazana (3,590 m a.s.l.). It has been identified that wetlands in Armenia are of higher ecological and economic values during the warm and dry seasons unlike the cold ones. The higher altitude a site is located the sharper is seasonal variations of values expressed. It mainly depends upon the time of ice-cover and accessibility to the wetland.

General conclusion resulting form the impact assessment is that all the threats inflicted on wetlands in Armenia are human induced. Among the most significant threats are water loss, water over-abstraction, soil deterioration and erosion, accelerated sedimentation, mudflows, pollution, disturbance, deforestation, invasive species, etc. The root cause for most of the human induced threats is underestimation of economic and especially of ecological values of wetlands leading to different mainly harmful approaches wetlands and their utilization.

Whenever it was possible the staff engaged with the project implementation worked on increasing public awareness among stakeholders and users, governmental authorities, NGOs by means of lectures, photo exhibitions, dissemination of promotional and educational materials.

For first time a comprehensive valuation of what wetlands in Armenia are worth was done during this project. It was adopted a method described by Barbier et al. (1996) in the publication Economic valuation of wetlands, a guide for policy makers and planners edited by the Ramsar Convention. Despite the relatively small number of wetlands in Armenia their value has been calculated at ca. 200 million USD per year or 125 USD per ha per year. The latest figure is conforming with the value of a crop field or a meadow.

Undoubtedly this project has delivered valuable background information to be used as a starting point in drafting and contemplating the National Wetland Policy. The Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic of Armenia is already making use of the project outputs and it has commenced the process of policy elaboration.

-- reported by Sergey Dereliev, Ramsar

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