Biodiversity and conservation of the coastal ecosystems of Azerbaijan

The aim of the project was to develop an estimation of the potential for nature- and biodiversity protection of the islands in the Azerbaijan part of the Caspian Sea as well as in the Kuradelta. It was initiated by the ministry of Azerbaijan in cooperation with the ministry for ecology and natural resources in Azerbaijan.

There has not been a basic appraisal of those areas yet. That is why its status, its biological and geographical diversity and its anthropogenic modification have been mostly unknown. Although the meaning of the world’s biggest lake with its huge diversity, its big amount of endemic species and endangered habitats are widely accepted, a realised cross- border management of these manifold landscapes is still missing.

Within this study the condition of the islands was estimated and an actual directive for the protection of the Caspian coastal ecosystem was achieved. The study showed the dramatic condition of the Azerbaijan islands in the Caspian Sea as well as in the Kuradelta. More than one decade of free access to this area, have led to permanent disturbances, intensive utilization and a recession of numbers of species. Furthermore the coastal region is affected by the rising water level of the Caspian Sea. Oil-slicks, intensive fishery and litter (military and industrial litter on inaccessible islands of the Baku- Bay) are a familiar picture on and around many islands. The Kura- Delta and its surrounding waters are full of fisher nets which make it quite impossible for a sturgeon to reach its spawn grounds further upstream the Kura. The natural dynamic development of the Delta is endangered as well. A new outflow channel is currently built to reactivate the collapsing deep sea – fleet. The elevation of other channels and the intensified attendance during the construction will reduce the sedimentation process, which is temporarily running uncontrolled. In times of the Soviet Union several islands were protected as states sanctuaries while today not more than two islands have a protective status.


On all investigated islands the diversity of the flora was quite marginal. Common species of semi- deserts and ruderal species were found most frequently. The faunistic diversity decreased a lot over the last decade. Colonies of terns, waders and seagulls which used to breed on the islands could not be confirmed these days. The number of breeding birds decreased around 50 to 60 percent. The meaning of the west- Caspian bird migration route, also used as a migration route between the Eurasian summer habitats and the African and Indian hibernation territory could be verified for the first time. As a first number 310.000 individuals from 173 species can be named. The special setting of diversity and the geomorphologic evolution as well as the amount of the islands led to a unique character of the whole Caspian Sea.

In the frame of the study concluding recommendations concerning the protection of the islands are given.

  • The protection of selected parts of the coastal waters

  • The protection of several special islands

  • Regular controls and avoidance of pollution

  • Strict compliance of fishery quotes and

  • No access during the breeding period

Again the islands, which are representing the diversity of the coastal habitats in an outstanding way, should be allocated to the national network of protected areas in Azerbaijan.

The Michael Otto foundation, a long term partner of the Michael Succow foundation in Azerbaijan, supported this study, generously.



                                                           Michael Otto Foundation