The Hyrcanian Forest – The Cradle of European Deciduous Forests

The Hyrcanian forest, the cradle of European deciduous forests, is a hotspot of floristic and faunistic diversity.
Although settled by humans for thousands of years, patches of primary forest have survived until today in the Talysh Mountains of southern Azerbaijan. These areas remain virtually untouched by humans and follow their own natural dynamic. Besides a few other mountain forests, such as the primary forests of the Western Carpathian Mountains, they represent the last undisturbed remnants of primary forests among the nemoral, deciduous forests that originally covered vast parts of Europe. The largest of these remnants are protected within “Hyrkan Milli Parki“, a national park covering 38,000 hectares. Due to their species inventory, structure and habitat diversity, they represent an invaluable asset for science and research.

Viewed from the perspective of global warming, these trees, with high growth rates in an optimal climatic location, have the capacity to store large quantities of carbon dioxide. On a regional level, the forest fulfills an important function in erosion prevention and protection from flooding and landslides. It has a positive effect on the regional climate and insures a steady supply of drinking water.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent disappearance of collective farms (kolkhozes) and state-owned farms (sovkhozes), the forests have been subject to increasing utilisation pressure. For the inhabitants of the surrounding villages, who often rely on subsistence farming, the sale of usually illegally harvested timber (for fuel and construction) often represents the only source of income. Especially near the villages, the problem is exacerbated by heavy overuse of the forests through grazing and pollarding.

Funded through the International Climate Initiative of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, we studied the restoration potential of the Hyrcanian forest and presented a scientific evaluation of the forest destruction and the subsequent degrading of this significant carbon sink.

This study was conducted in conjunction with the planning office E.O.C. in Klagenfurt. It is currently under consideration for practical implementation by the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources in Azerbaijan. 


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