Mid-April, CNF’s Armenia national coordinator Arman Vermishyan and I set off for a closer look at some of the Armenian protected areas where we are already working or are planning to work. Our dual objective was to assess their problems and potential, and to scout out the Armenian leg of our September donor trip, which will feature the amazingly varied and beautiful landscapes of the South Caucasus.
This is the first in a series of several reports on our two-day trip.
Lake Sevan National Park
April weather in Armenia is capricious, but we are lucky—today is sunny and warm. Driving north from Armenia’s capital city Yerevan (altitude 990 meters; 3,250 feet), we climb gently but steadily, and in less than an hour we reach 1,900 meters (6,250 feet) and Lake Sevan, one of the largest high mountain lakes in the world.
I have visited this western side of the lake many times before. Sadly, during Soviet times the river that drains the lake here was widened to increase flow and the lake suffered a serious reduction in its level. And while the water level has recovered partially in recent years, the lake’s ecosystem remains endangered by overuse. This shore is managed more as a recreation area than a national park and has been scarred somewhat by un-planned development. Nevertheless, the lake is beautiful and its biodiversity unique and important—Sevan is, for example, home to the endemic Armenian Gull (Larus armenicus) and Sevan trout (Salmo ischchan). So there is a great need for a new master plan to conserve it that I will report on in a subsequent blog.
Today, Arman and I are aiming to explore the eastern, wilder side of the lake that neither of us has yet visited, so we drive on for another forty minutes. Here the barren and rocky shore is home to unique plant species, and the hillsides beyond once provided a corridor for bezoar goat migration. As we pause in the sunshine, the view across the lake to the mountains on the other side is magnificent. But what strikes me most is that, like the lizards sunning themselves on the rocks around us, we are lucky to be part of this lovely springtime awakening.
On our trip this September we will boat to this spot, and I am already eager to share it with our guests. Read part 2 →
David Morrison is Executive Director of the Caucasus Nature Fund