CIVICS/Lagodekhi Nature Reserve
The nature reserve of Lagodekhi is the oldest nature reserve of the whole Caucasus region and was already established in 1912. The reserve lies on the range of the Greater Caucasus of the alpine region of eastern Georgia. Nowadays it has a size of 22 266 ha, but was enlarged over the decades for several times and the area varies between 400 and 3500 m above sea level. At the reserve a vertical climate and biota zoning is visible from breech forests to alpine zones. About 70 % of the area is occupied by forests (altitude of 450 – 2300 above sea level). The most dominant species are Fagus orientalsis, Carpinus caucasica and maples. Lowland forests of the Reserve are comparable to subtropical forests. Above 2300 m, mostly subalpine and alpine meadows can be found. Nearly two third of the whole Georgian plants are visible in the region of Lagodekhi, but also the fauna is very rich. East Caucasian tur, red deer, chamois, brown bear, lynx, bearded vulture, grey wolf, golden eagle, imperial eagle and steppe eagle are dominant in the Reserve. 121 species of the Lagodekhi flora are endemic to the Caucasus and nine even to Georgia. Two impacts were important for the unique creation of the Reserve: it was an isolation refuge for many species during the glaciations and as the region has no geographical barriers, it was isolated from human impacts due to political and historical issues. The region was first depopulated from Persians in the 16th century and later unsafe for living due to Dagestan tribes. When the Russian Empire annexed Georgia, the situation changed, as a garrison was settled down in the village of Lagodekhi in the 19th century. Important for the establishment of the NR was the polish naturalists Mlokosiewicz. During his military service in the middle of the 19th century, he started to explore the nature, returned in 1867 to settle down, and spent the rest of his life in Lagodekhi. All his life he worked for the idea to create the NR of Lagodekhi and published a lot of material concerning the area. Unfortunately, he died three years before his idea became reality. As a typical Soviet zapovednik, the Nature Reserved was closed for people, except for scientific research. After the breakdown of the Soviet Union, deforestation and illegal hunting appeared to happen at the reserve. In 1996, Georgia adopted the Laws of Protected areas system. These laws were following the categories of the IUCN. In 2003, Lagodekhi was enlarged by 6000 ha and divided into two parts with two managements.