Start of the Dilijan Biosphere Reserve Development Project

Armenia is located in the Caucasus ecoregion, which is one of 25 "Global Biodiversity Hotspots" according to the criteria of Conservation International and has an overwhelming wealth of species. Dilijan National Park is known for its forest landscapes, mineral springs and natural and cultural monuments. But the region is facing considerable challenges. In particular, the effects of the changing climate and the intensive extraction of natural resources and their overuse are threatening the biodiversity of the National Park.

To address the challenges and foster sustainable development of the region, the Armenian government decided to promote the UNESCO concept of "Man and Biosphere" (MaB) in Armenia and to initiate the establishment of the country's first biosphere reserve (BR). For this purpose, with the support of German partners, a project “Biosphere Reserves as model regions for climate change miti-gation and adaptation – capacity development for the establishment of the Dilijan Biosphere Reserve in Armenia“ was launched.

Within the project, the first mission of the German project team from the Michael Succow Foundation to Armenia, together with the Armenian partner organization Soluton took place from February 16th to 23rd, 2024. A kick-off workshop of the project was organized in Yerevan on February 22nd, attended by key stakeholders, including the deputy minister of environment, different ministry department heads, representatives from the German Embassy, international and local organizations, the national UNESCO MAB Committee representative, Dilijan Municipality, scientists, and experts.

Participants expressed their readiness to support the BR establishment initiative as well as to try to maximize synergies with other ongoing initiatives in Dilijan. Furthermore, they provided recommendations for expanding the BR territory beyond the Dilijan National Park borders and to include lands from the neighboring municipalities as well. Options for establishing a national-level supporting committee for the BR development as well as for revitalizing the National UNESCO MAB Committee work were discussed.

Another workshop engaging various institutions on the local level as well as community representatives was held in Dilijan. After informing part of the workshop, group discussions were facilitated, which were focused on identifying the region's key values and sharing initial ideas for the BR's long-term vision. Plans were made to form a local working group and to organize regular meetings for discussing BR development scenarios, potential BR borders, zoning, and appropriate governance structure models.

In addition, the project team visited potential BR areas and held various meetings with adjacent community representatives and key stakeholders from local as well as national level.

The mission overall confirmed positive attitude and commitment of stakeholders towards the initiative and favorable conditions for developing Armenia's first Biosphere Reserve in Dilijan. As the next step, capacity building training modules as well as information materials will be developed for the target group.

This project is funded by the German Federal Environment Ministry’s Advisory Assistance Programme (AAP) for environmental protection in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia and other countries neighbouring the European Union. It is supervised by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the German Environment Agency (UBA).