Connecting Birds and People

Metsamor

General Overview of Area and History of Assessment

Metsamor area is located in Ararat Plain and is a combination of natural wetlands and semi-deserts and artificial orchards and arable lands at elevations 836-868 m a.s.l.  The site was assessed as IBA in 2002 (BirdLife International 2002).

Ornithological Summary

The total number of bird species recorded in this area is 225, including 92 breeding species and 133 migratory and wintering ones. The area hosts not only water-birds, but also semi-desert species, as well as the birds which are inhabiting riparian woodlands, and therefore find refuge in the villages. The area provides habitats for globally threatened Common Pochard, Northern Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Turtle Dove, Pallid Harrier, as well as for other birds, such as Levant Sparrowhawks, Black-winged Stilts, Savii's Warbler. etc.

Ownership

The ownership of the part of the lands belongs to local communities, and another part is state, as the natural wetland areas along Araks river. 

Habitat

The semi-desert areas are represented by specific plant composition, which includes small bushes, and multi-year herbs. The wetlands are naturally fed with the ground water and by out flowing waste water of the fish-farms. The dominating vegetation in the wetlands are reed and cattail. In orchards the most cultivated trees are apricot, peach, and walnut, also other fruit trees such as plumb, apple, and pear are presented. Also some parts of the area are occupied by vineyards. The most used decorative trees in the villages and along the roads are Poplar and in less extend the Willow. It creates a unique landscapes for the villages, which represent some kind of riparian woodlands / shrublands. The summer here is very hot, the winters are rather cold, which is causing freezing of some ponds.


Land Use

The area is one of the centers of aquaculture, where number of intensive trout and sturgeon farming enterprises are mixed with extensive carp-farming large ponds. Part of the public lands of the area is allocated for legal hunting.

Conservation Issues

Metsamor area is rather populated and traditionally was used for horticulture purposes, while rather recently the intensive production of trout and surgeon and extensive production of carp and other Cyprinids. Also the area was allocated for legal seasonal hunting. Therefore potentially there are several major dangers: (1) terrestrial habitat transformation into orchards and gardens; (2) cleaning reed-bed in carp farms for intensification of the production; (3) effluents to rivers and wetlands, such as organic waste, persistent chemical disinfectants and antibiotics' residuals from fish-farms, and pesticides and fertilizers from arable lands; (4) unintentional poaching on threatened species during hunting due to lack of hunters' education and inspection control; (5) lead pollution of wetlands caused by bullets.
Unlike other IBAs, the Metsamor has not been yet considered for birdwatching, which can bring additional alternative income to farm owners and support in bird protection. In 2016 Metsamor was designated as Emerald Site and later in 2018 was included into Key Biodiversity Areas. The next step in protection of the area is development management plan for the Emerald Site, which should support in designing of a mutually beneficial models for various agricultural businesses, and in the same time considers control over effluents of fish-farms and strengthening of control over hunters. 

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