General Overview of Area and History of Assessment
Mount Ara is isolated from most of the mountain ridges having some connectivity with Tsaghkounyats Ridge only. The elevation range considered for IBA varies between 1,200 and 2,500 m a.s.l. The area was primarily assessed in 2002 (BirdLife International 2002) for protection of local population of Caucasian Black Grouse, and after that has not been re-evaluated.
There are 137 species which occur in the area, including 99 breeding species and 38 migratory and wintering species. The area holds quite large populations of Caucasian Black Grouse and Corncrake, as well as number of raptor species: both cliff nesters as Golden Eagle and forest breeders as Lesser Spotted Eagle. There is also quite intensive migration that goes around the Mountain.
The 40% of the area belongs to the forestry enterprise, while the rest 60% belongs to surrounding communities.
The Mountain represents a unique combination of habitats, where the northern slope is covered by deciduous forest and the southern slope is occupied by grasslands. The forest is dominated by oak and horn-beam trees; the upper timberline is taken by birch trees. The grasslands change gradually from arid steppes at the bottom to wet meadows above the timberline. The central area of the mountain is cut by deep canyon that provides wide breeding opportunities for cliff-nesters. Other residual cliffs and screes are spread on the slopes of the Mountain as well.
The woodland part of the area enterprise and is used for some timber production. The rest of the area is occupied for livestock husbandry. The lower parts of the grassland are usually used for nomadic grazing, while the higher humid sites are mainly exploited for haymaking. Additionally the site is used for seasonal sports hunting, being officially allocated for that.
Initially the resources of the Mountain are quite poor: the forest is represented by medium-sized trees, which are not well fit the timber production objectives. The same is related to nomadic grazing, which causes the change of plant species composition and even erosion at some spots. Another disturbance comes from shepherds’ dogs, which are a danger for ground-nesters, and of course from the hunting in the areas of distribution of such rare species as Caucasian Black Grouse. Although the area was already designated as Emerald Site, its management still has to be developed. Introduction of land-friendly livestock husbandry practices, and shift of the activities of forestry enterprises towards non-timber production along with complete closing of the area for hunting – these are the activities to be considered in the management plan of the Emerald Site, that should be designed.