General Overview of Area and History of Assessment
Noravank IBA is located on the slopes of Vayots Dzor mountains from the Arpa river at about 800 m a.s.l. to about the watershed at 2400 m a.s.l. The site was assessed as IBA in 2002 (BirdLife International 2002).
In total, there are 146 species of birds recorded here, among those, 100 species are breeding and 46 species are migrating through the area or wintering here. The site is obviously an important breeding area, but also plays some role for the species, wintering in the lowlands. Among the recorded species the threatened ones are Egyptian Vulture, Bearded Vulture, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, Golden Eagle, European Roller, Ortolan Bunting, and others.
The area has mixed ownership of the local communities, Noravank Cultural Fund, and Arpa Protected Landscape.
The landscape of the area varies from riparian shrubland, through semi-desert and juniper woodland, to arid mountain steppes and mesophilic meadows. The area is alternated with two major canyons, with cliffs of up to 200 m high. The riparian shrublands have bushes, reed and trees, the juniper woodlands are dominated by Juniper trees, and the semi-deserts and steppes are represented by herbs and low scrubs. The lower part of the valley is hot and dry and the upper parts have some medium rate of precipitations.
Since the area is partly located at the community lands, it is used for the horticulture and livestock husbandry. In the valley the land is often occupied for orchards and vineyardс, the semi-desert slopes are used for grazing, and the upper flatter areas, reach with grasses are used for haymaking.
Intensive grazing, uncontrolled mowing, and habitat transformation under orchards could be the major threats here. Also some poaching, as out of season hunting on the game birds, as well as trophy hunting on raptors was recorded in the area. Another threat comes from human induced fires: the local people often burn Astracantha spp., or Onobrychis cornuta bushes, either for quick fire for cooking or just for fun. As the area was already included in Emerald Sites, the next step in conservation is development of management plan for the area. The latest should take into consideration the wide opportunities of historical, cultural and nature tourism of the area, including birdwatching and butterfly-watching, as well as interests of local rural communities. It means development and installation of habitat friendly livestock farming practices, which can improve sustainability of pasture use, while not influencing the sensitive wildlife. Also management plan should consider community education for decreasing of further poaching and fire possibilities.