Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands – first site in Georgia added to UNESCO World Heritage List for its natural attributes

Baku, April 25, AZERTAC

Located in Georgia, within the Autonomous Republic of Adjara as well as the regions of Guria and Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti, the country’s newest UNESCO Site (and the first site in the Natural category for the entire region) was inscribed in July 2021.

The Colchic Forests and Wetlands is made up of seven areas along the Black Sea Coast, including four protected areas and national parks: Kolkheti, Mtirala, Kobuleti and Kintrishi.

The property comprises a series of seven component parts, which are located close to each other within an 80 km long corridor along the warm-temperate and extremely humid eastern coast of the Black Sea. They provide an almost complete altitudinal series of the most typical Colchic ecosystems running from sea level to more than 2,500 m above sea level.

The main ecosystems are ancient deciduous Colchic rainforests and wetlands – particularly percolation bogs and other mire types of the Colchic mire region, a distinct mire region within Europe and Eurasia.

The Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands are relict forests, which have survived the glacial cycles of the ice age. The extremely humid nemoral broad-leaved rainforests comprise a highly diverse flora and fauna, with very high densities of endemic and relict species. This is the result of millions of years of uninterrupted evolution and speciation processes within the Colchic Pliocene refugium.

The peatlands of the Colchis mire region, which are closely interlinked with lowland Colchic rainforests, also reflect the mild and extremely humid conditions there. These allow for the existence of percolation bogs, the simplest functional type of mires, only occurring in the Colchis mire region. In addition to percolation bogs, there is a complete series of other succession stages of mire development in the Colchic wetlands.

These landscapes share a common topography of Ancient broadleaf Colchic rainforests, wetlands and mire bogs. This site is important because of the density of rare endemic flora and fauna: More than 1,100 species of plant (including 44 threatened species) and 19 threatened animal species, including the endangered Colchic Sturgeon, dwell here.

Additionally, a huge number of migratory birds visit this lush patch every year, making it one of the most important habitats for nesting birds (along with the Javakheti Protected Areas).

It hosts an extremely high proportion of endemic species for a non-tropical, non-island region. There are 149 species of plants with a restricted range and almost one third of mammals, amphibians and reptiles are endemic. The contribution of endemic species to amphibians, reptiles and mammals of the region is at 28%.

Forty-four globally threatened or near-threatened species of vascular plants, 50 of vertebrates, and 8 of invertebrates have been recorded in the Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands. The property also harbors sturgeon species, including the Colchic Sturgeon, and serves as a key stopover for many globally threatened birds that migrate through the Batumi bottleneck.

The Colchic Corridor runs along Georgia’s Black Sea Coast through Adjara, Guria and Samegrelo regions. Therefore, the city of Batumi is a great base for exploring the area on day trips or overnight camping excursions.

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