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"Sevan" National Park

Lake Sevan is the second highest in the world situated at the altitude of 1900 meters in hollow of picturesque Geghama Mounts. The surrounding highland steppes elevate to alpine meadows and groves, crowned by snow-capped peaks - add fresh mountain air, rich blue color of the sky, elusively changing shades of Lake and you'll get why it is the beloved place for rest and travel. In other words, it's a source of endless surprises and discoveries:

   An amateur geologist can observe rainbow-colored fields of cracked magma and huge basalt cliffs, to gather rich collection of stones and minerals.
   For researchers in botany of special interest will be the endemic species with ancestors dating back to post - mounts formation era.
   Ornithologist will find fascinating diversity of resident and migratory birds.
   For archaeologists this area presents hundreds of historical monuments and numerous excavations providing amazing pieces of Bronze Age crafts and fine art.



    
The beauty of Sevan Lake and its surroundings is hardly expressed - you have to see it. One who had seen the dawn with golden ribbon on turquoise water and colonies of pelicans and flamingos will remember it forever.

The only National Park in Armenia was established in 1981 to protect Lake Sevan and the surrounding areas. Overall, including buffer zones, 150.100 ha are protected, including 24,800 ha of dry land. Sevan National Park falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Nature Protection, and is managed as a research centre, which monitors the ecosystems, and undertakes various conservation measures (including regulation of use and tourism, and protection of historical and cultural monuments). Licensed fishing on the lake is also regulated.

Three main zoning areas exist: the core (reserve) zone, a recreation zone and a zone for economic use. The core protection zone includes the watershed for the lake, and the park also incorporates a number of smaller reserves and reservations. One of the key sites in the park is the Artanish peninsula (2243 ha), which, being very isolated, is relatively undisturbed. Around 1000 higher plant species (including 94 trees and shrubs) are found in this area, which also supports a range of endemic and rare animal species. Three main zones are recognized within the Artanish peninsula, including the lakeshore habitats (planted forests containing pine, poplar, apricot-tree, oleaster, and sea-buckthorn), a medium altitude zone (20-100m) where species such as juniper and rose are common, and an alpine zone (>100m) dominated by meadow habitats. However, the first two zones were severely affected by illegal felling during the energy crisis.

Protection is aimed at the rare and endemic species of the lake and surrounding habitats. The diversity of habitats and conditions in the area support a wide range of plants and animals, including:

   Plants - Acantholimon gabrieljanae, Astragalus goktschaicus, Isatis sevangensis, Sorbusjunstanjca, S. hajastaria and Adonis wolgensis
   Fish - nine species, including whitefish, Sevan trout, barbel, "kogak" and crocian carp.
   Amphibians - six species including the green toad (Bufo viridis) and a frog (Rana ridibunda).
   Reptiles - seventeen species including rock lizards (Lacerta unisexualis, L. nairensis, L. rostmbekovi, L. armeniaca) and snakes (Natrix natrix, Natrix tessellata, Coronella austnaca, Vipera erivanensis).
   Birds - 267 species, including Greylag Goose, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, White - headed Duck, Coot, Mallard, Whopper Swan, Ruddy Shelduck, Armenian Gull, Great Cormorant, Glossy Ibis, Black-winged Stilt and others..
   Mammals - 34 species, including marbled polecat, otter, leopard, wild goat, wolf, fox and beech marten.

    
The decline in the water level of Lake Sevan (by 19m since the 1950s) has severely affected aquatic, coastal swamp and marshland habitats of the park. In addition, a further 10,000 ha of marshland was drained for agricultural use. In particular, the birds using Lake Sevan were affected by these habitat changes and a number of species no longer breed on the lake. Between 1922 and 1996, the areas used by nesting waterfowl on the lake nearly halved, and the number of Armenian gulls on the lake has also declined dramatically.

There is a need for further research in the Lake Sevan national park, particularly to help with reserve demarcation and to identify the best management approaches for the park and its water resources. It has also been suggested that the park be expanded to incorporate the area previously covered by Lake Gilly, before it was drained, and to undertake some form of habitat restoration of the lake area.





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