The only National Park in Armenia was established in 1978 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 (25,000 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 recognised 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 - including Acantholimon gabrieljanae, Astragalus goktschaicus, Isatis sevangensis, Sorbus luristanica, S. hajastanica, and Adonis wolgensis
Fish - nine species, including whitefish, Sevan trout, barbel, "kogak" and carp
Amphibians - six species including the green toad (Bufo viridis) and a frog (Rana ichchani)
Reptiles - 17 species including rock lizards (Lacerta unisexualis, L. nairensis, L. rostombekovi, L. armeniaca) and snakes (Natrix natrix, Coronella austriaca, Vipera erivanensis)
Birds - 267 species including greylag goose (Anser anser), white winged scoter (Melanitta fusca), red-creasted pochard (Netta rufina), pochard (Aythya ferina), white headed-duck (Oxyora leucocephala), coot (Fulia atra), mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), whooper swan (Cygnus cygnus), shelduck (Tadorna tadorna), Armenian gull (Larus argentatus armenicus), greater and lesser cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo and P. pygmaeus), glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellusi), flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber), and black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus).
Mammals - 34 species; including marbled polecat, otter, manul, 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.