Caspian Hyrcanian mixed forests

Caspian Hyrcanian mixed forests

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The Caspian Hyrcanian Mixed Forests ecoregion
Ecoregion
An ecoregion , sometimes called a bioregion, is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than an ecozone and larger than an ecosystem. Ecoregions cover relatively large areas of land or water, and contain characteristic, geographically distinct assemblages of natural...

, in the temperate broadleaf and mixed forests
Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests
Mixed forests are a temperate and humid biome. The typical structure of these forests includes four layers. The uppermost layer is the canopy composed of tall mature trees ranging from 33 to 66 m high. Below the canopy is the three-layered, shade-tolerant understory that is roughly 9 to...

 biome
Biome
Biomes are climatically and geographically defined as similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, and are often referred to as ecosystems. Some parts of the earth have more or less the same kind of abiotic and biotic factors spread over a...

, is an area of lush lowland and montane forests covering about 55000 square kilometre near the southern shores of the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

 of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

 and Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

.

Setting


In Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, this ecoregion
Ecoregion
An ecoregion , sometimes called a bioregion, is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than an ecozone and larger than an ecosystem. Ecoregions cover relatively large areas of land or water, and contain characteristic, geographically distinct assemblages of natural...

 includes the coast along the Caspian Sea and the northern slopes of the Alborz Mountains
Alborz
Alborz , also written as Alburz, Elburz or Elborz, is a mountain range in northern Iran stretching from the borders of Azerbaijan and Armenia in the northwest to the southern end of the Caspian Sea, and ending in the east at the borders of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan...

. It covers parts of five provinces of Iran from east to west including: North Khorasan Province
North Khorasan Province
North Khorasan Province is a province located in northeastern Iran. Bojnord is the centre of the province.Other counties are Shirvan, Esfarayen, Maneh-o-Samalqan, Jajarm, Faroj and Germeh....

, Golestan Province
Golestan Province
Golestan Province is one of the 31 provinces of Iran, located in the north-east of the country, south of the Caspian Sea. Its capital is Gorgan....

 (entirely southern and southwestern areas as well as parts of the eastern regions of the Gorgan plain, totaling an area of 421373 hectares (1,041,234.4 acre)), Mazandaran Province
Mazandaran Province
Mazandaran Province is a Caspian province in the north of Iran. Located on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, it is bordered clockwise by the Golestan, Semnan, Tehran, Alborz, Qazvin, and Gilan provinces....

, Gilan Province
Gilan Province
Gilan Province is one of the 31 provinces of Iran. It lies along the Caspian Sea, just west of the province of Mazandaran, east of the province of Ardabil, north of the provinces of Zanjan and Qazvin....

 and Ardabil Province
Ardabil Province
Ardabil Province is one of the 31 provinces of Iran. It is in the north west of the country, bordering the Republic of Azerbaijan and the provinces of East Azerbaijan, Zanjan, and Gilan. Its centre is the city of Ardabil...

. The total wood
Wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

 production from these forests is estimated at 269022 cubic metre. Golestan National Park and Shastkolateh forest watershed are located in Golestan Province), Mazandaran Province
Mazandaran Province
Mazandaran Province is a Caspian province in the north of Iran. Located on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, it is bordered clockwise by the Golestan, Semnan, Tehran, Alborz, Qazvin, and Gilan provinces....

 (the total area of the Hyrcanian forest is estimated at 965000 ha (2,384,564.8 acre). From these forests, 487195 ha (1,203,884 acre) are used commercially, 184000 ha (454,673.5 acre) are protected and the rest are regarded as forest lands or over-used forests. The total of the forest woods used in this province is estimated at 770551 cubic metre. The Kojoor, Dohezar and Sehezar forest watersheds are located in Mazandaran province), Gilan province
Gilan Province
Gilan Province is one of the 31 provinces of Iran. It lies along the Caspian Sea, just west of the province of Mazandaran, east of the province of Ardabil, north of the provinces of Zanjan and Qazvin....

 (these forests are graded from 1 to 3 with an area of 107894 ha (266,611.6 acre); 182758 ha (451,604.5 acre) and 211972 ha (523,793.8 acre), respectively. The commercial utilization is 184202 cubic metre and the non-commercial utilization is 126173 cubic metre. Masooleh, Ghaleh Roodkhan and Astara forest watersheds are located in Gilan province) and Ardabil Province
Ardabil Province
Ardabil Province is one of the 31 provinces of Iran. It is in the north west of the country, bordering the Republic of Azerbaijan and the provinces of East Azerbaijan, Zanjan, and Gilan. Its centre is the city of Ardabil...

. At higher elevations to the south, the ecoregion grades into the Elburz Range forest steppe
Elburz Range forest steppe
The Elburz Range forest steppe ecoregion is an arid, mountainous 1,000-kilometer arc south of the Caspian Sea, stretching across northern Iran from the Azerbaijan border to near the Turkmenistan border. It covers and encompasses the southern and eastern slopes of the Alborz Mountains as well as...

 ecoregion.

In southeast Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

, this ecoregion includes the Lankaran Lowland
Lankaran Lowland
The Lankaran Lowland is a narrow strip of lowland in southern Azerbaijan by the Caspian Sea. It is the southward extension of the Kura-Aras Lowland which in itself is an extension of the Aral–Caspian Depression...

 and the Talysh Mountains
Talysh Mountains
Talysh Mountains is a mountain chain in northwestern Iran, and southeastern Republic of Azerbaijan in the northwest section of the Elburz Mountains, extending southeastward from the Lankaran Lowland in southeast Azerbaijan to the lower part of the Sefid Rud in northwest Iran...

.

The ecoregion’s climate is humid subtropical, in middle altitude locations, oceanic
Oceanic climate
An oceanic climate, also called marine west coast climate, maritime climate, Cascadian climate and British climate for Köppen climate classification Cfb and subtropical highland for Köppen Cfb or Cwb, is a type of climate typically found along the west coasts at the middle latitudes of some of the...

 and in the mountains, humid continental with most precipitation occurring in fall, winter, and spring. The Alborz
Alborz
Alborz , also written as Alburz, Elburz or Elborz, is a mountain range in northern Iran stretching from the borders of Azerbaijan and Armenia in the northwest to the southern end of the Caspian Sea, and ending in the east at the borders of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan...

 mountain range is the highest mountain range in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 which captures the moisture of the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

. Annual rainfall ranges from 900 mm (35.4 in) in the east to 1600 mm (63 in) in the west, making this ecoregion much lusher than the desert, semi-desert, and steppe ecoregions on its borders.

Flora



The natural forest vegetation is temperate deciduous
Deciduous
Deciduous means "falling off at maturity" or "tending to fall off", and is typically used in reference to trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally, and to the shedding of other plant structures such as petals after flowering or fruit when ripe...

 broadleaved forest. 32.7 percent of volume of Hyrcanian forest is of Oriental Beech (Fagus orientalis). A main feature of the region is the lack of conifers; only relics of coniferous species are present, which include European yew (Taxus baccata
Taxus baccata
Taxus baccata is a conifer native to western, central and southern Europe, northwest Africa, northern Iran and southwest Asia. It is the tree originally known as yew, though with other related trees becoming known, it may be now known as the English yew, or European yew.-Description:It is a small-...

), Junipers (Juniperus spp.), Mediterranean Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens
Cupressus sempervirens
Cupressus sempervirens, the Mediterranean Cypress is a species of cypress native to the eastern Mediterranean region, in northeast Libya, southeast Greece , southern Turkey, Cyprus, Northern Egypt, western Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Malta, Italy, western Jordan, and also a disjunct population in...

var. horzontalis) and Chinese Arborvitae (Platycladus orientalis).

The Caspian Sea coastal plains were once covered by Chestnut-leaved Oak (Quercus castaneifolia), European Box (Buxus sempervirens
Buxus sempervirens
Buxus sempervirens is a flowering plant in the genus Buxus, native to western and southern Europe, northwest Africa, and southwest Asia, from southern England south to northern Morocco, and east through the northern Mediterranean region to Turkey. Buxus colchica of western Caucasus and B...

), Black Alder (Alnus glutinosa subsp. barbata), Caucasian Alder (Alnus subcordata), White Poplar (Populus alba) and Caucasian Wingnut (Pterocarya fraxinifolia), but these forests have been almost entirely converted to urban and agricultural land. (Mosadegh, 2000; Marvie Mohadjer, 2007)

The lower slopes of Talysh
Talysh Mountains
Talysh Mountains is a mountain chain in northwestern Iran, and southeastern Republic of Azerbaijan in the northwest section of the Elburz Mountains, extending southeastward from the Lankaran Lowland in southeast Azerbaijan to the lower part of the Sefid Rud in northwest Iran...

 and Alborz Mountains below 700 metres (2,296.6 ft) harbor diverse humid forests containing Chestnut-leaved Oak, European Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica), Caucasian Zelkova (Zelkova carpinifolia
Zelkova carpinifolia
Zelkova carpinifolia is a species of Zelkova, native to the Caucasus, Kaçkar, and Alborz mountains in the extreme southeast of Europe and southwest Asia....

), Persian Silk Tree (Albizia julibrissin
Albizia julibrissin
Albizia julibrissin is a species of legume in the genus Albizia, native to southwestern and eastern Asia, from Persia east to China and Korea...

), and Date-plum (Diospyros lotus) along with shrubs holly (Ilex hyrcana), Ruscus
Ruscus
Ruscus is a genus of six species of flowering plants, native to western and southern Europe , Macaronesia, northwest Africa, and southwestern Asia east to the Caucasus. In the APG III classification system, it is placed in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Nolinoideae...

 hyrcanus
, Danaë racemosa, and lianas Smilax
Smilax
Smilax is a genus of about 300-350 species, found in temperate zones, tropics and subtropics worldwide. In China for example about 80 are found , while there are 20 in North America north of Mexico...

 excelsa
and Hedera pastuchowii
Hedera pastuchowii
Hedera pastuchowii, is a species of Ivy which is native from Eastern Transcaucasus. It is a plant of botanical family Araliaceae. It is in The Red Book of Azerbaijan SSR, 1989....

(Mosadegh, 2000; Marvie Mohadjer, 2007). Persian Ironwood is endemic to the Talysh Mountains and northern Iran and nearly pure stands of the tree can be particularly dramatic, with lichen-covered branches twisting together and only dead leaves in the deep shade of the forest floor. In addition, the ironwood's yellow leaves turn a faint lilac in the fall.

At middle elevations between 700 and 1500 m (2,296.6 and 4,921.3 ft), Oriental Beech is the dominant tree species in this cloudy zone in pure and mixed stands with other noble hardwood
Hardwood
Hardwood is wood from angiosperm trees . It may also be used for those trees themselves: these are usually broad-leaved; in temperate and boreal latitudes they are mostly deciduous, but in tropics and subtropics mostly evergreen.Hardwood contrasts with softwood...

s such as Chestnut-leaved Oak, Caucasian Oak (Quercus macranthera
Quercus macranthera
Quercus macranthera, commonly called the Caucasian Oak, or the Persian Oak, is a species of deciduous tree native to Western Asia Quercus macranthera, commonly called the Caucasian Oak, or the Persian Oak, is a species of deciduous tree native to Western Asia Quercus macranthera, commonly called...

), European Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), Oriental Hornbeam (C. orientalis
Carpinus orientalis
Carpinus orientalis is a hornbeam native from southeastern Europe to northern Iran and occurs usually on hot dry sites at lower altitudes than European Hornbeam....

) and Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa). From its floristic composition, these beech forests are linked with Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an forests and with affinities to the beech forests of the Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

. However, local conditions of aspect
Aspect (geography)
In physical geography, aspect generally refers to the horizontal direction to which a mountain slope faces. For example, a slope on the eastern edge of the Rockies toward the Great Plains is described as having an easterly aspect...

 and edaphic
Edaphic
Edaphic is a nature related to soil. Edaphic qualities may characterize the soil itself, including drainage, texture, or chemical properties such as pH. Edaphic may also characterize organisms, such as plant communities, where it specifies their relationships with soil...

 factors, such as soil
Soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

 moisture and depth, are all of importance in determining the composition of the vegetation, which leads to the establishment of different beech subcommunities. (Mosadegh, 2000; Marvie Mohadjer, 2007)

Upper mountain and subalpine zones are characterized by Caucasian Oak, Oriental Hornbeam, shrubland
Shrubland
Shrubland, scrubland, scrub or brush is a plant community characterized by vegetation dominated by shrubs, often also including grasses, herbs, and geophytes. Shrubland may either occur naturally or be the result of human activity...

s and steppe
Steppe
In physical geography, steppe is an ecoregion, in the montane grasslands and shrublands and temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biomes, characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes...

s. Alpine tundra
Alpine tundra
Alpine tundra is a natural region that does not contain trees because it is at high altitude. Alpine tundra is distinguished from arctic tundra, because alpine soils are generally better drained than arctic soils...

 and meadows occur at the highest elevations.

Other native tree species include Caspian Locust (Gleditsia caspica
Gleditsia caspica
Gleditsia caspica is a species of Gleditsia native to western Asia, in the Caucasus region of Azerbaijan and northern Iran, close to the Caspian Sea....

), Velvet Maple (Acer velutinum
Acer velutinum
Acer velutinum, Velvet Maple is a tree species native to Azerbaijan, Georgia and northern Iran. It grows in the moist Caspian Hyrcanian mixed forests as wells as parts of Eastern Georgia.It is a tall deciduous tree growing to over 40 m tall....

), Cappadocian Maple (Acer cappadocicum), European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior), Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra), Wild Cherry (Prunus avium
Prunus avium
Prunus avium, commonly called wild cherry, sweet cherry, bird cherry, or gean, is a species of cherry, native to Europe, west Turkey, northwest Africa, and western Asia, from the British Isles south to Morocco and Tunisia, north to the Trondheimsfjord region in Norway and east to the Caucasus, and...

), Wild Service Tree (Sorbus torminalis) and lime tree (Tilia dasystyla
Tilia dasystyla
Tilia dasystyla is a deciduous lime tree species. It contains following subspecies:*T. dasystyla subsp. caucasica - northern Iran, northern and western Turkey, Caucasus and Crimea*T. dasystyla subsp...

).

Fauna


The Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata) once roamed these mountains, but is now extinct. Other large mammals here are the Caucasus leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica), lynx (Lynx lynx), brown bear (Ursus arctos), wild boar (Sus scrofa), wolf (Canis lupus), golden jackal (Canis aureus), jungle cat (Felis chaus), badger (Meles meles), and otter (Lutra lutra).

This ecoregion is an important resting area for birds migrating between Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 and is thus a key habitat for many bird species. Some outstanding birds that can be found here are the greylag goose (Anser anser), white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons), Little bustard (Tetrax tetrax), glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), Eurasian spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), red-breasted goose (Branta ruficollis), peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus), buff-backed heron (Bubulcus ibis), squacco heron (Ardeola ralloides), greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus), white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala), and Caspian snowcock (Tetraogallus caspius).

Protected areas


The diversity and endemism of the species represented in the ecoregion make it an important area for conservation. The habitats in this ecoregion are threatened by conversion into tea, vegetable, fruit, and vine plantations, unsustainable forestry and poaching.

The existing protected areas in Azerbaijan include:
  • Gizil-Agach State Reserve
    Gizil-Agach State Reserve
    Ghizil-Agaj State Reserve, meaning golden forest, was established on an area of 884 km² south-west of the Caspian Sea shore for the purpose of protecting, creating conditions for wintering and nesting of migrant, swamp and wild birds in 1929....

     – 88.4 square kilometre
  • Hirkan National Park
    Hirkan National Park
    Hirkan National Park — is a national park of Azerbaijan. It was established by the decree of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, in an area in Lankaran Rayon and Astara Rayon administrative districts on February 9, 2004 on the basis of the former "Hirkan State Reserve" which it superseded,...

     - 427.97 square kilometre
  • Zuvand National Park - 15 square kilometre


The existing protected areas in Iran include:
  • Golestan National Park
  • Jahan Nama Protected Area
  • Central Alborz Protected Area
  • Lisar Protected Area
  • Siah Keshim Protected Area
  • Dodangeh Wildlife Refuge
  • Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge
  • Selkeh Wildlife Refuge
  • Dashtenaz Wildlife Refuge

External links