Forests of the Republic of Azerbaijan
Forests are considered to be one of the most valuable natural resources of Azerbaijan that integrate soil, water, trees, bushes, vegetation, wildlife, and microorganisms which mutually affect each other from biological viewpoint in the course of development.
The area of the world's forest cover is 4 milliard ha. Of this 809 million ha falls in the share of Russian Federation, 478 million square km belongs to Brazil, 310 million ha pertains to Canada and 303 million ha is in USA.
For the past 200 years the forest area has become twice as less. In 8-9th century the present area of Azerbaijan was covered with 35 percent of forests. At present forests of Azerbaijan constitute 989,4 thousand ha or 11% of the territory. This indicator constitutes 44% in Russian Federation, 41% in Latvia, 39% in Georgia.
49 percent falls in the share of the Great Caucasus region, 34 percent belongs to the Lesser Caucasus region, 15 percent pertains to the Kura-Araz lowland, 0,5 percent or 6 thousand ha refers to Nakhichevan Autonomic Republic. The forest density ratio in Azerbaijan is 0,12 ha per capita.
It should be pointed out that 261 thousand ha of forest area refer to the territory which has been occupied by Armenia. Forests play a kind of a role of humidity accumulator and give origin to a multiple number of Mountain Rivers and regulate the allocation of water over lowlands and plains. In addition forests prevent from landslips and avalanches in mountainous regions. At the same time forests possess phytonsit abilities; they secrete phytonsits that kill harmful microorganisms. Forests also protect from harmful effects plants, soil, water reservoirs, roads, human settlements, memorials, and natural factors, change microclimate, reduces the effect of dry, hot, and severe winds. Forests reinforce valleys, ravines, and shifting sands, facilitate an even distribution of snow cover and its gradual melting, reduce evaporation and lower the level of ground waters.
In addition to all the aforementioned the foremost role of forests in the environment is that they as a powerful pump are capable of drawing in 10 to 20 tons carbon gas per one hectare per year and releasing oxygen in return. One hectare of forest area absorbs 8 kg of carbon gas per hour and that is equal to the amount of carbon gas breathed out by 200 people per hour.
Northern-eastern slopes of the mountain chain of the Great Caucasus are deemed to be vast forest areas of Azerbaijan. These forests start from the Azerbaijanian territory and stretch up to the border of Dagestan. In northern eastern part of Azerbaijan forest encompasses the administrative regions of Guba, Gusar, Davachi, Siyazan and Khizi towards southwest. From the Khizi region towards southwest forest tracts gradually decline and are completely replaced by drought areas. In the macro slope of the Great Caucasus within the territory of the Shamakhi region forest tracts emerge again and form continuous cover along the slopes up to the border of the Republic of Georgia. Here forests mainly cover the area pertaining to the mountainous part of the Ismailly, Gabala, Oghuz, Shaki, Gakh, Zagatala and Balakan regions. The forest tract stretches uninterruptedly by the southern slope towards west up to the border of Georgia.
One of the vast forest areas are also the slopes of the Lesser Caucasus mountainous chain. Forests cover the northern, northern-eastern, and eastern slopes of main foothills in the shape of single tracts here. Only in the area of the Southern Garabagh the forest tract is interrupted and does not reach the Iranian border. Besides, forests can be met in the form of small islands on the slopes of Kukudag of the Shahbuz region in the Nakhichevan Autonomic Republic.
One of the vast forest tracts also covers slopes of Talish Mountain. Here forests are spread over the areas of the Astara, Lenkoran, Lerik, Masalli, Yardimli, Jalilabad and partially Bilasuvar regions. A lesser part of forests stretches along the Kura and Araz rivers and occupies a belt-shaped area in the form of Tugay tract.
There are specific forest formations in Azerbaijan. These formations are as follows:
Coniferous forests composed of Garmagvari pine
2. Sparse juniper forests
3. Pistachio forests composed of Eastern pistachio
4. Oak forest formations:
a) (Talish) forests composed of Chestnut leaf oak
b) Low altitude mountain forests composed of Georgian oak
c) High altitude mountain forests composed of Eastern oak
d) Plain forests composed of Long limb oak
e) Low productive forests composed of Araz oak
Other species of oak such as gold oak, black oak, tender oak, gray oak and so on do not have their separate formations and take part in formations of other species.
5. Hornbeam forest formations
6. Relic forest formations composed of Iron tree
7. Forest formations of Aghajgayin
8. Persimmon forests
9. Garaaghaj forests
10. Walnut forests
11. Average chestnut forests
12. Forest composed of Azad tree
13. Forests composed of Silk acacia
14. Humid forests composed of False nut
15. Gizilaghaj forests
16. Birch forests
17. Govag forests
18. Tugay forests that are formed along the Kura-Arza river banks.
There are separate formations with regard to location and species composition.
Azerbaijan has gained a world-wide fame for its amazing beauty, rich natural resources, flora and fauna diversity. 4500 species of higher plants incorporated under 125 orders and 930 taxa are spread here. Of them 450 species of trees and bushes related to 48 orders and 135 taxa occur in forests of Azerbaijan. This constitutes 11 plant species in the flora of the Republic. 70 regional endemic species can be found in the dendroflora of Azerbaijan. This is meant to be 16% of all tree and bush species of plant.
Despite such a richness of dendroflora of Azerbaijan main forest generating species are in decline. Azerbaijan forests are composed of mainly broadleaf species. Coniferous forests that occupy a lesser area of the Great and Lesser Caucasus mainly consist of Garmagvari pine (Pinus hamata). It is sometimes called Koh (P. Kochioana) or Sosnovski (P. Sosnovi) and can be found in the Lesser Caucasus in forests around Shamlig and Boyuk Gishlag villages in the area of the Tovuz region in Gey Gel and in the Great Caucasus in the Gusar region.
At the Eldar Oyughu mountain in an area of 400 ha one can find Eldar pine (Pinus eldaricas) growing in kserofit conditions mainly in new and humid pistachio forests consisting of Garachohra (Taxus bacaata) in combination with broadleaf species or in the form of small forests. Such small forests are found in the Great Caucasus in the Hamzali cemetery of the Gabala region, in forests of the Piriguli and Oghuz region, in Khizi, and forests named Dahar foothills; in the Lesser Caucasus they can be met in Gey-Gol, Gadabay forests, Talish Mountains, and in forests around Hamazat village of the Lerik region.
Of the coniferous forests the most widely spread are Juniper forests. In the Azerbaijan forests Gazakh juniper (Juniperus Salina), Elongated juniper (C. oblonqa), jirtdan juniper (C. puqmaca), Small juniper (C. depressa), Red juniper (C. policarpos) and other species of juniper grow. The vastest area of juniper is in Bozdagh, in Nakhchivan forests there are sparse juniper forests the areas of which are not so wide.
Coniferous forests (juniper and pine) constitutes 1,6 percent of the territory covered with forests. There no evergreen broadleaf forests in Azerbaijan. Such species are only found in parks and gardens of settlements in Baku, Ganja, Sheki, Sumgayit and other big cities and communities. Forests of the Republic are mainly composed of deciduous broadleaf forests.
Forest areas categorized with regard to prevalent species are distributed approximately as follows: Pine- 0,3, juniper -1,3, pistachio - 31,9, oak - 31,5, hornbeam - 22,4, goyrush - 0,9, aghjagayin - 0,3, bushes - 2,2, birch - 0,14, govag - 0,81, gizilaghaj - 0,82, lime-tree - 0,10, other species - 8,06. Despite the forests being very diverse in composition broadleaf forests are generated mainly by pistachio, oak and hornbeam. These three species constitute 85,8 percent of the territory covered with forests.
The allocation of forests with regard to age is also various. Thus, young forests comprise 11,2 percent of the territory covered with forests, middle aged forests constitute 63,3 percent and premature forests constitute 13,4 percent and mature and old forests make up 12,1 percent.
Most of the forests of Azerbaijan by being located on steep mountain slopes are very significant in terms of soil reinforcement, water purification and climate betterment.
The allocation of forests with regard to their density is also various. 13,7 percent of forests in the Republic refer to ones of low density (0,3-0,4), 2,62 percent refer to ones of middle density (0,5-0,6), 18,3 percent are of normal density (0,7-0,8) and 2,62 percent refer to forests with high density (0,9-1,0). The average density of forests has been defined as 0,56.
The allocation of forests with regard to Bonitet classification is also various. Forests with high I-II bonitet level constitute 14,9 percent of the area covered with forests, 42,3 percent are forests with III bonitet level, 27,4 percent are forests with IV bonitet level and forests with low V bonitet level make up 15,4 percent. The average annual growth level of forests is 1,74 cubic meters. This growth accounts for 1,77 cubic meters in hard leaf taxa (pistachio, oak, hornbeam, etc.) and 2,12 cubic meters in soft leaf taxa (govag, yalangoz, gizilaghaj).
Based on the above said we can conclude that high productivity trees (I-II bonitet) in our forests constitutes the minority (14,9 percent). Middle productivity trees (III bonitet) comprise 42,3 percent and low productivity trees (IV-V bonitet) make up 42,8 percent. These indicators are the evidence of unsustainable approach of forestry measures relating to forest protection and the enhancement of their productivity for the past years.
In our forests there 150 species of wild fruit plants relating to 35 taxa. These plants produce thousand tons of wild fruits (walnut, apple, peer, zogal, sour plum, azgil, persimmon, chestnut, hazelnut, blackberries). 30 percent of these fruits are of consumption significance.
There also favorable conditions for the development of bee farming in our forests. At present there about 700 bee families that are bred in our forestry units. Bees help with the pollination of plants, provide good harvest of seeds and the extraction of honey.
There are also specific natural features of forests with regard to the altitude of their location. Thus, on slopes stretching towards north oak-hornbeam forests prevail. There are low productive oak, garaaghaj, demirgara forests at a low mountain altitude, relatively higher productive oak-hornbeam forests at a middle mountain altitude, and high productive oak-pistachio-hornbeam forests at a high mountain altitude. In the place where forest upper border adjoins the sub-alpine altitude low productive birch forests and short pistachio forests having curved stems are found.
Such natural features pertains to Talish mountains, mountains of the Great and Lesser Caucasus.
If the illegal destroying of forests is not prevented in time, our republic must be faced with hard ecological problems as the extension of erozy process the flood and sandslide, snowfall, drought of springs and rivers in the mountainuous places and extension of dry lands.That’s why the solution of forest problems needs a lot of attention. In some areas of our republic especially where there are few forest chains it needs extending of the bulk forests. In the mountainous areas in order the prevent water erosion protecting forests must be realized. On the Caspian sandy shores and in the canyons a lot of greening work must be prepared and realized on the base of special project.
The lack of gas and different types of fuels in the villages and rural areas caused of destroying forests and using them as a fuel. It needs to remind that delivering of 1,2- 1,5 ml.m³ of wood, 200-250 thousand tones of coal from Russia in the past have been almost stopped. And it caused the increasing of pressure on our forests.
It must be taken into consideration that is impossible to put into practice of a large amount of cutting of woods.
It must be mentioned that most of the mountainous canyons and cutting of woods must put those areas under the erosy danger.
Washing of salty areas and growing of trees can help for reusing of a lot of lands.
Government Forest Fund and planting of green trees around the enterprises are one of the most important directions.
In the result of Armenian invasion a lot of our areas are under the occupation. The forests situated here especially mountainous forests caught serious harm.
In the result of Armenian invasion 264 thousand ha. forest areas are plundered. Cutting of expensive types of trees brought to the critic level of protecting of biodiversity.