Western Caucasus

Country
Russian Federation
Inscribed in
1999
Criteria
(ix)
(x)
The conservation outlook for this site has been assessed as "significant concern" in the latest assessment cycle. Explore the Conservation Outlook Assessment for the site below. You have the option to access the summary, or the detailed assessment.
The Western Caucasus, extending over 275,000 ha of the extreme western end of the Caucasus mountains and located 50 km north-east of the Black Sea, is one of the few large mountain areas of Europe that has not experienced significant human impact. Its subalpine and alpine pastures have only been grazed by wild animals, and its extensive tracts of undisturbed mountain forests, extending from the lowlands to the subalpine zone, are unique in Europe. The site has a great diversity of ecosystems, with important endemic plants and wildlife, and is the place of origin and reintroduction of the mountain subspecies of the European bison. © UNESCO
© IUCN/Chimed Ochir Bazarsad

Summary

2020 Conservation Outlook

Finalised on
02 Dec 2020
Significant concern
While the values of the site have previously been relatively well-protected thanks to the site’s inaccessibility and formerly strict protection regime, significant weakening of the legal framework, enabling plans for the large-scale development of tourism and skiing resorts and supporting infrastructure inside the World Heritage site and in its vicinity, put the site’s Outstanding Universal Value at immediate and serious risk. The destruction of the site's Colchic boxwood forest as a consequence of invasive alien species is a case in point for the site's vulnerability to increased use and accessibility.

Current state and trend of VALUES

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
In the past, the relative inaccessibility of the area has ensured a good status of the ecosystem and biodiversity values until recently. However, while the development of mammal populations are currently positive, the disappearance of the Colchic boxwood forest, due to the introduction of an invasive alien species, exemplifies the site's vulnerability. In this context, ongoing and planned infrastructure developments inside the site and in its vicinity put its values at an ever higher risk, likely leading to their deterioration in the near future, unless these developments are not abandoned.

Overall THREATS

High Threat
The values of the World Heritage site are under serious and increasing threat from improved access, tourism infrastructure development and use, and also potentially logging and road construction. The trend to improved accessibility and intensified use of the site, particularly for mountain skiing and other forms of tourism has been particularly concerning with plans for construction of touristic and mountain skiing facilities on the Lagonaki Plateau, a highly sensitive and important part of the site, and more recently in other protected areas in the vicinity the site.

Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT

Serious Concern
The current protection and management regime of the site is ineffective in relation to the main current and emerging threats (development of tourism and mountain skiing infrastructure, unsustainable tourism use, and potentially unsustainable logging). This ineffectiveness becomes primarily apparent in regard to plans for mountain resorts inside the site and in protected areas bordering it.

Full assessment

Click the + and - signs to expand or collapse full accounts of information under each topic. You can also view the entire list of information by clicking Expand all on the top left.

Finalised on
02 Dec 2020

Description of values

Warm-temperate forest ecosystems

Criterion
(ix)
Key part of Colchic tertiary refuge of warm-temperate forest ecosystems. Rich vertical zonation of forest belts, subalpine, alpine and nival ecosystems from 250 to ca. 2,000 m a.s.l., with predominantly mixed oak woods, beech-fir woods, dark fir woods with Caucasian spruce, mountain birch and maple forests, subalpine and alpine grass and rhododendron communities, as well as alpine shrub and short-grass communities. These ecosystems, which also harbor a rich fauna and are part of the Caucasus global biodiversity hotspot, are among the least affected by humans in Europe, due to their inaccessibility (UNEP-WCMC, 2011).

Subalpine, alpine and nival ecosystems

Criterion
(ix)
Rich vertical zonation of subalpine, alpine and nival ecosystems from ca. 2,000 to 3,360 m a.s.l., with predominantly subalpine and alpine grass and rhododendron communities, as well as alpine shrub and short-grass communities. Together with the above, these ecosystems are part of the Caucasus global biodiversity hotspot, and among the least affected by humans in Europe (UNEP-WCMC, 2011).

Plant species diversity and endemism

Criterion
(x)
1,580 species of vascular plants, one third of which are endemic to the Caucasus. Many additional ones are relict species, or globally/nationally threatened (World Heritage Committee, 1999).

Avifauna

Criterion
(x)
Property is part of Caucasus Endemic Bird Area (BirdLife International, 2012), with populations of Caucasian Black Grouse (Tetrao mlokosiewiczi NT) Caucasian Snowcock (Tetraogallus caucasicus LC) and at least one satellite population of Great Rosefinch (Carpodacus rubicilla), a species of which the next area of distribution is located in Central Asia, as well as a rich raptor fauna (both resident and on migration).

Mammal fauna

Criterion
(x)
81 species of mammals, including carnivores (e.g. European Mink Mustela lutreola, Brown Bear Ursos arctos, Lynx Lynx lynx, Wolf Canis lupus), large herbivores (including Caucasian Red Deer Cervus elaphus maral, Western Tur Capra caucasica EN, and Caucasian Chamois Rubicapra rubicapra caucasica). Reintroduced population of European Bison Bison bonasus (World Heritage Committee, 1999).

Herpetofauna

Criterion
(x)
Two globally threatened viper species which are endemic to the Caucasus (Vipera kaznakovi EN and V. dinniki VU), one globally threatened sub-species of tortoise and seven additional species of herpetofauna (UNEP-WCMC, 2011).

Assessment information

High Threat
The World Heritage site has been relatively well protected by its inaccessibility in the past but has become much more accessible recently, due to new roads and infrastructure development. This has already increased threats from habitat loss and degradation by infrastructure development, disturbance, littering and fires through uncontrolled visitation, and unsustainable logging.
Roads/ Railroads
(Construction/maintenance of roads)
High Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Outside site
The continued existence, maintenance and use of the Lunnaya Polyana Road, including possible secondary effects of improved accessibility, represents a locally significant threat to the values of the World Heritage site, which is only partly controlled by existing access restrictions (IUCN, 2012a). Roadwork, reportedly for fire safety, have been conducted in 2018 and ceased in 2019. However, it is planned to resume these roadworks (State Party of the Russian Federation, 2020). In May 2020, the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Adygea reorganized the Headwaters of Pshekha and Pshekhashkha Rivers Nature Monument into the Mountain Adygeya Nature Park. According to the provision for the Nature Park, it has three functional zones, including an economic zone where construction of roads and overpasses, placement of power lines and construction of hydraulic structures, as well as sanitary cutting, including clear-cutting, is allowed. The designated economic zone corresponds to the planned route of the road to the Lunnaya Polyana (IUCN Consultation, 2020).
Logging/ Wood Harvesting
(Illegal and legal (“sanitary”) logging)
High Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Logging (including illegal and nominally legal “sanitary” logging without clear justification) was reported to be a continuing if less serious problem in 2010, particularly in the Nature Monuments and Nature Park in the Adygean part of the World Heritage site (Debonnet & Lethier, 2010). Considering the improved access to the World Heritage site through road construction and the challenges to protection enforcement, this remains a high threat. Some logging has been reported by environmental NGOs in 2015 (https://www.asi.org.ru/news/2015/03/17/ekologi-proinspektirovali-rubki-lesa-na-territorii-pamyatnika-prirody-verhovya-rek-psheha-pshehashha/) and in 2019 (https://capost.media/news/obshchestvo/pamyatnik-prirody-v-adygee-vyrubaetsya-pod-stroitelstvo-baz-otdykha/).
Hunting and trapping
(Hunting)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Reportedly, hunting was a serious problem in the 1990s and reduced since (UNEP-WCMC, 2011). In 2019, 7 cases of illegal hunting and fishing were detected by the state inspectors of the Caucasian Reserve staff (State Party of the Russian Federation, 2020).
Tourism/ Recreation Areas
(Tourism facilities/activities inside the site)
Very High Threat
Inside site
, Widespread(15-50%)
The continuing construction, maintenance and use of recreational facilities with their supporting infrastructure, and uncontrolled touristic uses, threaten the ecosystem and biodiversity values in the vicinity of the World Heritage site (IUCN, 2012a). Various works have been carried out in 2013, including cable car construction at “Biosphere centre” and upgrade of the Babuk Aul forest road (UNESCO, 2014).
Invasive Non-Native/ Alien Species
(Infestation with the invasive box tree moth)
Very High Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
In 2014-2017, the Colchic boxwood forest (total area of about 500 ha) in the World Heritage site was heavily affected by an insect pest. The entire area of Colchic Boxwood forest in the site was destroyed by the invasive box tree moth (UNESCO, 2019).
Very High Threat
The trend to improved accessibility and intensified use of the site, particularly for mountain skiing and other forms of tourism has been particularly concerning, especially regarding plans for construction of touristic and mountain skiing facilities on the Lagonaki Plateau, a highly sensitive and important part of the property, and more recently in other protected areas in the vicinity the World Heritage site.
Tourism/ Recreation Areas
(Planned development of tourism and mountain skiing facilities within and in the vicinity of the site)
Very High Threat
Inside site
, Widespread(15-50%)
The Lagonaki plateau has a high ecological value and hosts an outstanding floral biodiversity, thereby critically contributing to the OUV of the site under both World Heritage criteria (ix) and (x). The current plans to develop tourist and mountain skiing facilities on Lagonaki plateau are therefore threatening the site's OUV (IUCN, 2012a). A proposal for boundary modifications which, among other boundary modifications, including some extensions, foresaw exclusion of part of the Lagonaki plateau from the site was submitted by the State Party in 2015, but was then withdrawn and was therefore not considered by the World Heritage Committee. Furthermore, plans were also previously discussed for establishment of the so called biosphere polygons within the World Heritage site for the purpose of development of skiing facilities in those areas. The 2016 IUCN Advisory Mission noted that the proposed polygons included areas where two companies, Gazprom and Rosa Khutor, expressed their interest in developing large-scale skiing infrastructure. Based on the available information, the mission concluded that it is likely that these plans may potentially threaten the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property and may have significant impact on its integrity (UNESCO, 2017). At several sessions, the World Heritage Committee emphasised and "repeatedly reiterated its position that the installation of capital construction on the Lagonaki Plateau, including Mount Fisht and Oshten, would constitute a case for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines, and considered that this also applies to such constructions in any other part of the property" (World Heritage Committee, 2017). A large-scale investment project has also been foreseen in protected areas adjacent to the World Heritage site. Furthermore, the construction of a mountain resort on the Lagonaki plateau, although in a different configuration to what was proposed in 2015, is still under consideration (State Party of the Russian Federation, 2020), with some facilities foreseen within the boundaries of the World Heritage site. Additionally, in October 2020, the Forest Management Regulations of the Sochi Wildlife Refuge were approved. The document presents plan for the construction of roads (33.9 km long), power lines, a balneological center, tourist services, recreational facilities, museums, information centers, a complex of sports facilities and other facilities on the territory of the Sochi Wildlife Refuge. The construction of infrastructure facilities requires logging, and the location of the planned roads (they should connect the leased areas) will lead to significant fragmentation of the Wildlife Refuge's territory. Part of the infrastructure, according to the scheme, is planned to be placed close to the border of the Caucasus Reserve (IUCN Consultation, 2020).  
Tourism/ visitors/ recreation
(Increase of tourism and use pressure)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
In the absence of a functional tourism impact monitoring system or sustainable tourism strategy (IUCN, 2012a), the potential impact of tourism on the values of the property (disturbance, habitat destruction through facilities development, collection of biodiversity, potentially illegal hunting) are significant but will probably be rather localized. A few cases of illegal activities and presence on the territory were again reported in 2019 (State Party of the Russian Federation, 2020).
The values of the World Heritage site are under serious and increasing threat from improved access, tourism infrastructure development and use, and also potentially logging and road construction. The trend to improved accessibility and intensified use of the site, particularly for mountain skiing and other forms of tourism has been particularly concerning with plans for construction of touristic and mountain skiing facilities on the Lagonaki Plateau, a highly sensitive and important part of the site, and more recently in other protected areas in the vicinity the site.
Management system
Serious Concern
A management plan for the entire World Heritage site was approved in 2009, but is lacking an integrated sustainable tourism strategy, is very general, and is not being fully implemented (Debonnet & Lethier, 2010). It has been recommended to complement this management plan by more specific operational plans. The management system of the site has to cope with the challenge that it consists of several protected areas of various designations and subordinations, which makes application of a unified management approach difficult. There is a range of administrative bodies / levels involved in management but there is no coordination between them for managing different aspects of the World Heritage site. There are no management plan, management system or tourism strategy for the whole sitey (State Party of the Russian Federation, 2014; IUCN, 2016).
Effectiveness of management system
Some Concern
No systematic management effectiveness assessment for the World Heritage site appears to be available. The management of the Caucasus Biosphere Reserve is considered to be generally effective, while the management of the nature monuments and nature park inside Adygea Autonomous Republic and the relatively new Sochi National Park is considered less effective (Debonnet & Lethier, 2010). It appears that the management authorities of the World Heritage site lack the necessary power to tackle the most serious threats to the site’s OUV, originating from development pressures.
Boundaries
Serious Concern
A proposal for boundary modifications which, among other boundary modifications, including some extensions, foresaw exclusion of part of the Lagonaki plateau from the site was submitted by the State Party in 2015, but was then withdrawn and was therefore was not considered by the World Heritage Committee. The 2016 IUCN Advisory Mission recommended that the State Party submits a new proposal for extension of the World Heritage site to include the core zone of the Sochi National Park and, as a priority, the Sochi State Wildlife Sanctuary. The Sanctuary (which would also be affected by the plans to develop tourism infrastructure) was considered a priority area because it (1) offers key habitats for endemic, rare and endangered fauna species, migrating seasonally from the site in that protected area, for wintering and breeding, and (2) hosts key natural habitats for those species as well as an outstanding flora biodiversity, and therefore the extension of the World Heritage site to include this area would strengthen the OUV of the existing World Heritage site (IUCN, 2016).
Integration into regional and national planning systems
Serious Concern
The recent Federal Law No. 365-FZ on “special economic zones in the Russian Federation” and the Order of the Government of the Russian Federation on development of infrastructure within the special economic zone at Lagonaki Plateau show that the objective “conservation and management of the OUV of the property” is not integrated and mainstreamed into regional and national planning systems (EWNC, 2012b, IUCN, 2012a). The Tourism planning strategy should take into account the long-term economic viability of ski resorts development in the region given the current and potential impacts of climate change in the Caucasus region and encourages elaboration of cost-benefits analyses of the financial outputs of the proposed development of tourism and recreational activities in the region, compared to their socio-economic effects on public safety, environment and water resources (IUCN, 2016).
Relationships with local people
Data Deficient
Up-to-date information about relationships with local people is not available
Legal framework
Serious Concern
Concerns have previously been expressed about a number of issues related to the existing legal provisions, as well as their weakening. Amendments related to the legislative changes are of concern for the protection of the OUV, especially the Federal Law N°406-FZ, dated 28 December 2013, which made it possible to develop large scale tourism infrastructure in strict nature reserves, and the Order of the Government of the Russian Federation No 603-r, dated 23 April 2012, which permitted construction of tourism and skiing facilities with the necessary supporting infrastructure on the territory of Lagonaki Biosphere Polygon (IUCN, 2016). The amendments to the Federal Law “On Specially Protected Natural Areas” were adopted in July 2016 (Law No. 254-FZ of July 3) and provided for the possibility to allocate biosphere polygons within the borders of the biosphere reserve (before that, they could only be incorporated from outside). On 31 July 2020 a new Federal Law was adopted - Federal Law “About features of regulation of the separate relations for the purpose of upgrade and expansion of the main infrastructure and about modification of separate legal acts of the Russian Federation” No. 254-FZ, which abolishes until the end of 2024 environmental impacts assessments requirements within the boundaries of natural protected areas of federal significance for projects related to “main infrastructure”. The “main infrastructure” may include roads, bridges, road protection and service projects, railroads and associated projects, ports and associated projects including artificial islands and water infrastructure, airports, multi-modal transportation hubs, associated civil engineering projects, communication infrastructure, and other construction projects included in the “List of Main Infrastructure Projects” to be developed by the Government of the Russian Federation. Additionally, this Law abolishes environmental impacts assessments requirements for all projects on the natural protected areas of regional significance.
Law enforcement
Some Concern
The legal framework is enforced by the staff of the different protected areas, with a varying degree of efficiency. However, no systematic information is available on this matter for the entire World Heritage site.
Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Serious Concern
In 2016, at its 40th Session (Istanbul, Decision 40 COM 7B.101), the World Heritage Committee welcomed the information provided by the State Party concerning the reintroduction of the Persian leopard, and encouraged the State Party to continue its efforts in that regard, in consultation with the IUCN Species Survival Commission Reintroduction Specialist Group; the Committee noted that amendments to a number of federal legal provisions concerning protected areas had been proposed; the Committee requested the State Party to provide further details on the proposed amendments, including on how they are related to past legislative changes over which concerns were raised in previous Committee decisions, namely the Federal Law N°406-FZ and the Order of the Government of the Russian Federation No 603-r. The Committee also noted with concern further legislative changes, specifically the amendments adopted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology (MNRE) in 2015 to the Decrees on the SNP and the Sochi Federal Wildlife Refuge, providing for expansion of recreational zones and construction of large scale tourism infrastructure in these protected areas, which adjoin the World Heritage site, and considered that such amendments could have negative impacts on the site, including on the efforts to reintroduce the Persian leopard by disrupting the connectivity of its natural habitat. Finally, the Committee further reiterated its request to the State Party to implement all other recommendations of the 2012 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission. These recommendations and requests remain to be addressed. The plans for establishing biosphere polygons within the World Heritage site were presented to the 2016 IUCN Advisory mission, which reviewed them. These proposed polygons included areas where two companies, Gazprom and Rosa Khutor, expressed their interest in developing large-scale skiing infrastructure. Based on the available information, the mission concluded that it is likely that these plans may potentially threaten the OUV of the World Heritage site and may have significant impact on its integrity. In this respect, it should also be recalled that the Committee has repeatedly reiterated its position that the installation of capital construction on the Lagonaki Plateau, including Mount Fisht and Oshten (all within the World Heritage site), would also constitute a case for its inscription of the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger (IUCN Advisory Mission Report, 2016; UNESCO, 2017, 2018). However, the development of a mountain resort on the Lagonaki Plateau appears to again being considered (State Party of the Russian Federation, 2020).
Sustainable use
Some Concern
The Caucasus Biosphere Reserve as the core protected area of the World Heritage site excludes resource use, following the  “Zapovednik” (Strict Nature Reserve) approach (State Party of the Russian Federation, 2012). Logging has been reported from some of the Nature Monuments and the Nature Park in the Adygean part of the site (Rao and Lethier, 2008), but it is unlikely that this was planned as a sustainable use. There appears to be no sustainable use (or tourism) strategy for the World Heritage site as a whole.
Sustainable finance
Data Deficient
No information available.
Staff capacity, training, and development
Data Deficient
The only protected area with significant staff is the Caucasus Biosphere Reserve, which had 199 staff including 45 scientific staff in 1997 (UNEP-WCMC, 2011). It is unclear if there are staff development or training programmes for the entire World Heritage site.
Education and interpretation programs
Data Deficient
Data deficient
Tourism and visitation management
Serious Concern
The development of large scale tourism and skiing facilities is currently the main threat to the OUV of the World Heritage site (IUCN, 2012a; UNESCO, 2018). An integrated sustainable tourism development strategy is urgently needed, and interpretation efforts lag behind tourism development activities.
Monitoring
Serious Concern
Recommendations related to the Caucasus Nature Reserve and environmental components of the Sochi Olympic Games in 2014, resulted in the approval by the Ministy of Natural Resources, of a “Plan of measures for the restoration of Mzymta river, comprehensive environmental monitoring and preparation of compensatory measures as part of environmental component of preparation for the XXII Winter Olympic and XI Paralympic Games in Sochi in 2014”. The 2016 IUCN Advisory Mission recommended that the monitoring system of the World Heritage site should be strengthened, in line with this “Plan of measures for the restoration of Mzymta river".
Research
Data Deficient
Inventorying, mapping and some research on biodiversity have been going on since the formation of the Caucasus Biosphere Reserve, the main component protected area of the World Heritage site, in 1924. Between 1981 and 1996, 15 volumes on ecosystem dynamics in the Biosphere Reserve were collated (UNEP-WCMC, 2011). No information about the current activities in the research field is available.
The current protection and management regime of the site is ineffective in relation to the main current and emerging threats (development of tourism and mountain skiing infrastructure, unsustainable tourism use, and potentially unsustainable logging). This ineffectiveness becomes primarily apparent in regard to plans for mountain resorts inside the site and in protected areas bordering it.
Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
Serious Concern
For a long time, the site has been relatively well-protected against outside threats because of its inaccessibility. This is changing with large-scale infrastructure proposals and the increase of tourism. The various changes of the legal framework now allow for large-scale tourism infrastructure projects to be developed within the boundaries of the site and in its vicinity.
World Heritage values

Warm-temperate forest ecosystems

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
The inaccessibility of the area has ensured a high integrity of its forest ecosystems until recently, but these are at increasing risk of being degraded following new infrastructure development since the turn of the century. A limited but significant degree of logging has also been observed (Debonnet & Lethier, 2010). Most recently, the entire Colchic boxwood forest was destroyed inside the World Heritage site as a consequence of an insect pest.

Subalpine, alpine and nival ecosystems

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
The inaccessibility of the area has ensured a high integrity of its subalpine, alpine and nival ecosystems until recently, but these are now at increasing risk of being degraded following new infrastructure development, particularly for tourism and mountain skiing such as on Lagonaki Plateau (IUCN, 2012a), with projects for mountain resorts inside the site and in its vicinity still being considered.

Plant species diversity and endemism

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
Plant species diversity including that of globally threatened, endemic and relict species is still relatively intact, but likely to become increasingly threatened if construction projects in key local centres of plant diversity such as Lagonaki Plateau, Mt Fisht and Mt Oshten areas go ahead. The loss of the site's entire Colchic boxwood forest is of high and imminent concern.

Avifauna

Good
Trend
Stable
None of the restricted-range avifauna of the Caucasus Endemic Bird Area, overlapping with the World Heritage site, is considered globally threatened. Other key components of the site’s avifauna also appear to be generally intact (BirdLife International, 2012).

Mammal fauna

Low Concern
Trend
Improving
The mammal fauna was reduced drastically by poaching before the inscription of the site – between 1990 and 1997 the populations of Red Deer, Chamois and Bison decreased by 62% and that of Western Tur by 46% (UNEP-WCMC, 2011). A comparison of mammal counts of 1999 and 2019 indicates that populations of Wisents, Chamois, Brown Bears and other species are growing (State Party of the Russian Federation, 2020).

Herpetofauna

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
Among key species of the site’s herpetofauna, the Caucasian Viper (Vipera kaznakovi) (EN) is found in the lower parts of the World Heritage site, where its population appears to be small and only marginally viable (State Party of the Russian Federation, 2012). Since this species (and to a lesser degree other herpetofauna such as Dinnik’s Viper (V. dinniki), VU) are threatened by habitat loss and persecution (IUCN, 2012b), and since several amphibian species may be threatened by water pollution (Cartwright, 2010), the overall trend of this biodiversity value of the site is inferred to be deteriorating.
Assessment of the current state and trend of World Heritage values
High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
In the past, the relative inaccessibility of the area has ensured a good status of the ecosystem and biodiversity values until recently. However, while the development of mammal populations are currently positive, the disappearance of the Colchic boxwood forest, due to the introduction of an invasive alien species, exemplifies the site's vulnerability. In this context, ongoing and planned infrastructure developments inside the site and in its vicinity put its values at an ever higher risk, likely leading to their deterioration in the near future, unless these developments are not abandoned.

Additional information

Direct employment
The Reserve offered 199 jobs in 1997 (UNEP-WCMC, 2011) in a remote area with little population. However, no up-to-date information is available.
Wilderness and iconic features
Because of its inaccessibility, the site has retained considerable wilderness values until the present. This also significantly contributes to its OUV.
Outdoor recreation and tourism
Mountain tourism is practiced at a moderate intensity already on site. If developed in a responsible way, the site may offer a unique opportunity to experience an undisturbed high-mountain landscape including its wildlife. However, this opportunity may be lost if large-scale infrastructure developments are carried out as planned.
Factors negatively affecting provision of this benefit
Overexploitation
Impact level - High
Trend - Increasing
Importance for research
The site has already contributed significantly to the overall scientific understanding of the Western Caucasus (UNEP-WCMC, 2011). If conserved effectively, it may also provide one of a few case studies of an undisturbed temperate forest/mountain ecosystem, which might also function as a reference for ecosystem restoration efforts elsewhere.
Collection of genetic material
The exceptional diversity of endemic, relict and globally threatened plants in parts of the site (e.g. Lagonaki Plateau) may offer the possibility for collecting genetic material for a wide range of uses.
Although the World Heritage site already offers multiple benefits to the local population and the global scientific and conservation community, the potential for a systematic and sustainable exploration and use of its various ecosystem services is by far not fully exploited currently. A sustainable management regime aimed at maximizing these uses (nature-based tourism, knowledge building) may well have the potential to generate economic benefits far exceeding those of large scale tourism facilities driven by short-term economic interest.
Organization Brief description of Active Projects Website
1 WWF Russia Leopard reintroduction project Northern Caucasus
http://wwf.panda.org/?uNewsID=103140

References

References
1
BirdLife International (2012). Endemic Bird Area Datasheet: EBA 122 Caucasus. (electronic reference) accessed 20 June 2012.
2
Debonnet, G. and Lethier, H. (2010). Mission Report: Joint reactive monitoring mission to the Western Caucasus World Heritage Property, Russian Federation. (electronic reference) accessed 20 June 2012.
3
Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus (2012a). The destruction of World Heritage at Lunnaya Polyana continues. (electronic news item) < http://www.ewnc.org/node/9091>; accessed 20 June 2012. (in Russian)
4
Government of the Republic of Adygeya (2020): On the reorganization of the nature monument of republican significance “Upper reaches of the rivers Pshekha and Pshekhashkha”, Resolution No. 97, dated May 21, 2020 [online] Available at: http://publication.pravo.gov.ru/Document/View/0100202005250…
5
IUCN (2012a) WHC-12/36.COM/7B: State of conservation of World Heritage properties inscribed on the World Heritage List. http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/36COM/documents/.
6
IUCN (2012b) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. (electronic reference) accessed 20 June 2012.
7
IUCN (2016). Advisory mission report (Western Caucasus). http://whc.unesco.org/document/157748
8
Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation (2012). Database of Strictly Protected Areas of the Russian Federation: Caucasus Biosphere Reserve. (electronic resource) accessed 20 June 2012.
9
Rao, K. and Lethier, H. (2008). Mission Report: Reactive monitoring mission to the Western Caucasus World Heritage Site, Russia. (electronic reference) < http://whc.unesco.org/en/documents/100686/>; accessed 20 June 2012.
10
State Party of the Russian Federation. (2019). Report of the State Party to the World Heritage Committee on the state of conservation of Western Caucasus (Russian Federation). [online] State Party of the Russian Federation. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/900/documents/ [Accessed 12 August 2019].
11
State Party of the Russian Federation. (2020). Report of the State Party to the World Heritage Committee on the state of conservation of Western Caucasus (Russian Federation). [online] State Party of the Russian Federation. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/900/documents/ [Accessed 5 March 2020].
12
UNEP-WCMC (2011). The Western Caucasus, Russian Federation. UNEP-WCMC World Heritage Information Sheets. (electronic reference) < http://www.unep-wcmc.org/medialibrary/2011/06/28/a9f15ada/W…; accessed 20 June 2012.
13
UNESCO (2017). Report on the State of Conservation of Western Caucasus. State of Conservation Information System of the World Heritage Centre.
14
UNESCO. (2014). Report on the State of Conservation of Western Caucasus, Russian Federation. State of Conservation Information System of the World Heritage Centre. [online] Paris, France: UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/soc/3908 [Accessed 12 August 2019].
 
15
UNESCO. (2018). Report on the State of Conservation of Western Caucasus, Russian Federation. State of Conservation Information System of the World Heritage Centre. [online] Paris, France: UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/soc/3758 [Accessed 12 August 2019].
16
UNESCO. (2019). Report on the State of Conservation of Western Caucasus, Russian Federation. State of Conservation Information System of the World Heritage Centre. [online] Paris, France: UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/soc/3908 [Accessed 12 August 2019].
17
World Heritage Centre (1999). World Heritage nomination documentation: The Western Caucasus. (electronic reference) accessed 20 June 2012.

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