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Natural Armenia by Region

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[Ararat
Armavir - Ararat
ARARAT VALLEY (+ YEREVAN)
TourArmenia -

 OVERVIEW    IRRIGATION    MINERALS, STONES, GEMS    FLORA    BIRDS    OTHER FAUNA    THERMAL and MINERAL SPRINGS

Overview
Ararat Valley has one of the greatest diversities of flora and fauna in the country, beginning with Desert and Semi-Desert terrain West of Ashtarak that evolves through the irrigated valley floor with marshlands and lakes rolling up to river canyons, mountain steppes, forests and alpine meadows on the Geghama Lehr.

The rich deposits of lava that streamed into the Ararat Valley created spectacular rock formations and one of the largest deposits of tuf and basalt in Europe and Western Asia. Covering huge primordial lakes and swamps, the enriched soil ‘fermented’ over millions of years to create one of the two most fertile lands in Western Asia, the other being the land around Van in historic Armenia, present day Anatolia.  As late as 1300 BCE the valleys were noted by Urartian and Assyrian chroniclers as teeming with wildlife and deciduous forests.  The museums at Erebuni displays wood trestles logged in the Urartu period, while excavations at Metsamor have uncovered wooden fragments more than 6000 years old. What remains of that great valley forest now are a few woodlands along river beds, hundreds of small marshlands, semi-desert terrain on the Western and Southeastern edges and the heavily farmed valley floor.

Most of the deforestation was probably complete before the rise of the Urartu Empire in the 10th century BCE and its adverse affects were recorded as early as the reign of Argishti I and King Russa, who both left behind cuneiform tablets attesting to turning “deserts into paradise” with their new irrigation systems.  The same irrigation canals can be found throughout the valley around Yerevan, and modern extensions begun in the 1930’s have reclaimed much of the semi-desert areas in the Valley.  Irrigation was restricted in the mid-1980's, and the area between Artik and Aruch and Southeast of Ararat City have returned to their semi-desert state.

The entire valley lies between the Shirak Plateau, Mt. Aragats, the Geghama Lehr and  Mt. Ararat  in present day Turkey.  Ararat has two peak, the larger called “Masis” (5165m/16,942f) and the smaller "Sis" (3925m/12,875f).  Sis is a perfectly shaped cone, like Mt. Fuji in Japan, and together with Masis forms one of the most beautiful vistas in the world.  Legends ascribe the beginning of modern mankind to Mt. Ararat, the place where Noah’s ark is recorded in the bible to have landed after the Great Flood.

Though stripped of its primordial forests, Ararat Valley does have one of the largest of the nature preserves in Armenia, the Khosrov Argelots (Preserve) or Khosrov Antar (forest), named after King Khosrov II Kotaka (reigned 332-339 CE), the founder of the capital at Dvin.  Khosrov ordered the planting of a forest on both sides of and running the length of the Azat River.  The forest remains to this day, having grown beyond it original boundaries to encompass most of the Goghi River above Garni and Geghard, and a large area between the Azat, Khosrov, Mankuk and Vedi Rivers on the eastern side of Ararat District.

Ararat Valley has extensive water resources that continue to support large wetland areas.  Marshlands can be found by Masis, Metsamor, Artashat and Ararat City, home to a diverse waterfowl population, including storks, cranes, seagulls and Dalmatian pelicans.  Much of the water has been shepherded into ponds and lakes for breeding fish, which has encouraged additional diversity in water flora and fauna.  Several varieties of reeds, water lilies and ferns thrive in these marshland areas, which themselves are surrounded by cultivated land or semi-desert terrain.

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Irrigation
The Ararat valley is heavily irrigated to produce agricultural crops though a system of canals dating back to the 5th millennium BCE, expanded by the Urartu Empire between 900-600 BCE.  Traces of the original canals can still be found in the Hrazdan canyon in Yerevan, including the Dalma canal, which begins with a 400 meter tunnel bored into the side of solid rock to allow passage of Hrazdan river waters into the historic Dalma Vineyards.  The engineering feat of this Urartian tunnel and canal is the forerunner of the “Klahreezes” which were later built throughout Asia Minor, and the canal and tunnel are the oldest functioning hydra projects of their kind.  Other ancient canals can be seen along the road to Ashtarak and Echmiadzin, including the misnamed Semiramis or Shamiram canal, attributed by legend to the Babylonian queen Semiramis, but in fact engineered by King Menuas I or earlier.  Further expansion of the canal network beginning in the 1930’s opened up vast tracks of semi-desert land West of Ashtarak and the area around the town of Ararat.

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Minerals, Stones, Gems
Ararat Valley contains large concentrations of volcanic rock (tuf, pumice, perlite) as well as basalt, gypsum, andesite, limestone, marble and granite.  Minerals include quartz, agate, obsidian, silver and copper.  Minerals and gems include obsidian, amethyst, andesine, andelusite, emerald, garnet, beryl, turquoise, several grades of quartz, carnelian, aquamarine and lapis lazuli.

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Flora
Flora in Ararat Valley includes Gladiolus atroviolaceus, Nigella oxypetala, Actynolema macrolema, Gundelia tournefort, Verbascum saccatum, Lallemanita iberica, Roemeria retracta, Scabiosa argentea, Scorronera paposa, Muscari beglecta, Stchys inflata, Astragalus distyophysus, A. kochianus, Achillea tenuifolia, Helichrysum rubicundum, Silena spergulifolia.

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Birds
The Ararat Valley has the greatest variety of birds in Armenia, and the largest population of water birds.  In the Spring time, the marshes, fish ponds, river beds and lakes are filled with nesting birds. 
Click for Birds By Habitat: Widespread,  Urban /  Suburban, Lakes / Reservoirs / Fish Ponds / Wetlands,  Mountain Steppe Wetland, Valley / Lowland, ScrubSemi-Desert to Mountain Steppe,   Mountain SteppeRocky Cliff / River GorgeMountain Slope,  Upper Mountain Cliff and Gorge, Woodland / Farmland / OrchardSubalpine / Mountain MeadowAlpine.

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Other Fauna
Endangered species include the wild bore, leopard, royal stag, wild ram and mountain goat (Khosrov Nature Preserve).  Others include the lynx, deer, wild bore, wildcat, reed wildcat, prairie dog, mole and nutria.

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Thermal and Mineral Springs
Thermal Springs in Ararat Valley include several types of minerals, including calcium, sodium and natural Hydrocarbonate. Cold mineral and sweet water springs are located near Yerevan, Metsamor, Massis, Jerahovit and Artashat.  Warm and Hot Mineral Springs are located near Vedi and Ararat.

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LINKS

Images (photos by Tigran Nazarian)
EcoCenter
Ecotourism.com (currently down, but try in case)
EcoTeam Development
Armenian Flora/Fauna Stamps

Climate Change Info Center-Armenia
ERMC
National Academy of Sciences of Armenia
Protected Areas of Armenia
Map of Sevan National Park

INDIVIDUAL REPORTS
Threatened Species in Armenia
State of Environment Report 2000 (UN)



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