Georgia, national parcs. 5

Georgia Kolkheti National Park
National Park is located in western Georgia. It covers the eastern zone of the Black Sea coast and the basin of the PaliastomiLake. The Park is established with the purpose of protection and surviving of wetland ecosystems.
The Kolkheti lowland became the subject of international interest firstly in 1996, when the Georgia joined the Ramsar Convention on “Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat”. Since 2000 the Kolkheti national park began full-scale functioning. The park is not a monolith formation and it is consisted of separate territories – the districts. The Park is divided into the following natural geographical districts: Anaklia-Churia (between the coastline sections of ravines of the ChuriaRiver and the KhobistskaliRiver), Nabada (between the western sections of the ravines of the KhobistskaliRiver and the RioniRiver) and Imnati (between the western sections of the ravines of the RioniRiver and the SupsaRiver).These are the places where the ecosystems of wetlands are best preserved. Besides, the national park includes the sea water area located between the estuaries of the rivers of Rioni and Churia. The area of Anaklia-Churia is 13713 hectares; Nabada district covers a 10697 hectare area, and the Imnati district area is 19903 hectares. In total, the land area of the National Park is 28571 hectares, and the sea water area – 15 742 hectares. The districts of the National Park are located in the territories of five administration districts - Zugdidi, Khobi, Senaki, Abasha and Lanchkhuti and are a part of two historical regions of Georgia – Samegrelo and Guria.
The real beauty of the Kolkheti national park is the PaliastomiLake that was the gulf of the Black Sea several thousand years ago. The sand dunes displaced along the coast by the sea waves over the centuries isolated the lagoon from the saline water of the sea, and the pure water flowing into the lake from the Pichora River made the water fresh and created the ideal vital environment for many species of fish in the 3 m deep natural reservoir abundant in water invertebrates and plankton.
Kolkheti mires, first of all, are important for their relict origin. This lowland is a remainder of the tropical and subtropical landscapes preserved till today, which were stretched along entire Eurasian continent as continuous belt in Cenozoic age about 10 million years ago. In Kolkheti the plants have been preserved that are nowadays characteristic only for swampy ecosystems of tundra and taiga of the far North. The Kolkheti lowland is of other international significance as well.**
Boreal species alien for Kolkheti grow in the marsh – Sphagnum mosses (Spagnum imbricatum, Sp. palustre, Sp. acutiflium), round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundiflora), woollyfruit sedge (Carex lasiocarpa) and other plants of alpine zone, such as sedge and Pontic rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum). Swampy and humid forests include: alder trees, Caucasian wingnut, Imeretian oak and Colchis oak with well-developed evergreen underbrush, Colchis ivy, et al. In the sandy zone of dunes grow Sea-buckthorn and Jerusalem thorn. Composition of species of algae is diverse.
The territories of Kolkheti national park are interesting, first of all, by botanic point of view. The complexes of phytocoenosis rich in quite diverse, relict and endemic species, and various compositions have remained there till present – they are the different plant communities of the mires, swampy forests and sand dunes located along the coastline, such as: spurge (Euphorbia), eringo (Eringium coeruleum), Colchis sedge (Carex colchica), Imeretian cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica), astragalus (Astragalus caucasicus), Marsh woundwort (Stachys palustris), catchfly (Silene), Jerusalem Thorn* (Paliurus spina-christi), hawthorn (Crataegus), Sea-buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides), et al.
Here are spread two species included in the Red Data Book of Georgia with the status of threaten species _ Yellow poppy and Water lily. Along the lakes and marsh rivers in the wetlands can be found the following plants: Colchis water-lily (Nymphaea colchica) and Yellow water-lily (Nuphar lutea), Colchis water chestnut (Trapa colchica) and Lesser duckweed (Lemna minor)
, and in the peaty mires together with the north tundra species you can find Royal fern (Osmunda regalis) and Imeretian sedge (Molionia litoralis) gvxvdeba.
Some of them are included in the Red List of Georgia as rare and threatened species: Colchis oak (Quercus hartwissiana), Caucasian wingnut
(Pterocarya pterocarpa)
, Colchis box-tree (Buxus colchica), and among other species the following are injured: maple (Fraxinus exscelsior), Georgian oak (Quercus iberica) and Alder (Alnus barbata).
In the marsh forests along the peripheral belt of peaty mires and ravines of the marsh rivers dominate about 9-10 m tall Colchis-Hyrcanic alder groves, and rarely it is mixed with wingnut, Imeretian oak or maple, beech, ash-trees and hornbeam. Till present the following species have been preserved: Box tree, Yellow azalea, Pontic rhododendron, Butcher’s broom, ilex, et al.
In total 194 species of birds inhabit the KolkhetiNational Park. The route of the annual migration of the birds crosses this territory. For millions of birds that migrate in autumn from the north to the south and in spring from warm countries to their nesting places, the uninhabited mires are ideal places for having a rest during a long distance migration, and for birds of different species Kolkheti is the place where they spend winter. They do not need to go further to the south. In local mires are all the conditions necessary for them to spend winter.
Among birds in the territory of Kolkheti National park the following species can be found: Small water cocks, herons and bright blue kingfisher. Birdwatching is possible in October, when the birds of prey fly along the Black Sea coast migrating to the south.
Common Buzzards, Black Kites, Common and Lesser Kestrels, Eurasian Hobbies, other falcons, European Honey-Buzzards, White-tailed Eagles, Steppe Eagles and Imperial Eagles soaring in the air at different heights are flying to the south along the coastline. In winter, the groups of ducks, geese, and swans fly in from the north. Besides, here can be found the following species: Woodcock, Eurasian curlews with long and hooked beaks, common coots, grebes, White-fronted geese, Mute and Whooper swans, Dalmatian Pelican, Greater Spotted Eagle, et al. One can rarely find the pride and beauty of the fauna of Georgia, the beautiful bird – pheasant, about existence of which the world learned from the Greek seamen visiting Colchis long ago.
Among large mammals in the swampy floodplains, forests and shrubs of Kolkheti there can be found: jackal (Canis aureus) and Wild boar (Sus scrofa), Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and otter (Lutra lutra). It is remarkable, that 6 species of the Red List of Georgia can be found here.
The marine mammals are presented by 3 species of dolphins, such as: Aphalina – the Bottle-nose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), White-sided Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus) and Herring hog
(Phocoena phocoena).
Among ampgibians inhabit the Kolkheti the Common Tree frog and Marsh frog are interesting. Among reptiles the following species are found here: Common Newt (Triturus vulgaris) and Banded Newt (Triturus. vittatus), Dice Snake (Natrix tesselata)
, Aesculapian Snake (Elaphe longissima) and pond turtle
(Emys orbicularis)*.
Ichtyofauna of the National Park is presented by 88 species, out of which 23 species are transiting, 21 species live in fresh water and 44 species live in the Black Sea. Among the cartilaginous fish the Atlantic sturgeon and beluga can be distinguished, and among the bony fish – the Black Sea salmon, herring, striped mullet, pike, bonito, et al.
6 species of fish of the Red List of Georgia is widespread in the water ecosystems of the Kolkheti National Park, such as:beluga (Huso huso), sea sturgeon (Acipenser sturio), Sevruga sturgeon (Acipenser stelatus), sea trout (Salmo fario (truta) morpha), Sand goby (Gobius (Neogobius) fluvatilis), roach (Rutilus frisii)
Going to sightseeing the archeological and cultural monuments in the Kolkheti National Park and its adjacent territories makes the visit much more interesting. The ancient capital of Lazika Archeopolis and the Christian monuments of Kolkheti – Martvili Monastery complex with the scripts and wall paintings of mid centuries, Khobi Monastery, Tsaishi, Kortskheli and Gulevli churches are all located near the National Park. In Zugdidi, it is also interesting to see the European house-museum of the Dadianis and unique exhibits preserved there.
Kolkheti National Park has quite good perspectives for ecotourism. In the period of high level migration it is possible to observe a great number of rare birds. This form of tourism known as a “Bird watching” has become increasingly popular in western countries. Georgia, and especially ornithologically rich Kolkheti, may offer many interesting meetings to those who is fond of bird watching. In the territory of the Park the bird watching towers are arranged. And the tourists’ accommodation is available in the visitors’ house located in National Park as well as in the hotels of Poti, Grigoleti and Zugdidi.
The administration of the national park offers several unforgettable boating routes to the visitors. Along the coastal dunes and Imnati peat there are elaborated walking routes too, but the motor-boats still remain the best means for sightseeing of the wetlands. If you take your place in the boat near Anaklia, in the Churia estuary at the Black Sea and go up the river, or going through Imnati-Pahastomi you enter the Pichora riverbed, you will get many impressions - every turn of the river, going through the local, relict forests, is connected to new surprises and allows one to see rare species of birds.

Georgian Tourist Board for more information, see internet site
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