Caspian Sea 2011

State of the Environment of the Caspian Sea

except for levels of Cu, Ni and Pb, which exceed- ed the standards in some locations (Caspecocon- trol 2009) compared to natural background levels in bottom sediments (TACIS 2009b). 5.4. State of biodiversity The biological diversity of the Caspian Sea and its coastal zone makes the region particularly significant. One of the most important charac- teristics of the Caspian Sea’s biodiversity is the relatively high level of endemic species among its fauna (UNDP 2009b). The highest number of endemic species across the various taxa is found in the mid Caspian Sea region, while the greatest diversity is found in the northern section of the Caspian Basin. The coastal region is characterized by a wide range of habitats; these include habitats in vast river systems and extensive wetlands such as the deltas of the Volga, Ural and Kura rivers, the wetland systems along the Iranian coast and the exceptionally saline bay of the Kara-Bogaz- Gol Gulf. At the other extreme, habitats are also found in the sandy and rocky deserts on the Cas- pian Sea’s eastern coast (Solberg et al. 2006). The wetlands in the region play a significant role as a feeding and resting area for migratory birds. How- ever, due to various human activities, plus threats from invasive species, climate change and fluc- tuations in the water levels of the Caspian Sea, coastal habitats are constantly changing and bio- diversity is declining (CEP 2007a). As a result, 112 plant species and 240 species of animals in the Caspian Sea coastal zone have been noted by the Caspian Coastal Site Inven- tory (CCSI) and included in the IUCN Red List (2006) or National Red Books (1981, 1988, 1989, 1996 a, b, 1999, 2001, 2004). One species of fun- gi, one species of lichen, one species of moss, and 109 species of vascular plants make up the list of rare and endangered plant species. Red Book animals are represented by 77 inverte- brate species, one species of cyclostomes, 18 species of fish, 7 species of amphibians, 26 spe- cies of reptiles, 79 species of birds and 32 spe- cies of mammals. The proportion of the various vulnerable and endangered species in the lit-

Caspian Sea endangered fish and seal species

Each square represents one species


Low concern Vulnerable Endangered Critically endangered

Azerbaijan Russia Turkmenistan IUCN Kazakhstan Russia Turkmenistan IUCN Kazakhstan




Russia Turkmenistan Kazakhstan



Note: The first Caspian species appeared in National Red Data Books in 1978. In the IUCN Red List the first Caspian species appeared in 1996. Categories in the National Red Data Books varied and changed from edition to edition. These categories had different names but similar meaning to IUCN categories

Source: personal communication with Igor Mitrofanov

toral states, as compared to the entire List of Red Book species recorded in the Caspian Sea coastal zone, is as follows (CEP 2006): Azerbaijan: 44% of plants and 33% of animals; Iran: 6% of plants and 13% of animals; Kazakhstan: 10% of plants and 32% of animals; Russia: 64% of plants and 65% of animals; Turkmenistan: 8% of plants and 15% of animals. The total count of species in the Caspian Sea Re- gion is estimated to be between 1,800 and 2,000, in- corporating different groups of plants and animals. Algae There are many algae species in the Caspian Sea, but in the Sea’s southern sector, the num- ber has been decreasing due to a decline in fresh- water habitats. On the other hand, the number of marine species in the North Caspian Sea has increased by 10% and in the South Caspian Sea


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