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Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs)

  published:15 Jan 2019

Kolkheti Marine Area

General Information
This area is characterized by a high density and relative richness of zooplankton species and bivalves. It is a preferred habitat for turbot and flounder species. In winter and spring, large aggregations of anchovies (Engraulis encrasicolus) use the area as a wintering and spawning area. It is also a habitat and spawning area of the endangered Acipenseridae species and serves as wintering ground for large numbers of migratory birds and Black Sea cetaceans. The area is an important feeding and nursery ground for cetacean species (Tursiops truncatus ponticus, Delphinus delphis ponticus and Phocoena phocoena relicta) all year-round.
The Georgian Black Sea includes a 320 km stretch of the Black Sea coast in the south-eastern and eastern parts of the sea, between the mouths of the rivers Sarpi and Psou. About 150 rivers flow into the Black Sea from the Georgian area (including minor rivers). Among these, the most full-flowing is the Rioni, which yields 406 m3/s of water and an average of 4.7 million tonnes of solid substances annually. The Caucasus chain protects this area from north winds. The average speed of the wind is lowest in Batumi. The volume of the tide-in and tide-out is insignificant. For instance, in the area it is 8-9 centimetres and is of semi-diurnal character. As compared to the oceans, the Black Sea, as the internal continental sea, is characterized by low force of waves. Stormy phenomena occur in cases of cyclone impact. The south and south-east winds are related to the Mediterranean cyclones. The Atlantic cyclones cause westward winds and waves that reach the Georgian coast in the form of strong billows. The Georgian part of the Black Sea coast includes the following natural habitats: 1) sandy shore with a thin layer of sea water; 2) delta (estuary); 3) coastal lagoon; 4) shallow water and bay; 5) sea rocks and stony coast (according to EU Directive 92/43/EEC) (Akhalkatsi, 2009). The bottom of the Black Sea is rather steep. The underwater relief of the bottom is widened by former gorges and deltas that are continuations of the superficial gorges of all significant rivers. The relief of the bottom consists of shelf, continental slopes and sea caves. By the Georgian coast the shelf has the form of a narrow dotted line. The water temperature ranges from 9° C to 11° C in winter (southward). At 60 km from the coast, on the contrary, the water temperature increases northward: from 19.4° C to 20.7° C. In January, the average temperature on the Georgian coast of the Black Sea is 4-7° C, while the average temperature in July is 22-23°C. Precipitation is ample in all seasons. Rain is especially typical of the southern part of Kolkhis, with over 2500 mm precipitation per year. Precipitation decreases to the north, ranging from 1650 mm (in the central part) to 1400 mm (in the north-western part). The geomorphology of the Georgian coast is influenced by about 150 rivers of the region (including minor rivers). The entire annual flow comprises 50 km3. The inflow of Georgian rivers comprises 16% of the total continental inflow of the sea. The Georgian rivers flowing into the Black Sea are: Bzipi, Kodori, Enguri, Rioni, Khobi, Supsa, Natanebi, Chorokhi and other minor rivers. The most full-flowing river on the Georgian area is the Rioni, the largest river that flows entirely on Georgian territory. Its length is 327 km, and its basin measures 13,400 km² in area. Annually, the Rioni fills the Black Sea with a large mass of solid substances: an average of 4.7 million tonness per year (Beruchashvili & Elizbarashvili, 2003). The mouth of the Rioni River is included in the described area.
Description of the location
Black and Caspian Seas
The area extends 502 km2 between the Tikori River and the mouth of the Rioni River (inclusive), within the following latitudes and longitudes, respectively: 42.3688965 and 41.5923238; 42.3678906 and 41.3485938; 42.1492143 and 41.3730120; and 42.1781462 and 41.6434212.
DISCLAIMER: The designations employed and the presentation of material in this map do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.
Area Details
The area includes the marine part and adjacent waters of Kolkheti National Park and the Rioni River mouth. The main habitats in the area are: Open Sea and Circulation Zone The water level from the sand surface does not exceed 20 metres. It consists of sedimentary sand, but also contains larger stones and pebbles or smaller granules that form mud on the coastline. The sandy-rocky line stretches from Abkhazian coast to Guria and Achara (inclusive). The biotic elements are chiefly represented by algae, invertebrate sea animals and plankton. Various species of fish either inhabit or pass these places; all the three species of dolphin (Tursiops truncatus, Delphinus delphis, Phocoena phocoena) use the area. Deltas (estuaries) A delta is the end of the river-bed where it joins the sea and is influenced by the tides. The delta of the river forms part of the coastline, where the bay contains mixed fresh and salty water. This zone is characterized by a large amount of sedimantary rocks brought to the coastline by the river. It constantly changes the type of tide and causes the formation of mud, decomposed rocks and other sediments. The largest delta is formed by the Rioni River. Coastal Lagoon The lagoon is a part of the salty water of the sea. It has cut into land and is separated from the sea so that when the tide is high, the sea and the lagoon are connected and their waters are mixed. The lagoon is often separated from the coast by means of rocks or sandy hills. The salinity of water depends on the volume of precipitation. During hard rains, salinity is decreased. A coastal lagoon is found near Grigoleti Village. Shallow water and bay A bay and shallow water occupy certain places on the coast. Unlike deltas, here fresh water is not mixed with the sea water. It is affected only by the movement of the sea waves, which brings sedimentary rocks from the bottom of the sea and constantly changes the structure of the bottom. This, in its turn, affects the biotic content of benthos (Akhalkatsi, 2010). The area includes Kolkheti National Park, which is established with the purpose of protecting and maintaining wetland ecosystems. The Kolkheti lowland became the subject of international interest first in 1996, when Georgia joined the Ramsar Convention on “Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat”. In 2000, Kolkheti National Park began full-scale functioning. Biological communities All species of Black Sea apex predators use the area as a feeding ground, in particular bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus ponticus), common short-beaked dolphin (Delphinus delphis ponticus), harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena relicta) and yelkouan shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan). Newborn calves of three cetacean species, the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus ponticus), common dolphin (Delphinus delphis ponticus) and harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena relicta), have been recorded in the area, and courtship behaviour of common and bottlenose dolphins were also observed. (Kopaliani et al. 2015). It has been concluded that the area serves as feeding, breeding and nursery grounds and is a core area for Black Sea cetaceans. According to an assessment that began in 2014, the Georgian Black Sea is used by 18 000 harbour porpoises, 16000 common dolphins and 150 bottlenose dolphins in winter; 5000 harbour porpoises, 3000 common dolphins and 150 bottlenose dolphins in spring; 500 harbour porpoises, 6000 common dolphins and 100-150 bottlenose dolphins in summer; and 1000 harbour porpoises in autumn (Kopaliani et al. 2015). Endangered Acipenseridae species use the area for spawning (Guchmanidze 2009). The endangered species under IUCN Red List are: Acipenser gueldenstaedtii, Acipenser stellatus, Acipenser sturio, Acipenser nudiventris, Huso huso and Acipenser persicus. Acipenser ruthenus is listed as a vulnerable species (IUCN Red List). An important benthos species, European flounder (Platichthys flesus), inhabits the area, though its population is decreasing (Munroe, 2010). Belone belone euxini and Mullus barbatus, both of which are endangered species protected under the Black Sea Red List, use this area. A significant representative of the pelagic community, the Black Sea herring (Alosa pontica), which is included on the Georgian Red List, uses the area. The Kolkheti lowland and adjacent foothills of Meskheti Ridge are important sites for migrating birds and are classified as Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (BirdLife International 2017). The Caucasus, at the border of Europe and Asia, is important for two life cycle stages of wild seabird waterfowl (migration and wintering), and three flyways converge in the Caucasus region (the Central Asian, East Africa-West Asia and Mediterranean/Black Sea). Tens of thousands of migratory waterfowl use Kolkheti marshes and lakes as well as river deltas and the adjacent sea as stepping stones and wintering areas. Among them is Puffinus yelkouan, which is listed as a vulnerable species (IUCN Red List). The described area is important for autumn and spring migration of waders and other shorebirds, including thousands of plovers (Calidris spp., Pluvialis spp.), lapwings (Vanellus spp.), red knot (Calidris canutus), sanderling (C. alba), curlew sandpiper (C. ferruginea), turnstone (Arenaria interpres), dunlin (Calidris alpina), broad-billed sandpiper (Limicola falcinellus), Temminck’s stint (Calidris temminckii), little stint (Calidris minuta), sandpipers (Tringa spp.), godwits (Limosa spp.), curlews (Numenius spp.), snipes (Gallinago spp.), woodcock (Scolopax rusticola), ruff (Philomachus pugnax), gulls (Larus spp.), terns (Sterna spp., Chlidonias spp.), crakes (Rallus spp.), moorhen (Gellinula chloropus), coot (Fulica atra), purple swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) and herons (Botaurus spp., Egretta spp., Ardea spp.). Some seabird species such as the Arctic loon (Gavia arctica), yelkouan shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa), little gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), Pallas’s gull (Larus ichthyaetus), Mediterranean gull (Larus melanocephalus), and the lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus) also occur in the area. Disturbance from grazing animals, motorboat activities, reed burning, seashore development, uncontrolled hunting and poaching are major threats affecting wader and shorebird populations during migration (Lewis et al., 2013; Javakhisvili in Gurileidze et al., 2012). According to direct observation, part of the described area is suitable habitat for oyster (Ostrea edulis). Being unique and important to marine biodiversity, as well as being a subtype of Natura 2000 habitat 1170 Reefs (for information on Natura 2000 marine habitat types: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/marine/docs/appendix_1_habitat.pdf), oyster reefs present high conservation interest in the region (Todorova and Micu, 2009)
References
Akhalkatsi M. 2010. Habitats of Georgia. Natura 2000. Tbilisi. Beruchashvili N. & Elizbarasvili N. 2003. Geography of Georgia. Tbilisi (in Georgian). BirdLife International. 2017. Important Bird Areas factsheet: Kolkheti. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/site/factsheet/kolkheti-iba-georgia/details on 26/04/2017.Birkun Jr., A.A. & Frantzis, A. 2008. Phocoena phocoena ssp. relicta. Chashchin A.K. 1996. The Black Sea populations of anchovy. SCI. MAR.., 60 (Supl.2): 219-228. Guchmanidze A. 2009. Current and historical status of sturgeon in Georgia. In Status and Protection of Globally Threatened Species in the Caucasus. N. Zazanashvili and D. Mallon, Eds. Tbilisi: CEPF, WWF. Contour Ltd., pp. 171-177. Gurielidze, Z., Kopaliani, N., Devidze, N., Shakarashvili, M. and Javakhishvili, Z. 2012. Black Sea Analysis. Situation Analyses. Supported by German Agency for International Cooperation/ Die Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) (GIZ). NBSAP Implementation. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T17030A6737111. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T17030A6737111.en. Downloaded on 26 April 2017. Kleinenberg, S.E. (1956). Mammals of the Black and Azov. Seas: Research Experience for Biology and Hunting. USSR Acad. Science Publ. House, Moscow. 288p (in Russian) Komakhidze, A. (ed.), 1998. Black Sea biological diversity - Georgia, Black Sea. United Nations Environmental Series, No. 8, United Nations Publications, 354 pages Kopaliani N., Gurielidze Z., Devidze N., Ninua L., Dekanoidze D., Javakhishvili Z., Paposhvili N., Qerdikoshvili N. 2015. Monitoring of Black Sea Cetacean in Georgian Waters (Report). Supported by Kolkheti National Fund. Adopted by Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Protection of Georgia. Kopaliani, N., Gurielidze, Z., Devidze, N., Shakarashvili, M. 2016. Action Plan for the Conservation of Black Sea Cetacean. Supported by Kolkheti National Fund. Adopted by Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Protection of Georgia. Lewis N. S., Javakhishvili Z., Russell C. A., Machablishvili A, Lexmond P, Verhagen J. H., Vuong O., Onashvili T., Donduashvili M., Smith D.J., Fouchier R.A. M. 2013. Avian Influenza Virus Surveillance in Wild Birds in Georgia: 2009–2011. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/authors?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0058534. Downloaded on 26 April 2017. Munroe, T.A. 2010. Platichthys flesus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T135717A4191586. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2010-4.RLTS.T135717A4191586.en. Downloaded on 26 April 2017. Ninua N., Japoshvili B., Bochorishvili V. 2013. Fishes of Georgia. Tbilisi, pp. 1-180. ISBN 978-9941- Доклади на Българската академия на науките Todorova, V. and Micu, D. 2009. Unicue oyster reefes discovered in the Bulgarian Black Sea. Доклади на Българската академия на науките. Tome 62, No 7.
Status of submission
Areas described as meeting EBSA criteria that were considered by the Conference of the Parties
  • 14/9
Assessment of the area against CBD EBSA criteria
C1: Uniqueness or rarityHigh
Three species of cetaceans (Tursiops truncatus ponticus, Delphinus delphis ponticus and Phocoena phocoena relicta) were found in the area in large numbers year-round. The Black Sea harbour porpoise is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, as is the Black Sea bottlenose dolphin, while the short-beaked common dolphin population is classified as vulnerable (IUCN 2008; Birkun, 2006). The areas are important feeding grounds and wintering areas for Black Sea cetaceans. The largest aggregations of harbour porpoises in the Black Sea are found there during the winter and spring (Kopaliani et al., 2015). According to ACCOBAMS resolution 4.15 (2010), the area from Cape Anaklia to Sarpi is of special importance for Black Sea cetaceans, such as the common dolphin and the harbour porpoise (ACCOBAMS-MOP4/2010/Res.4.15). The Kolkheti lowland and adjacent foothills of Meskheti Ridge are important sites for migrating birds and are classified as Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (BirdLife International 2017). Tens of thousands of water birds, 900,000 predators belonging to 34 species and 16,000 small birds belonging to 84 species use the area during migration (Lewis et al. 2013). The area is a significant migration area for the birds of the western part of the Palearctic region (Javakhishvili Z. according to Gurielidze et al. 2012). Kolkheti National Park is a wintering area of anchovies (Engraulis encrasicolus). The Rioni River delta is an important habitat for Red List sturgeon species (Guchmanidze, 2009).
C2: Special importance for life-history stages of speciesHigh
Wintering, breeding and nursery grounds for Black Sea cetaceans (the endangered Phocoena phocoena relicta and Tursiops truncatus ponticus, and the vulnerable Delphinus delphis ponticus) (IUCN 2008; Birkun & Frantzis, 2008; Kopaliani et al., 2015). The area is a wintering area and stepping stone for many thousands of migratory birds (Lewis et al. 2013), a spawning area for endangered Acipenseridae (Guchmanidze, 2009), a habitat and breeding area for European flounder (Platichthys flesus) , and a spawning area and wintering area for anchovy fish (Engraulis encrasicolus) (Chashchin A.K. 1996).
C3: Importance for threatened, endangered or declining species and/or habitatsHigh
The area serves as feeding, breeding and nursery grounds and is one of the core areas for the endangered Black Sea harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena relicta) and Black Sea bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus ponticus), and the vulnerable short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis ponticus) (IUCN 2008). According to the assessment started in 2014, the Georgian Black Sea is used by 18,000 harbour porpoises, 16,000 common dolphins and 150 bottlenose dolphins in winter; 5,000 harbour porpoises; 3,000 common dolphins and 150 bottlenose dolphins in spring, 500 harbour porpoises, 6,000 common dolphins and 100-150 bottlenose dolphins in summer and 1,000 harbour porpoises in autumn (Kopaliani et al. 2015). The vulnerable seabirds yelkouan shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), velvet scotter (Melanitta fusca) and dalmatian (Pelecanus crispus) occur in the area (BirdLife International, 2017). It is a spawning area for endangered Acipenseridae (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii, Acipenser stellatus, Acipenser sturio, Acipenser nudiventris, Huso huso and Acipenser persicus). Acipenser ruthenus is listed as a vulnerable species (IUCN 2008; Guchmanidze, 2009; Gurielidze et al., 2012)
C4: Vulnerability, fragility, sensitivity, or slow recoveryHigh
For threatened species: wintering, breeding and nursery grounds for Black Sea cetaceans; habitat and spawning area for endangered Acipenseridae (Birkun and Frantzis, 2008; Guchmanidze, 2009; Kopaliani et al., 2015). Vulnerable, long-lived species with low fecundity and late sexual maturity are particularly vulnerable due to factors increasing adult mortality rates (BirdLife International, 2017).
C5: Biological productivityHigh
The Kolkheti area contains species with comparatively higher natural biological productivity, such as the anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus), which is a major commercial fish species of the Black Sea (Chashchin 1996).
C6: Biological diversityHigh
Marine mammals are represented by three species of cetaceans: the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus ponticus), common dolphin (Delphinus delphis ponticus) and harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena relicta) (Kleinenberg, 1956). The described area is important for autumn and spring migration of waders and other shorebirds, including thousands of plovers (Calidris spp., Pluvialis spp.), lapwings (Vanellus spp.), red knots (Calidris canutus), sanderling (C. alba), curlew sandpipers (C. ferruginea), turnstones (Arenaria interpres), dunlins (Calidris alpina), broad-billed sandpipers (Limicola falcinellus), Temminck’s stints (Calidris temminckii), little stints (Calidris minuta), sandpipers (Tringa spp.), godwits (Limosa spp.), curlews (Numenius spp.), snipes (Gallinago spp.), woodcocks (Scolopax rusticola), ruffs (Philomachus pugnax), gulls (Larus spp.), terns (Sterna spp., Chlidonias spp.), crakes (Rallus spp.), moorhens (Gellinula chloropus), coots (Fulica atra), purple swamphens (Porphyrio porphyrio) and herons (Botaurus spp., Egretta spp., Ardea spp.). Some seabird species such as the Arctic loon (Gavia arctica), yelkouan shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa), little gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), Pallas's gull (Larus ichthyaetus), Mediterranean gull (Larus melanocephalus), and the lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus) also occur in the area. Disturbance from grazing animals, motorboat activities, reed burning, seashore development, uncontrolled hunting and poaching are major threats affecting wader and shorebird populations during migration (Lewis et al., 2013; Javakhisvili in Gurileidze et al., 2012). The ichtyofauna of the national park is represented by 88 species, out of which 23 species are transiting, 21 species live in fresh water and 44 species live in the Black Sea. The cartilaginous fish include the Atlantic sturgeon and beluga, while the bony fish include the Black Sea salmon, herring striped mullet, pike and bonito (Komakhidze, 1998; Guchmanidze, 2009; Gurielidze et al., 2012). Six species of fish included on the Red List of Georgia are widespread in the water ecosystems of Kolkheti National Park, such as: beluga (Huso huso), sea sturgeon (Acipenser sturio), starry sturgeon (Acipenser stellatus), sea trout (Salmo fario (truta) morpha), sand goby (Gobius (Neogobius) fluvatilis) and roach (Rutilus frisii) (Ninua et al. 2013). Based on direct observation, the area is a suitable habitat for oyster (Ostrea edulis).
C7: Naturalness Medium
The anthropogenic activity in this area is not high relative to other parts of the Black Sea.