Biodiversity of Georgia is significant by regional and global point of view. Georgia as an eco-regional part of Caucasus is recognized as on of the hot spots of biodiversity. Caucasian eco-region is recognized by WWF as one of 200 biodiversity hot-spots. These hot-spots are recognized as priority sites according to various criterions like diversity of species, level of endemism, uniqueness of taxonomy, evolutionary processes, peculiarities of historic development of flora and fauna, diversity of plant types and rare existence of biomes by global point of view.
Complexity of relief and basically different climate determines the landscape and ecosystem diversity of East and West Georgia.
The main biomes of Georgia are as follows: grove forests, half-desert, steppes, arid sparse forest, biomes of wide deciduous, coniferous and mixed forest, sub-Alps, Alps, subnival and nival biomes, mires and internal water.
As a consequence of its location and its physical and climatic diversity, Georgia has a remarkably rich and diverse flora in comparison to other temperate countries. In total, 6,350 species of vascular plants have been recorded in the Caucasus regions and Georgia contains more than 4,100 of them. Georgia has 300 species of vascular plant endemic to the country and 600 more species that are endemic to the Caucasus region. Georgia's flora also includes a number of 21% of high endemic genera; 16 genera are considered endemic or sub-endemic to the country.
Georgia is one of the centres of the origin for diversity of cultural plants. Various remarkable species of vine, grains, and fruits were formatted here.
Diversity of Georgian fauna is provided by various natural conditions. There are more than 80 species of fishes in fresh water of Georgia, many of them are endemic. 5 species of sturgeon is spread in the Black Sea basin, one of them - Acipenser sturio is endangered specie. 12 species of amphibians, 50 species of reptiles and more than 300 species of birds are spread in Georgia. Kolkheti lowlands (including coastal line and Paliastomi Lake) and lake systems of Javakheti uplands are significant places for migratory birds in order to rest and spend winter. 3 species of birds are endemic for the Caucasus: Caucasian grouse (Tetrao mlokosiewiczi), Caucasian snowcock (Tetraogalus caspius) and Caucasian warbler (Phylloscopus lorenzi).
More than 100 species of mammals are recorded in Georgia. Among them are two most remarkable species of Caucasian ibex: Capra cylindricornis and Capra caucasuca and they belong to Caucasian endemic species.
During last decades biodiversity of Georgia has significantly reduced. It's related with anthropogenic and natural factors, as loss of habitats, fragmentation and degradation, illegal hunting and fishing, introduction of new species, non-sustainable use of natural resources.
In 2005 National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan was adopted by government decree For conservation of flora and fauna of Georgia. Document outlines a national 10-year strategy for the conservation of this country's unique biodiversity and sustainable use and a 5-year plan for specific activities to achieve the objectives of the strategy.
In 2006 Red List of Georgia was adopted by president decree #303. The Red List was worked out by the Commission of Georgian Scientific Academy working on Endangered Species. It consists of 56 timber species (including species of 52 flowering plants (Angiosperm) and 4 seed-bearing plants (Gymnosperm).
At present the commission works on the assessment of other species by the IUCN criteria, according to that assessment, additional list will be presented to add to Red List of Georgia.
Red List of Georgia includes 135 species and 4 sub-species. 33 species of mammals are in Red List. Among them 4 species are extinct on national level, 5 species are critically endangered (Lynx, leopard, Striped Hyena, Red Deer, Wild goat) and 6 species are endangered species (Brown Bear, Common Bottlenose Dolphin, West Caucasian ibex, Chamois). There are 35 species of birds in Red List. Among them Saker Falcon and Lesser Kestrel are critically endangered. White Pelican, Lesser White-fronted Goose, Velvet Scoter, White-tailed Eagle, White-headed Duck, Cinereous Vulture, Red-footed Falcon and Barn Owl are endangered species. Red List includes 11 species of reptiles, 2 species of amphibians and 11 species of fish. There are all species of sturgeons among the fishes.
Besides migratory birds, in Georgia hunting is allowed only in hunting farms. There are 22 hunting farms in Georgia by 2009. Outside hunting farms hunting is allowed only on 15 species of birds but the daily quota is limited according to the species.
Formation of national biodiversity monitoring system is very important. It is acknowledged as one of the priorities of national biodiversity strategy and action plan. Nowadays work on biodiversity monitoring system indicators and corresponding legal base is continued.
Georgia is a member of all global biodiversity conventions:
- Convention on Biological Diversity (ratified in 1994);
- Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat. Ramsar (Iran), 2 February 1971. (ratified in 1996);
- Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (ratified in 1996);
- Convention on Migratory Species (Georgia joined in 2000 year)
In 2008 Georgia ratified Cartagena Protocol of Bio-safety (ratification of this protocol was important to regulate Transboundary Movements of genetically modified organisms) and Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. Nowadays the preparation works are implemented for ratification of European Landscape Convention.
Red Book" and "Red List" of Georgia
Endangered species in Georgia is protected by corresponding legislation.
In 2003 Georgian law "On "Red Book" and "Red List" of Georgia" was proved. (Georgian legislative bulletin N19 1.07 2003)
The main goal of the law is to make "Red List" and "Red Book" of Georgia and protection of endangered species and legal regulation of their usage. Furthermore, to provide protection and restoration of endangered species that exist on the territory of Georgia, to save specific biodiversity and genetic resources considering the interests of present and future generations.