Caspian Hyrcanian mixed forests

Caspian Hyrcanian mixed forests

The Caspian and Hyrcanian Mixed Forests ecoregion is an area of lush lowland and montane forests covering about 55,000 square kilometers near the southern shores of the Caspian Sea.


In southeast Azerbaijan, this ecoregion includes the Lankaran Lowland and the Talysh Mountains. Continuing into Iran, it includes the Iranian coast along the Caspian Sea and the northern slopes of the Alborz Mountains. At higher elevations to the south, it grades into the Elburz Range forest steppe ecoregion.

The ecoregion’s climate is semi-subtropical with most precipitation occurring in fall, winter, and spring. Annual rainfall ranges from 900 mm in the north to 1600 mm in the south, making this ecoregion considerably lusher than the desert, semi-desert, and steppe ecoregions on its borders.


The Caspian Sea coastal plains were once covered by alder ("Alnus glutinosa "subsp." barbata") forests and drained by rivers lined with white poplar ("Populus alba"), Caucasian wingnut ("Pterocarya fraxinifolia"), and Caucasian alder ("Alnus subcordata"), but they have been almost entirely converted to urban and agricultural land.

The lower elevations of the Talysh and Alborz Mountains harbor diverse humid forests containing chestnut-leaved oak ("Quercus castaneifolia"), Persian ironwood ("Parrotia persica"), Caucasian zelkova ("Zelkova carpinifolia"), Persian silk tree ("Albizia julibrissin"), and date-plum ("Diospyros lotus") along with shrubs holly ("Ilex hyrcana"), "Ruscus hyrcanus", "Danaë racemosa", and lianas "Smilax excelsa" and "Hedera pastuchowii" cite web|publisher=World Wildlife Fund|url=|title=Caspian Hyrcanian mixed forests (PA0407)] . Persian ironwood is endemic to the Talysh Mountains and northern Iran and nearly pure stands of the tree can be particularly dramatic, with lichen-covered branches twisting together and only dead leaves in the deep shade of the forest floor. In addition, the ironwood's yellow leaves turn a faint lilac in the fall.cite web|publisher=Missouri Botanical Garden|url=|title=Ornamental plants from Azerbaijan]

Middle elevations are dominated by oriental beech forests ("Fagus orientalis"), oak ("Quercus spp."), hornbeam ("Carpinus spp."), and chestnut ("Castanea sativa")cite web|publisher=Conservation International|url=|title=Ecosystem Profile: Caucasus] .

Upper mountain and subalpine zones are characterized by steppes, shrublands, and Caucasian oak ("Quercus macranthera"). Alpine tundra and meadows occur at the highest elevations.


The Caspian tiger ("Panthera tigris virgata") once roamed these mountains, but is now extinct. Other large mammals here are the Caucasus leopard ("Panthera pardus ciscaucasica"), lynx ("Lynx lynx"), brown bear ("Ursus arctos"), wild boar ("Sus scrofa"), wolf ("Canis lupus"), golden jackal ("Canis aureus"), jungle cat ("Felis chaus"), badger ("Meles meles"), and otter ("Lutra lutra").

This ecoregion is an important resting area for birds migrating between Russia and Africa and is thus a key habitat for many bird species. Some outstanding birds that can be found here are the greylag goose ("Anser anser"), white-fronted goose ("Anser albifrons"), Little bustard ("Tetrax tetrax"), glossy ibis ("Plegadis falcinellus"), Eurasian spoonbill ("Platalea leucorodia"), night heron ("Nycticorax nycticorax"), red-breasted goose ("Branta ruficollis"), peregrine falcon ("Falco peregrinus"), Dalmatian pelican ("Pelecanus crispus"), buff-backed heron ("Bubulcus ibis"), squacco heron ("Ardeola ralloides"), greater flamingo ("Phoenicopterus roseus"), white-headed duck ("Oxyura leucocephala"), and Caspian snowcock ("Tetraogallus caspius").

Protected areas

The diversity and endemism of the species represented in the ecoregion make it an important area for conservation [cite web|publisher=World Wildlife Fund|url=|title=Caucasus-Anatolian-Hyrcanian Temperate Forests] . The habitats in this ecoregion are threatened by conversion into tea, vegetable, fruit, and vine plantations, unsustainable forestry and poaching. The existing protected areas include
* Gizil-Agach State Reserve – 88.4 km²
* Hirkan National Park - 214 km²
* Zuvand National Park - 15 km²
* Girkan State Reserve – 3 km²


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