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Assessment of the diversity, productivity and functionality of grasslands in the Greater Caucasus, (Georgia, Kazbegi Region) by means of remote sensing

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Scientists involved:

M.Sc. Anja Magiera, Prof. Dr. Dr. Annette Otte, Prof. Dr.  Rainer Waldhardt (JLU)

Prof. Dr. Otar Abdaladze (Institute of Ecology, Ilia Chavchavadze State University)

Prof. Dr. Gia Nakhutsrishvili  (Tbilisi Botanical Garden and Institute of Botany, Ilia Chavchavadze State University)


Description:

The vast grasslands of the high mountain region Kazbegi (Greater Caucasus, Georgia) being part of the global biodiversity hot – spot Caucasus, are characterized by a high species richness. Agriculture, particularly the grassland management, is an economically, socially and culturally important factor for the livelihood of the local people. The peripheral location of Kazbegi, especially after the closure of the Georgian-Russian border is the main reason for subsistence farming, based on livestock farming. As part of the transformation process and the following land use change, the pastures located at higher altitudes were abandoned, while individual areas of the lowlands were much stronger grazed, resulting in erosion and a decrease in phytodiversity.

The development of concepts and recommendations for rangeland management in Kazbegi, which must meet the demands of sustainability, is a major challenge. In this inaccessible and remote landscape, with smooth transitions between grassland communities, productive but also safe pastures are not easy to identify. Therefore, this research seeks to map the currently pastured areas. In addition, to evaluate the amount of fodder during the biomass peak multispectral satellite image data will be analyzed, cartographically processed and validated. A supplementary detailed investigation on fine scale level should contribute to establish relationships between biodiversity, biomass and functionality (forage quality, functional groups of species) and the reflection characteristics of the grassland canopy. A compilation of the obtained results will be used to provide practical suggestions to local farmers for future sustainable land use.

The project is in close cooperation with the project AMIES II (scenario development for sustainable land use in the Greater Caucasus, Georgia) funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and build on the experiences and results of the AMIES project (Analysing multiple interrelationships between environmental and societal processes in mountainous regions of Georgia - Interdisciplinary research to foster sustainable land use, land development, and quality of life).