Çoruh Valley This is an IBA in danger! 

Country/territory: Turkey

IBA Criteria met: B1iv (2004)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 63,765 ha

Protection status:

Doga Dernegi
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2016 very high very unfavourable low
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description

The KBA covers the Central and lower regions of the Çoruh River, stretching for 150 kilometers.The area possesses all three of the Black Sea, Mediterranean and Central Anatolian climate characteristics. The Çoruh Valley is on the migration path of many predatory birds passing through Turkey.
Eken et al. (2006).

Çoruh Vadisi (Valley) comprises the middle and lower raches of the Çoruh River, one of the largest and least disturbed rivers in Anatolia. In Turkey, the river runs for 354 km. much through a vast canyon, as it cuts its way through the Eastern Black Sea mountains.
Byfield et al. (2010).

The river begins from the Mescit Mountain to the north of Erzurum and flows in a narrow and deep valley. 
Since the area possesses all three of the the Black Sea, Mediterranean and Central Anatolian climate characteristics, this has resulted in plant diversity.
Eken et al. (2006). 
The geology is largely igneous in origin, with extensive exposures of lavas and tuffs. Whilst the surrounding mountains rise to as much as 3000m. within 15 km. of the river, the valley bottom lies as less than 450 m., dropping toas little as 75 m. at the point where it crosses into Georgia 
Çoruh Vadisi (Valley) comprises the middle and lower reaches of the Çoruh River, one of the largest rivers of north-east Anatolia. The Çoruh River rises in the mountains south and west of the town of Bayburt, and run for a total of 376 km. before discharging into the south-east corner of the Black Sea near Batumi (in Georgia). The bulk of its course - 354 km. of the main river, plus all but one of the main tributaries - runs through Turkey. The Çoruh Vadisi forms the principal 'passageway' through the eastern Black Sea mountains, separating the easterly Karçal Mountains (IPA No. 36, maximum elevation 3415 m.) from the bulk of the Doğu Karadeniz Dağları (IPA No. 34, 3932 m. on Kaçkar Dağı). Further south, the valley and its tributaries largely run in WSW/ENE direction, parallel to the Black Sea mountains, and in turn separate these from successive, but more southerly, parallel ranges. The most notable include the Mescit Dağları (Mescit Tepesi, 3239 m.) and the Yalnızçam Dağları (IPA No. 37, 3054 m. on Çadır Dağı). The valley bottom itself lies at a relatively low elevation: just 75 m. at the Georgian border, rising to approximately 450 m. at İspir (though the adjacent mountains rise to 2883 m. and 3186 m. within 15 km. to the north and south of the town respectively).
Geologically the canyon is highly complex, with rocks dating from the Palaeozoic, Cretaceous and Eocene periods. However, much of the river runs through rocks of volcanic origin, including basaltic intrusions and andesitic and dacitic lavas, tuffs and agglomerates. More locally, deposits of calcareous marl, serpentine, quartzite and schist are amongst the other diverse rocks present.
The climate of canyon is highly varied. The middle and upper reaches of the river lie within the rain shadow to the south of the main Coastal mountains: here rainfall is as little as 500-600 mm. annually, contrasting with the much wetter climate nearer the coast (approximately 1550 mm. fail annually close to the Georgian border). Likewise the annual average temperature of the valley bottom in the middle reaches is 4°C lower than that at the Georgian border. Finally, through much of the gorge, the average monthly temperature does not fail below 0°C in marked contrast to the vast majority of the adjacent mountains and plateaus, much of which lies above 2000 m. In short, the climate of the canyon shows elements typical of the Black Sea coast, the Mediterranean, and the more Continental climate of Central Anatolia. This diversity is reflected in the richness of the flora and variety of vegetation types present.
As the principal valley through the mountains, linking the Black Sea coast with the Anatolian hinterland, a series of settlements have developed within the valley. Amongst the most significant are Borçka, Artvin, Yusufeli and İspir on the main river, and Ardanuç, Şavşat and Oltu on associated tributaries.
It seems probable that much of the vegetation of the Çoruh Canyon was formerly forest. In the lower reaches (effectively downstream of the town of Borçka) the forest is characteristic of the Black Sea and can be regarded as mixed deciduous humid forest, in which Fagus orientalis is common.
Further upstream, in the vicinity of Fıstıklı village and the mouth of the Hatila valley (i.e. approximately 5 km. downstream of Artvin), relict populations of Pinuspinea survive, within a disjunct Mediterranean enclave. In vegetation terms, they have been formally described as belonging to the Pinus pinea-Crucianella pontica association, unique to this area. The Russian geologist, naturalist and politician Pierre de Tchihatcheff was the first to comment on these remarkable, disjunct stands of Stone Pine (in 1866), and other workers (e.g. Mirov, Zohary) have accepted them as native. Whilst further stands of P. pinea are to be seen in another Mediterranean enclave within the Kalenima (Söğütlü) valley in Trabzon province, the species seems to be confined to the Aegean and Mediterranean regions of Turkey, where it is widespread but highly localised.
Pseudomaquis vegetation, Mediterranean in characteristic, is thought to have replaced more extensive Pinus pinea forest due to factors such as felling, grazing and fire. Such vegetation is seen relatively widety within the valley from Yusufeli downstream to Borçka, at altitudes of 300-850 m. Characteristic species include Arbutus andrachne, Cistus creticus, C. satviifolius, Cotinus coggyria, Ficus canca ssp. carica, Jasminum fruticans, Olea europea var. sylvestris, Phillyrea latifolia, Pistachia terebinthus ssp. palaestina, Quercus infectoria ssp. infectoria and Thymbra spicata var. spicata.
In areas where the vegetation - both forest and maquis - has been grossly affected by man's activities, open steppic vegetation has developed, characterised by Acantholimon acerosum var. acerosum, Astragalus microcephalus and Stipa ehrenbergiana. Igneous cliffs and screes within this zone support many rare spedes induding Campanula choruhensis, C. seraglio, C. troegerae, Centaurea pecho, Hypencum fissurale and a range of Sempervivum spedes. Loose and eroding earthy slopes are of equal importance for another suite of rare taxa, including Alyssum artvinense, Eryngium caeruleum, Onosma circinnatum, Origanum rotundifolium and Paracaryum artvinense.
The interests of the site are enhanced by the occurrence of a series of wetland vegetation types within the valley. Stream and riverside vegetation is dominated by Elaeagnus angustifolia, Periploca graeca var. graeca, Tamarix smymensis and Vitex agnus-costus at altitudes of 100-350 m. Small seepages at various locations along the valley sides support open Adiantum capillus-veneris-Schoenus nigricans flush communities in which the handsome orchid Epipactis veratrifolia is characteristic.
The flora of the canyon is both exceptionally rich and distinctive. Over 750 taxa have been recorded, with very high representation from families such as Compositae (77 taxa), Leguminosae (70) and Labiatae (65). Of these, 104 nationally rare taxa are thought to occur. A very high proportion of the national rarities are restricted to this single river catchment.
Byfield et al. (2010).

Key biodiversity

The region is rich and important in terms of biodiversity. Eigthy three plant taxa in the region fulfil KBA criteria in which many narrow expanded endemic plant species live. Three of these species' (Asperula virgata, Campanula troegerae, Lathyrus woronowii) expansion is bounded with only Çoruh Valley. 
It is one of the most important migration centre of the world, as well as East Black Sea Mountains. Straits in the area are gateway for thousands of floating predatory birds. Lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina), and Short-toed snake eagle (Circaetus gallicus) are the primary of them. 
Wild goat (Capra aegagrus) and  Mediterranean horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus euryale), living in İspir Çamlı Mağara, endangered mammal species of the area. In addition, the valley is a precise natural habitat for Euorasian lynx (Lynx lynx). Blacksea viper (vipera pontica) is a snake specy getting its name from the area.  Russian sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii) and Starry sturgeon (Acipenser stellatus) are the inland water fish species living in the valley classified as Endangered, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Another endangered specy spotted in the area is a butterfly, Cinquefoil skipper (Pyrgus cirsii). There is an endangered damselfly specy also in Çoruh which is endangered, as well. 
Eken et al. (2006).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2018) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Çoruh Valley. Downloaded from on 23/03/2018.