A characteristically hilly region, with low ridges whose slopes are naturally eroded, and many gorges that accumulate to form valleys or taper off into plains. This site belongs to an area with the driest climate in Georgia; there are steppes and savanna-like landscapes, arid woodlands and semi-deserts, with an abundance of relict and endemic plant species. Vegetation at the site is diverse: relict Bothriochloa and typical Stipa steppes predominate, frequently represented by Paliurus vegetation; there are scattered savanna-like woodlands of Celtis and xerophytic species of wild Pyrus; arid woodlands composed of relict and rare species of Juniperus clothe the slopes of ridges, while semi-deserts are represented by Artemisia, Salsola, etc.; riparian forests along the Iori and Alazani rivers include some of the tugai-type, dominated by Salix and Populus.
This is an outstanding site for raptors, with at least 25 diurnal raptors and six owls recorded: Neophron percnopterus (12 pairs in 1998), Gypsfulvus (39 pairs in 1998), Accipiter brevipes (occurs on passage), Aquilanipalensis (passage and winter visitor), Falco biarmicus (two breeding pairs in 1988), F. cherrug (occurs in winter, but breeding recently confirmed for one pair and suspected for a second). Species of global conservation concern that do not meet IBA criteria: Haliaeetus albicilla (three resident pairs; marked decline), Circus macrourus (common in winter), Falco naumanni (uncommon breeder; strong decline), Tetraxtetrax (passage visitor) and Otis tarda (formerly a breeder in small numbers, now only a rare passage migrant and winter visitor). This is the only site in Georgia supporting Francolinus francolinus (common) and also has the country's largest population of Alectoris chukar. Counts of staging Anthropoides virgo in 1986 totalled 2,500-3,500 birds and Grus grus also passes through on migration. Among other breeding species are Delichon urbica (large cliff colonies), Cercotrichas galactotes (rare and irregular), Sitta tephronota, S. neumayer and Sturnus roseus (abundant), while Tichodroma muraria visits the area in winter.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The main threats are overgrazing, unsustainable levels of hunting, and firewood collection. The limits of the site correspond roughly to those of the proposed Iori Protected Area, part of the protected-area system which is now being established in Georgia. A management plan exists for this site.
National Partial International None12,451 ha of the IBA covered by managed nature reserves (Zakazniks): Chachuna (5,200 ha), Gardabani (3,315 ha), Iori (1,336 ha) and Korugi (2,600 ha). 8,034 ha of IBA covered by Nature Reserve (Zapovednik) (Vashlovani, 8,034 ha).
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Iori Region. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 23/03/2023.