An eastern coastal region of the Black Sea consisting of wetlands and damp woodlands. Evergreen vegetation covers much of the coastline within the site. The IBA encompasses the Lower Rioni river and Lake Paliastomi, listed as site SU064 in the previous pan-European IBA inventory (Grimmett and Jones 1989). The water surface of the Black Sea in the west and the pattern of the Little Caucasus mountain range in the east come together to form a migration bottleneck in the southern part of the site.
Migrating raptors (at least 25 species) and other large, soaring birds are concentrated here in spring and autumn, due to their aversion to flying over the sea or high mountains. Counts have covered only small periods of the spring and autumn migration seasons, but include (seasonal total in brackets) Ciconia nigra (350-500, autumn), Pernis apivorus (8,420, autumn), Milvus migrans (2,300, spring), Accipiter brevipes/A. nisus (1,500, spring), Aquila pomarina (268, autumn), Aquila nipalensis (127, autumn), Buteo buteo (44,900, spring), Hieraaetus pennatus (156, spring), Circus aeruginosus (181, autumn), and several species of falcon Falco. The site is also an important wintering ground and staging place for numerous waterbirds as well as passerines. Wetlands at the site attract a wide variety of passage and wintering birds such as Gavia arctica, grebes , Puffinus yelkouan, Ciconiiformes, wildfowl (several dabbling duck species, also Clangula hyemalis, Melanitta fusca, Mergus albellus), shorebirds, gulls and terns. Species of global conservation concern that do not meet IBA criteria: Pelecanus crispus (uncommon in winter), Haliaeetus albicilla (at least two breeding pairs and 13 birds in winter), Circus macrourus and Aquila clanga (both frequent on passage).
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The site was formerly rich in wildlife, but is now impoverished. Breeding birds in particular have been severely affected by the impact of human activities in what is a densely populated region, and have declined dramatically since the beginning of the 20th century. The main threats are pollution, poaching, deforestation and drainage. The area of the IBA includes the Kolkheti Ramsar Site and the proposed Kolkheti Protected Area (National Park), part of the Georgian protected-area system whose establishment is now under way. A management plan exists for this site.
National Low International Partial554 ha of IBA covered by Nature Reserve (Zapovednik) (Kolkheti, 554 ha). Part of IBA covered by Ramsar Site encompassing Kolkheti Nature Reserve (Central Kolkheti wetlands of Churia, Nabada, Pichora and Ispani II).