FLORA AND FAUNA
Armenia has been identified as an important center for both wild and cultivated plants and is one of the most vegetation specie-dense countries in the world-with more than 100 species per square kilometer. In the Soviet period a genetic warehouse was maintained containing over two hundred of the regions distinct grape species, but this facility has fallen into neglect and disrepair.Even today, when hiking in the Armenian mountains, wild varieties of apricot are readily visible, as well as a diversity of wildflowers and herbs used for traditional medicine and cooking.It is estimated that Armenia has between 150 and 200 relict species of plants. These species, practically unchanged since geological time, are an important part of botanical diversity in Armenia. Some species have adapted well to current conditions. Other relicts are widely spread but only associated with particular habitats, while some species are found only in specific sites or refuges. Approximately half the plant species in Armenia are at risk of extinction. Intensive grazing of animals (especially since the end of the Soviet period when feed was imported) threatens a wide variety of plants. Many of the rare and threatened plants in Armenia are associated with wetlands. However, drainage of marsh and wetlands for agriculture inevitably damages these ecosystems and associated flora.
Armenia's mountainous terrain creates numerous climate zones and microclimates, providing the country with a biodiversity that belies its small area. For example, Armenia is home to over 365 bird species during the year, compared to 400-500 across the entire European continent. Armenia provides an important passage and resting sites for migratory animals and birds. Furthermore, Armenia is located in a region where many of the western world's domesticated plants and livestock originated. The country is also home to the ancestor of the domesticated sheep, the mouflon, as well as wild varieties of barley that were among the first to be domesticated in Mesopotamia. The Armenian forests in the Northeast, around Jermuk and in the South of the country around Kapan, are believed to be populated by wolves, lynxs and species of the Caucasian bear.There has been little research recently, but even based on the existing data it is reported that 24% of the fauna in Armenia is of an "internationally threatened species." The highest risk mammals are said to include the Mehely horseshoe bat, the European free tailed bat, the European otter, the brown bear, the Asian wild sheep, the striped hyena and the Caucasian birch mouse. The Armenian mouflon has suffered a severe population decline due to poaching and habitat loss. The most threatened fish include the winter bakhtak (Salmo ischan) formerly representing 30% of the trout of Lake Sevan and now nearly disappeared. Threatened reptiles include the Armenian viper.