Georgia has designated as Wetlands of International Importance two alpine lakes surrounded by marshes, boggy meadows and rivers on the Javakheti plateau in the south of the country. The two new “Ramsar Sites” are both important for the biological diversity of the region, and particularly for birds migrating on the African-Eurasian flyways.
Bugdasheni Lake (Site no. 2434 on the List of Wetlands of International Importance) contains up to 19 endemic plant species, and supports numerous bird species – amounting to 40,000 individuals – during their migration and breeding periods. A rocky isle in the south-eastern part of the Lake is a particularly important nesting site for various waterbirds, including the critically endangered sociable lapwing (Vanellus gregarius) and the nationally vulnerable great white pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus). The Site also supports internationally important numbers of nationally vulnerable ruddy shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea), which breed and moult in the wetland.
Madatapa Lake. Credit: Lasha Gigauri, Agency of Protected Areas, 2018
Rechannelling of the water supply from the Zagranichnaja River is one of the main threats to the wetland, as it now loses half of its water during some periods. Overgrazing, haymaking, pollution from cattle farming, and invasive species are other factors adversely affecting the Site.
Madatapa Lake (Site no. 2435) supports more than 200 bird species, many of which are threatened such as velvet scoter (Melanitta fusca), sociable lapwing (Vanellus gregarius), Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus) and common pochard (Aythya ferina). The lake is especially important for the nationally endangered common crane (Grus grus), which is found in internationally important numbers. This makes the wetland a popular spot for birdwatching.
Overgrazing, pollution from cattle farming, illegal hunting, invasive species, and eutrophication as a result of damming activities are the main threats to the Site.