Goal 1: to conduct assessment of the conservation status of Polyommatus (Neolysandra) diana for IUCN SSC and the next edition of the Red Book of Armenia. Objectives: 1. To clarify biological peculiarities and distribution, and assess threats of the species in Armenia. 2. To conduct a survey of Turkish lepidopterologists on the current state of the species in Turkey. 3. To assess conservation status of the species through the IUCN Species Information Service and submit it to IUCN SSC 4. To submit a scientific article "The State of Polyommatus (Neolysandra) diana in Armenia" 5. To provide assessment of the species and suggested conservation measures to the Ministry of Nature Protection 6. To popularize the project results through the website of Butterfly Conservation Armenia and associated Facebook group. Goal 2: Create necessary prerequisites for assessment of the speciesâ€™ habitat for Bern Convention. 1. To evaluate the distribution sites as Prime Butterfly Areas. 2. To delineate the boundaries of the territory proposed as Emerald Site. 3. To conduct an inventory of birds included in Appendix II of Bern Convention and inventory of habitats. 4. To formalize the description of the territory and submit it to the representative of Bern Convention in Armenia.
Distribution and biological peculiarities in Armenia
This monotypic species is distributed in Armenia and Kurdistan. In Armenia it occurs only in three spots in Central part of the country, inhabiting mountain meadows at 2000-2500 m a.s.l. The larval host plant is Vicia spp. and the females are strongly adjusted to those patches. However males can fly couple of kilometers from the core habitat to watering places.
The species has very patchy distribution and in the typical habitat is rather common; however outside it becomes very rare. The exception is made by males, which move down through the valley for watering and can occur there in a quite high abundance. The population trend of the species during 2003-2013 remains stable (p>0.05) although some strong fluctuations often occur. Potentially all the sites are vulnerable towards intensive grazing and uncontrolled mowing, which can be resulted by ongoing intensification of livestock husbandry in Central Armenia.
The species is not included in the Global and European Red Lists, as well as in CITES and Bern Conventions, but is assessed for the National Red List as Endangered EN B1a+B2a. The assessment appears adequate especially because none of the ranges of Diana Blue in Armenia is covered by Protected Areas or Emerald Sites. Among the potential Prime Butterfly Areas there are three, which need further assessment and approval: Geghadir, Hatis, and Kakavaberd. Thus among essential conservation measures there are: (1) assessment of global conservation status of the species for expanding the conservation opportunities not only in Armenia but also in Turkey; (2) assessment of the spots of species' distribution as Prime Butterfly Areas, with further transformation of those into Emerald Sites, and development of management plans for those sites; (3) involvement of local communities into conservation of the species, via marketing of butterfly-watching tours using Diana Blue as one of the main targets and flagship species.
Geghadir Prime Butterfly Area
The area (about 380 ha) is situated at the Southern slopes of Voghchaberd Mountain Ridge at about 20 km from the capital Yerevan. The elevation range occupied by the area is from 1680 to 2090 m above sea level, with an average steepness of slopes about 5˚ to 15˚. At the lower part the area is represented by arid steppe zone while at the higher altitude the habitat becomes changed into meadows. Among dominant vegetation various grasses (such as Stipa sp., Poa sp., and Festuca sp.), and other herbs and bushes (Astragallus sp., Onobrychis sp., Rosa sp.) should be mentioned.
Description of butterfly diversity
Number of butterfly species in the area – 120 (51% of total number of species in Armenia). Six species are included in European Red List and 9 species are included in National Red Data Book. Also there are number of regional endemics, which require further assessment of their conservation status. The species of national and international concern are:
Carcharodus orientalis, Papilio alexanor, Colias aurorina, Tomares romanovi, Pseudophilotes vicrama, Ultraaricia anteros, Polyommatus diana, Polyommatus eriwanensis, Polyommatus huberti, Polyommatus ninae, Polyommatus iphigenia, Proterebia afra, Pseudochazara schahrudensis, Chazara briseis, Argynnis aglaja, Euphydryas aurinia.
The area is not covered by any of Protected Areas or Emerald Sites. There is a nomadic grazing in the area, which already causes grassland degradation in some parts of the PBA. Close proximity of the PBA to the village Geghadir, and existence of appropriate infrastructure (mobile houses and watering place) at the upper part of the gorge makes the livestock grazing in the area rather easy. In the same time the site is used for hey-making. The removal of host-plants of priority species, degradation of the top-soil layer by the feet of livestock, and uncontrolled mowing are the threats, which influence number of species in the area. Among others, it is important to mention Polyommatus diana, which is assessed for the Red Book of Animals of Armenia as Endangered, and, being an endemic of Transcaucasia is a candidate for Global assessment. The species is monophagous and has a very restricted distribution range as within the current PBA, as in Armenia. Degradation of the meadow-type habitat can cause irreversible consequences for the species.
To protect the species diversity of Geghadir PBA, it is necessary to: (1) include the area into existing Emerald Network and develop management plan for it; (2) to award it with a national conservation status. e.g. sanctuary; (3) to design and introduce a site-specific, habitat friendly grazing and mowing plan; (4) to develop butterfly-watching in the area, thus bringing the end users of the agro production directly to the farmers, which can help in increasing of profit from the area unit, and therefore in decreasing the load on the grasslands.
Project 180518144 location - Armenia, Asia