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BRIEFMay 25, 2022

The Emerald Network in Armenia: Progress, Challenges, and the Future


Dusky large blue is a habitat-specialist butterfly, protected under Resolution 6


Photo: Karen Aghababyan

Over the past few decades, populations of Europe’s many wild species and natural habitats have significantly declined. This trend is likely to continue if no action is taken to preserve the continent’s biodiversity. And such a decline in wildlife and habitats ultimately impacts ecosystem services and jeopardizes food security, water supply, and economic livelihoods.

Armenia, along with other Eastern Partnership countries, has committed to preserving biodiversity through the Emerald Network of protected areas. Established under the 1979 Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Habitats, the Emerald Network of legally recognized and protected areas with high biodiversity seeks to ensure long-term conservation of wildlife and its natural habitats and promote sustainable interaction between people and nature.

When Armenia signed the Bern Convention in 2006, it joined the ranks of nearly 50 other European countries committed to protecting the continent’s rich biodiversity. Since adopting the Convention in 2008, Armenia has identified 23 areas as potential nature protection sites to be included in the Emerald Network. The total area of these sites represents more than one third of the country’s territory — a proportion that is among the largest in all participating countries and nearly three times greater than across the entire South Caucasus region.

As part of the EU-funded EU4Environment Program, the World Bank Group is supporting Armenia in advancing the establishment of the Emerald Network of protected sites in the country. Launched in 2019, the EU4Environment Program supports Eastern Partnership countries in preserving their natural capital and increasing people's benefits from its sustainable use by supporting environment-related action, unlocking opportunities for greener growth, and setting mechanisms to better manage environmental risks and impacts.

Armenia, a land-locked country, is endowed with rich biodiversity divided into two biogeographic regions: the Alpine in the north and Anatolian in the south. Despite its relatively small size, the country hosts a wide variety of habitats, from semi-desert at the foothills to alpine meadows at the upper range of high mountains.


Alpine meadows of “Zangezur” Emerald Site

Photo: Karen Aghababyan

Such variety of habitats are home to a wide variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and plants, which are specialized to live in the hot semi-deserts, humid forests, brackish marshes, or high-mountain rocks and screes.


Egyptian Vultures in the nest-cave, a species protected under Resolution 6


Photo: Karen Aghababyan

The country’s rich biodiversity is well documented, and due to human-induced threats many species and habitats are protected under the Convention (see the table below).


Biogeographic region



Non-avian species













* Species and habitats listed in the Bern Convention Resolutions 4 and 6.

Source: Country Emerald Reference Lists

To be included in the Emerald Network, countries first identify which habitats and species protected by the Bern Convention are on their territory and then propose appropriate sites that can ensure the survival of such species and habitats survival. The Bern Convention Secretariat evaluates the proposed areas and confers the status of “Officially Nominated Candidate Emerald Site” to those that fulfill the criteria.

Given that its national coverage of protected sites is the highest among all participating countries, Armenia has made outstanding progress in identifying the sites most suitable for the Emerald Network.  The Emerald Network Viewer tool developed by the Council of Europe locates and visualizes the proposed candidates and adopted sites with the Emerald Network, and identifies species and habitats to be protected within them.

The Emerald Network sufficiency helps track progress and identifies priorities of each member country towards long-term conservation of species and habitats protected under the Bern Convention. Armenia has a small number of sufficiency issues to address, mainly involving the need to update the Emerald database and conduct additional research for certain species and habitats.

Although the boundaries of some sites require further verification to ensure the most appropriate conservation status, future priority is placed on elaboration of the site management plans and introduction of appropriate conservation measures throughout all sites.



Sources: EEA Emerald Network Barometer (draft version) end-2021


Number of all types of Emerald sites


Area of all types of Emerald sites (km2)


National coverage of all types of Emerald sites (%)


Proportion of species and habitats for which the Network is sufficient (%)


Proportion of all Emerald sites with a management plan (%)


Once an area is designated a Candidate Emerald Site, the real work begins. National governments are tasked with development and implementation of site management plans and measures to ensure effective conservation of the sites’ wildlife and habitats. With this aim, the World Bank will support the Government of Armenia in the development of a methodology for Emerald sites management as well as a National Action Plan for the Emerald Network to define conservation objectives and a timeline to achieve them. To ensure effective implementation of conservation measures, the Program will also provide technical assistance in designing pilot management plans and building stakeholder capacity to implement them.

In addition to establishing the nature protection areas, being part of the Emerald Network is also helping Armenia to transition toward EU standards on nature protection. This is an essential step toward harmonizing the country’s practices for more sustainable management of important natural areas.

Apart from setting aside protected areas to improve the country’s biodiversity and ecosystems, the Government of Armenia is working toward ensuring sustainable economic activities,  creating jobs, and protecting livelihoods in communities in these sites. With this aim, the EU4Environment Program will facilitate eco-tourism development and non-timber product manufacturing in the Emerald Network sites. The Program will explore the potential, develop recommendations and a marketing strategy for sustainable economic activities, and work with local communities to provide skills to launch these activities.

Armenia and its rich biodiversity stand to gain tremendously from joining the Emerald Network of protected areas. With the World Bank’s support, the country has the potential to become a champion of biodiversity conservation in the region and ensure a green and resilient future for its people.

“Khor Virap – Armash" Emerald Site – a site that does not yet have national protected status. Photo: Karen Aghababyan