The area (about 6,120 ha) is located at the south-western slopes of Gegham mountain ridge, in neighborhood of Khosrov Nature Reserve, at elevations from 1200 to 2200 m above sea level. The average steepness of slopes is from 10˚ to 30˚. The area is formed by arid type of vegetation with domination of multi-year plants. Among herbs there are various grasses and legumes dominating; among bushes the most common vegetation types are Onobrychis cornuta, Athraphaxis spinosa, and Rhamnus pallasii, and in less number the rosehips (Rosa sp.); among trees the dominating are Juniperus polycarpos, Celtys glabrata, and some species of Crataegus. Along rivers the common species are honeysuckle (Lonicera sp.), and poplar (Populus sp.). The area is characterized by dry climate with short rainy seasons.
Description of butterfly diversity:
Number of butterfly species in the area – 131 (58% of total number of species in Armenia). There are 5 species included in European Red List, 13 species included in National Red Data Book. The species of national and international concern are:
Carcharodus lavatherae, Papilio alexanor, Zegris eupheme, Colias aurorina, Colias chlorocoma, Callophrys danchenkoi, Lycaena asabinus, Tomares romanovi, Pseudophilotes vicrama, Plebeius christophi, Polyommatus eriwanensis, Polyommatus huberti, Polyommatus surakovi, Polyommatus ninae, Pseudochazara schahrudensis, Proterebia afra, Chazara briseis, Melitaea turkmanica, and others.
The area is located at the buffer zone of Khosrov Nature Reserve. The area is traditionally used by surrounding communities for collection of eatable herbs and berries, and for grazing of sheep and goats. Part of the area is often used for picnics, which potentially increases danger of occasional fire, especially in summer season. Part of the area is managed by Khosrov Nature Reserve and another part is included in Caucasus Wildlife Refuge Center managed by Foundation for preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC). Grazing and wild herb collection deal with complete or partial removal of host-plants, and in case of intensification of the process can cause serious damage to the habitat and result in decline of such species as Carcharodus lavatherae, Carcharodus stauderi, Papilio alexanor, Zegris eupheme, Callophrys danchenkoi, Tomares romanovi, Pseudophilotes vicrama, Polyommatus eriwanensis, Polyommatus huberti, Polyommatus surakovi, Pseudochazara schahrudensis, Proterebia afra, Melitaea turkmanica. In the same time the fire can potentially destroy entire habitat.
To secure conservation of the area it is important to strengthen collaboration with the surrounding communities and promotion increase of their sustainability. One of the opportunities is development of nature tourism (bird and butterfly watching), which can attract flow of visitors and become beneficial for the local communities providing them with a new opportunity of hospitality and catering service. For promotion of birdwatching as one of string driving forces of nature tourism, the area is also included in Key Birding Sites of Armenia. During 2015-2016 the collaboration with FPWC was strengthened and the negotiations with the Administration of Khosrov Nature Reserve were started. The butterfly-watching trail Kotuz Mtn was developed.
The work on assessment of the PBA Gnishik is supported by Rufford Foundation.