The research area covers The Iori River and Chachuna Managed Reserve gallery forests and adjacent areas. These gallery forests are located in Kakheti, near the border of Georgia and Azerbaijan, in South-East part of Georgia. The research area is 2232.9 ha. The mentioned forests belong to Tugay type forests, which means that the ecosystem directly borders with steppes and semi-desert. In general, gallery forests are one of the most vulnerable ecosystems in the world as of today. Since they are mainly located in lowlands and easily accessible areas. Except for timber use, grazing is the biggest challenge for Tugay type gallery forests. Since it borders with semi-deserts and steppes, that are the main resources in terms of pasture (Ketskhoveli, 1962). It can be assumed that the Dali reservoir has transformed into another challenge for survey ecosystem since the eighties of the last century. It changed the situation there. The impact of this reservoir has not been thoroughly studied yet. Therefore, we are not aware of the problems, the reservoir can cause to the environment.
The objective of our research was to describe and evaluate condition of the Iori River Gallery forests, define their natural borders, compare with present-day boundaries and to identify causes of change; also, to identify whether or not the Dali reservoir reduced the area of gallery forests in Chachuna Managed Reserve and whether it effected to the change of their floristic composition.
Conclusions and Discussions
The results show that the forest cover (area covered with trees and bushes) is more or less reduced in the research area. Though, fortunately, there is a tendency of increasing over the last decade. As for Chachuna, we see that the forest cover increased during the last two decades. Although, it is still reduced compared to 1978. This may mean that the Dali reservoir does not have a direct and significant impact in terms of forest areas at least over a 30-year cycle, as we have mentioned above, it was put into operation in 1992 (Benjankar et, all., 2016). In terms of floristic composition, there are quite big differences in the upstream and downstream of the reservoir. It may straight depend upon flooding regime and intensity, which should have been changed after the Dali reservoir becomes operational. As there are arid ecosystem elements to the proximity of the river in Chachuna, e.g. pistachio tree and conversely, elements of the gallery forest are less. Whereas in the upstream of the Dali reservoir with less favorable conditions for the gallery forests, there are more elements of the gallery forest. Concerning the agricultural lands, the area of the mentioned polygons is 348 ha on map, out of which 205 ha is the Chachuna territory. As we have mentioned above, these areas historically belong to the forest dwellings. In future, restoration of the gallery forest in these areas will be much easier due to proximity to the river.
- To strengthen obtained results, further research in this direction is required, since the lack of certain information was revealed during the research process. For example, it is desirable to have or to obtain information in the future concerning soil characteristics, which will help us to know exactly whether certain places are flooded or not, e.g. sample plots selected by us, and what is the intensity of flooding. This information will allow us to determine at what extent the flooding regime is violated.
- It is preferable to have information about grazing intensity and quality in the downstream as well as in the upstream of the reservoir in the ga
llery forests, as the grazing has a straight impact on the change of floristic composition. This will enable us to exclude grazing as the factor and to observe the direct impact of the dam over time.
- It is also preferable to develop flooding model, showing distribution of the water discharge all over the study area (Rivaes et, all., 2015).
- By comparing the results of the soil analysis with the flooding model, we will determine how much the actual level of flooding corresponds to the model and would see how it was in the past.
- After considering all the above mentioned recommendations, we will define the direct and indirect impact of the reservoir on the ecosystem, will see what changes may occur in the future and will plan appropriate preventive measures.
- Besides, it is preferable to carry out forest restoration measures. In particular, to plant relevant species of trees (such as abele – Populus canescens, Grayish oak- Quercus pedunculiflora), which on its turn will increase forest areas and contribute to the development of the healthy ecosystem. Ideal places for this are agricultural lands, we have allocated, due to easy access and proximity to the river.
- In case if forest restoration activities are planned, it is preferable seedlings to be sprouted from the locally obtained seed materials. As seedlings, sprung from the mentioned seeds, will be genetically adopted with the local climate conditions.
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