Relict Biodiversity of the Caucasus and German Science

TSU, 115 - 17.15-17.40

Related to other non-tropical regions of Eurasia, the Caucasus is known for a particularly high diversity of living organisms, and remarkable level of endemism: 20-30% of flowering plants, amphibians and reptiles, mammals, freshwater fish of the Caucasus are found nowhere else in the world. Multiple studies suggest that this is a result of presence of multiple Miocene and Pliocene refugia in this region: during global climate changes on Earth that have been started almost 18 millions of years ago and eventually caused Ice Age, large areas along the eastern Black Sea Coast and Southern Caspian retained mild climate that helped to survive thousands of species that have been extinct elsewhere. Until late XVIII century, however, this endemic Caucasian biodiversity remained unknown for European Science. Johann Anton Güldenstädt conducted detailed zoological, botanical, geological and anthropological studies in the Caucasus run had a year-long expedition in the Kartli-Kakheti kingdom in 1771. German zoologist and botanist, Peter Simon Pallas, was the first who explored large areas of Russian Empire, including the Northern Caucasus, and described dozens of species new for Europeans in his “Zoographica Rosso-Asiatica” fully published in 1831. Gustav Radde, besides of the describing different sides of the Caucasus nature, including a voluminous treatise in the ornithology of the Caucasus, was a creator of the Caucasus Museum, largely focused on the Natural History of the Region and edited once highly reputable proceedings of the Museum. Besides these well-known persons, fauna and flora of the Caucasus was methodically described by German-borne scientists throughout the XIX and XX century. The intensive cooperation between Germany and Georgia continues to the present days.