Republic of Adygea - Mostovskiy and Maykopskiy Districts; Krasnodar Krai - Lazarevskiy, Khostinskiy and Adlerskiy Districts; Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia - Urupskiy District
The Caucasus Reserve is located on the northern and southern slopes of the Western Caucasus. This territory was declared a biosphere reserve in 1924, but the story of the preservation of this unique natural complex began significantly earlier; in 1888, when the “Kuban Hunt” was organised for the Grand Duke. There is also another region separate from the reserve’s main territory but still considered part of it: the subtropical Khosta area in the Khostinskiy District of Sochi, which contains the world-famous yew tree and boxwood grove.
The Caucasus Reserve is an incredibly rich treasure trove of biodiversity, unmatched anywhere else in Russia. It has huge value as an area of untouched nature, with well-preserved virgin forests and unique flora and fauna—as evidenced by the inclusion of the reserve on UNESCO’s list of Natural World Heritage sites.
The park’s territory is mostly made up of mountain landscape with altitudes ranging from 260m above sea level to a maximum of 3360m, but the main feature is the Greater Caucasus range, running from the north-west to the south-east. Several regions of the park are karst landscapes with a huge number of caves, and in the Lagonakskiy highlands alone there are estimated to be more than 130.
The reserve’s rivers are actually mostly mountain streams with plenty of waterfalls, narrow rocky gorges, gullets, and canyons.
A special uniqueness is attached to the reserve’s mountainous areas, due to the large number of lakes. Most, however, are not very big, except Bezmolvia Lake, which has an area of 200,000 m2.
The warm and moist climate in the lower-altitude areas is subtropical, with average temperatures in January above zero (+4.2ºC), and high average temperatures in July and August (20ºC and 21ºC). With every 100m rise in altitude, the temperature drops around 0.5ºC.
Flora and Fauna
A large part of the reserve’s territory is covered in forest, and only at higher altitudes can subalpine and alpine meadows be found.
The presence of ancient plant varieties is characteristic of the reserve, and there are plenty of species that have limited distribution: every fifth plant in the park is endemic or part of an ancient variety that once covered much greater parts of the region.
The common yew tree can be found in virtually all parts of the reserve. This ancient coniferous evergreen can live to 2500 years, and such long-lived specimens are not a rarity in the Khosta area of the park.
The park’s animal kingdom is incredibly diverse in its origins, and you’ll meet creatures typical of vastly different parts of the world; from the Mediterranean to the Caucasus, Colchis to Europe. Endemic and threatened species are found in all high-altitude areas of the mountains.
The more vulnerable links in the ecosystem are the large mammals. In the reserve, that means the bison, the red deer, the brown bear, the West Caucasian tur, the chamois, rats, roe deer, and wild boars.
What to see
Visiting the unique yew-boxwood grove is like travelling back in time to an ancient land—wild in every sense of the word, this ancient forest is full of threatened and endemic species of the Caucasus, and the yew trees range from 700 to 1,500 years old.
At the zoo in the Laura complex, you’ll see Caucasian red deer, roe deer, very rare ancestors of the ancient bison, red foxes, jackals, raccoon dogs, wild boars, and rare species of bird.
Adapted from materials at oopt.info and zapoved.ru