Caucasus Ecoregion is ranked among the planet’s most diverse and endangered hotspots. The 580,000 sq. km Caucasus Ecoregion covers six countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, the Northern Caucasus part of Russia, northeastern Turkey, and part of northwestern Iran. One of the most biologically rich areas on Earth, the Caucasus is identified as globally outstanding for biodiversity, and is ranked among the planet's 34 most diverse and endangered hotspots by Conservation International. Much of the Caucasus Ecoregion is mountainous, but there are also spacious lowlands and coastlines. The wide range of altitudes brings a diverse climate, which is reflected in a rich variety of ecosystems: forests, lakes, rivers, high mountains, dry mountain shrublands, steppes, semi-deserts, and wetlands. The areas bordering the Black and Caspian Seas have a number of valuable coastal and marine ecosystems. The Caucasus Ecoregion is a biological 'crossroads', where animal and plant species from Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East mingle with endemic species found nowhere else on the Earth. Over 6,500 species of vascular plants are found here, at least a quarter of them unique to the region - the highest level of endemism in the world’s temperate belt. Among 153 mammal species there are eleven species of large herbivores and five species of large carnivore. A fifth of all mammal species are endemic to the area. As many as 400 species of birds occur here and the coasts of the Black and Caspian Seas are important stop-over sites for millions of migratory birds. Twenty-two of the 77 reptiles in the Caucasus are endemic to the region. Fourteen species of amphibians occur, of which four are endemics. More than 200 species of fish inhabit the rivers and seas of the Caucasus, over a third of which are found nowhere else. The Caucasus is also a globally significant center of cultural diversity, where a multitude of ethnic groups, languages, and religions intermingle over a relatively small area.
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