In the meantime only 7 – 8% of the land surface is covered by forest, whereby forest still constituted 35% of the land surface two hundred years ago.1 The existing forests are degraded in many ways and they have changed their species composition towards that of coppices. Soil erosion, landslides and changes in local climate also go hand-in-hand with this.
Along with the forest ecosystems, the dry and alpine steppes and the subalpine and alpine vegetation zones are already seriously degraded; through uncontrolled overgrazing, the natural layer of vegetation is being destroyed and the soil eroded by the wind and rain. In addition to losing valuable farming and grazing land which has serious economical consequences for Armenia’s agriculture, it also shows an increase in land slides and flooding in the mountan regions here as a consequence. In Armenia’s semi-deserts, in addition to the overgrazing, there are also problems with salinization due to intensive artificial watering of areas where fruit and vegetables are cultivated. Overall, it is assumed that more than 80% of the land surface is affected by desertification.
The loss of forest, steppe and semi-desert which are in good order also reduces the filtering and buffering function with respect to water and air pollution. This has a particularly dramatic effect as the emissions, waste water and solid waste produced by agriculture, extraction of raw materials, manufacturing indutries and households thus far have only been filtered, purified, disposed of or dumped safely on a small scale.
The aquatic ecosystems in Armenia are also polluted. Alongside the pollution caused by improper removal of waste rock, rubbish and waste water, the uncontrolled and excessive abstraction of water from lakes and rivers and also the ailing water supply systems cause problems for humans and the environment. 70% of all freshwater supplies in the Caucasus region fall to the small country of Armenia. Therefore, Lake Sevan with a expanse of 940 m2 and a water volume of 58.4m3 represents by far the most important fresh water reservoir in the Caucasus region. The countries of Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey, which border Armenia, have a very arid climate in large parts of the country and are particularly dependent on the perfunctory water supply from the Caucasus rivers for drinking water and agricultural irrigation. Armenia carries cross border responsibility for securing the quantity and quality of fresh water supplies to the Caucasus region.
The destruction and degradation of habitats described here, in addition to poaching, illegal or uncontrolled picking of wild plants and overfishing are having a dramatic effect on Armenia’s unique variety of species. The extent of the overall danger level is, for example, shown clearly on the national Red List of endangered species which was published in May 2011; for vertebrates alone, 153 of the 540 species present are listed as endangered (1988:99). These include the Caucasian leopard, the Bezoar wild goat, the Armenian mouflon and the brown bear. The facts are similarly shocking for vascular plants: half of the 3,600 found in Armenia are regarded as endangered (1988: 387).
The fact that the disappearance of natural resources, and also in particular the variety of species and habitats, is destroying the bases for a postive economic and social development of the country in the long-term can serve as a decisive starting point for a change of thinking in politics and society, in spite of its dramatic state. In particular, the industries which profit directly form the natural resouces such as forestry, agriculture, fishing, food industry and tourism can not survive in the long-term without sustainable management.
Sustainability is a principle for using resources in which the conservation of the main characteristics, stability and the natural ability of the respective system to regenerate is paramount.
The concept of sustainability is used as a package of objectives: lasting stable societies can be achieved by not playing ecological, economic and social targets off against each other, but by giving them equal status. Understanding the concept of sustainability requires that these targets apply to all countries of the world (global justice) and for future generations (generational equity).
For many businesse the attribute “sustainable“ has become an integral part of their PR strategy. In contrast, there are concepts of sustainability management ,which combine business success and taking social and economic aspects into account. After this, businesses can create a competitive advantage by operating an a particularly sustainable way.