Mountainous landscape of the Tusheti PL was formed by various natural processes and human activities, and is covered by mixed and coniferous forests, montane meadows, subalpine shrubs, subalpine and alpine grasslands and subnival areas, and historical settlements. Typical landscape character of Tusheti, esp. the mosaic of small settlements, hay meadows, fields, pastures and forests, was modified by long-lasting pastoral activities. Crucial component of the landscape, creating its unique features, are sharp peaks in outskirts of the Tusheti PL, rounded ridges and deep valleys with wild rivers.
The Caucasus Biodiversity Hotspot is one of 34 hotspots in the world and the region of Tusheti is part of it. The Caucasus hotspot has the greatest biological diversity of any temperate forest region in the world, including more than 6500 species of vascular plants, at least 1600 of which (25 %) are endemic. Its forests, high mountains, wetlands, steppes and semi-deserts contain more than twice the plant and animal diversity found in adjacent regions of Europe and Asia.
Tusheti is one of the richest regions of Georgia as regards plant and animal diversity it houses one fourth of all species in Georgia and one sixth of all Caucasian plants, incl. many endemic and rare species (e.g. Aconitum tusheticum, Primula luteola, Rosa tushetica). There is high level of endemism in Tusheti – some 23 % of all plant species are endemics (11 Georgian and 230 Caucasian). Three plant species are included in the Georgian Red List (Betula raddeana, Ulmus glabra, Ulmus minor); many species are regionally rare, e.g. isolated in the Caucasus from their main global ranges.
Fauna of Tusheti is diverse as well. More than 30 mammal species and more than 100 bird species were recorded. The most important mammal species include the East Caucasian tur (Capra cylindricornis) – the Caucasian endemic; the more or less viable population of the bezoar goat (Capra aegagrus); the chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra caucasica); or several endemic species of small mammals. Large carnivores cannot be neglected as well – the brown bear (Ursus arctos), the grey wolf (Canis lupus) and the lynx (Lynx lynx)
Important birds are represented by two endemic galliform species – the Caucasian black grouse (Tetrao mlokosiewiczi) and the Caucasian snowcock (Tetraogallus caucasicus); large birds of prey – esp. the black vulture (Aegypius monachus) the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), the griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) and the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) (all of them listed in the Georgian Red List – see Annex 4); or several endemic species of passerines (e.g. warblers Phylloscopus nitidus and P. lorenzii). The Tusheti region is recognized as one of the Important Bird Areas in Georgia, under the programme of the BirdLife International (ECODIT 2009).
However, it is regarded that even lists of well-known groups (vascular plants, reptiles, birds, small mammals, bats, etc.) are still incomplete and basic data on e.g. cryptogams (fungi, mosses, etc.) or invertebrates (esp. bioindication groups such as butterflies, grasshoppers, etc.) are nearly missing.
Which part of biodiversity you actually see in Tusheti
The second half of June is blooming time. Fields around Omalo and Gele meadow are breath taking covered with blooming irises. They continue to blossom through July and early August. A wide range of plant species take hold of the field successively creating a rich colourful tapestry of mountain flowers. This is also good time for Lilum Monadelphum –the very rare endemic lily found along the tourist tracks to Chigo.
Bezoar goat habitat near Omalo is easily watchable from the viewpoint designed in Kue. With a couple of binoculars you can have chance seeing the whole families of bezoar goats most likely.
Bears usually encounter near Sheep places attracted by easy prey. In late autumn they occasionally cross the car road as they change from higher altitudes to lower slopes and ripe chestnut trees provide them with abundance of food.
The habitat of Caucasian tur is very high. There is bigger chance to see the group of turs crossing Atsunta or Borbalo pass in autumn.
Vultures stick to the places of dead animals. So they even come to the village when people slaughter sheep during festival times. There are always some of them flying on Abano pass and along the road.