Ilia State University, a leading institution for studies on biodiversity, ecology, and evolutionary biology in the Caucasus region, has joined the International Barcode of Life Consortium (iBOL), making Georgia the 35th nation to signal its commitment to advancing knowledge of biodiversity through DNA-based analysis.
“I am so pleased to welcome Georgian researchers to iBOL,” says Dr. Paul Hebert, iBOL’s Scientific Director. He notes that because of its situation on the southern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains, Georgia spans two of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots (Caucasus, Irano-Anatolian) and hosts many endemics including 7 percent of its 4,300 plant species. As with all nations, much Georgian biodiversity awaits registration.
“The Caucasus’s high endemicity and fast pace of development add a special urgency to the documentation of its biodiversity. Georgia’s membership in iBOL will surely foster new research collaborations that will extend knowledge of the species inhabiting the spectacular ecosystems spanning the Caspian and Black Seas,” says Hebert.
Dr. David Tarkhnishvili, Director of the Institute of Ecology and Dean of the School of Natural Science and Medicine will represent Georgia on iBOL’s Science Committee. His current research focuses on the evolutionary biology of rock lizards, but his interests extend to other reptiles, amphibians, fishes, land snails, and mammals. Speciation patterns and historical biogeography of the Caucasus ecoregion and western Asia form the prime conceptual themes of his research.
Dr. David Tarkhnishvili, Director of the Institute of Ecology and Dean of the School of Natural Science and Medicine, Ilia State University
“The Caucasus, specifically its Western part, hosts one of the most important forest refugia of the Northern Hemisphere” says Dr. Tarkhnishvili, “This area has unusually high beta-diversity for a non-tropical area.” Rates of regional endemism are high, reaching up to 20-25% in amphibians and reptiles, and even more than 50% in land snails, he adds.
“Many of animal and plant species, currently widespread in Europe, stem from the populations that survived Ice Age in the Western Caucasus; some of them, such as sweet chestnut, are economically important species, others just contribute into species diversity of Western Eurasia and hence increase sustainability of its ecosystems,” says Tarkhnishvili who is lead author of Chapter 3 of the 2019 Global Biodiversity Report.
Tarkhnishvili is a principal applicant joined by Prof. Bernhard Misof, from the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig (ZFMK) in Bonn for a German-Georgian-Armenian project, Caucasus Barcode of Life (CaBOL). CaBOL’s regional (Caucasus) team is coordinated by arachnologist, Stefan Otto. CaBOL will establish and strengthen barcoding capabilities in laboratories in Georgia and Armenia, update regional catalogues of the animal and plant species found in the south-western Caucasus regions of Georgia and Armenia and intensify networking and cooperation between taxonomists and ecologists in the Caucasus Region and beyond.
Joining iBOL is a major step in committing to long-term basic and advanced biodiversity research as a contribution to Georgia’s sustainable development and economic future.
International Barcode of Life Consortium
The International Barcode of Life (iBOL) Consortium is a research alliance with a mission to develop and apply a globally accessible, DNA-based system for the discovery and identification of all multicellular life. Our vision is to illuminate biodiversity for the benefit of our living planet.