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Nature of Tusheti

The modern ice-formation of Tusheti is quite weak due to its dry climate. The glaciers scattered on Pirikiti, Atsunta and Makratela ridges are very small in size. The most important are the glacier of Tebulo Mountain, two glaciers of Hatsunta Ridge and one glacier of Diklo Mountain, with their length reaching two or three kilometers. There are 21 glaciers survived in Tusheti with the total area of 17,77 sq. km. Ice-formation in Tusheti in the past was much more significant. This is well seen at the sites of ancient villages and by the remains of ice-formation on the territories adjacent to those sites.

In Tusheti, there is a lake of the ice-formation origination - Oreti, also known as a bottomless lake. The lake has not been yet studied scientifically and there are only legends and sayings about it. Tusheti is a rich field for mountaineering and for those fond of pass and historical-ethnographic tourism. It was Gotfried Merzbacher to visit Tusheti mountain peaks the first in 1892. More and more mountaineers have been visiting hilly, pyramid-shaped Tebulo, black Amudo and teethed slopes of Makratela in recent years.

The whole territory of Tusheti is presented by the deposits of the Jurassic Period, with great amount of clay slates, which split into flat plates and are used to build and cover houses. Sandstones are also frequent here. At the villages of Khiso, Shenako, Chigho and Parsma, as well as at the village of Dartlo, in the eastern part of Tusheti, there flow ‘Vedzebi’ – high-value sour waters used by the local population for drinking, treating and bath purposes.

Light, extensive and aromatic pine forests form the natural decoration of the middle and lower flow of the Tusheti Alazani. The pine forest and flora of present Tusheti are unique, for it may be boldly said that no such mountains adorned with such intact and diversified pine and birch forests of the primary origination formed after the Ice Age can be found not only in Caucasus, but elsewhere on earth. In the neighboring regions of Northern Caucasus the forest similar to pine forests are not a rarity, but neither of them has been saved from human influence. This wonderful natural decoration spreads at 1600-2700 meters above sea level.

The pine forest mainly grows in the lower zone of the mountain, and the birch forest is more common in the upper, sub-alpine zone. Besides the pine, the following species grow in Tusheti forest: lime, woolly birch, Caucasus mountain ash, alder, velvety maple, asp and others. Among the shrubs, there grow Caucasus rhododendron, barberry, wild nut, Georgin honeysuckle, currant bush, raisin and others. The upper zone of the forest is adorned with high grass. It is rich in mowing and gives high quality hay. There are alpine meadows stretched above the sub-alpine zone, representing extensive fruitful pastures for the sheep in summer months.

There are own endemic species and sub-species growing in Tusheti like dog-rose, birch and other plants. As specialists suggest, Tusheti is the home of the forest types not spreading elsewhere on earth. These include birch and pine forest with sub-alpine grass, birch and lime forest with shrubs, pine forest with Caucasus rhododendron, etc. They also found such species of polypores (edible mushrooms) here, not even known to have grown in Georgia. Pine grows at 2650 m above sea level what may be considered as a unique case in Caucasus. The pine forests of Tusheti, owing to orographic isolation, have experienced no generic change. Existence of the plant forms different from the standard species here is the result of isolated evolution of almost 2 million years. Such unique species are Sosnowsky pine, mezereon, willow, elm, etc. The severe climate and giant massifs of mountain peaks result in the peculiarity of the vegetation in Tusheti. Endemic plant species in the region are of great interest to the botanist. Generally, due to great absolute elevation the alpine vegetation grow well in Tusheti – alpine meadows, alpine spots, subniveal vegetation (semi-snowy zone), etc. Caucasian rhododendron, huckleberry, crowberry and other plants blossoming on the slopes still covered with snow at the end of May or at the beginning of June are a wonderful view.

The territory of Tusheti of Greater Caucasioni was always renowned for the diversity of birds and animals. The forests and rock are the habitat of following birds: black grouse, snowcock, eagle, hawk, quail, crow, raven, vulture, jay, woodcock, lark, landrail, ring-dove, woodpecker, animals: Caucasian goat, wild goat, deer, bear, wolf, hyena, badger, fox, marten, rabbit, reptiles: frog, Caucasian adder, lizard, mouse, weasel, snail. Shenako-Diklo-Chigho Massif and nearby mountains are the only place in Georgia where a bezoar goat dwells. The high mountains are the habitat of black grouse, the chiukhi is the habitat of snowcosk and the rivers are full of trout.


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