Natural monuments of Azerbaijan (review)
© B.Budagov, 2000
Both the territory of Azerbaijan Republic and all territory of the Caucasus are in subtropical zone and this influences upon the formation of some types and subtypes of climate. It is no wonder analogues of 9 climate types from 11 ones existing on planet are found on relatively not large territory of Azerbaijan (88,6 thous. km2). Relief is characterized by contrast: it varies from 28 km of the World Ocean level to 4480 km (Bazardyuzi mount.) of absolute height.
Sharp increase of mountains height causes the stages of relief and this is expressed well in change of geographical zones.
Relationship, interaction and mutual influence of types and subtypes of climate, exposition of slopes and direction of dominating winds caused the formation of original forms of landscape. A unique beauty of Azerbaijan nature and its vicinities attract the tourists attention. Acquaintance with monuments of nature has cognitive importance and cultivates love to native land, teaches to protect nature.
Nature monuments of Azerbaijan can be subdivided into:
Geological monuments of nature
The territory of Azerbaijan Republic and all territory of the Caucasus are in belt of Alpine folding and has complex tectonic structure.
Geological-geomorphological processes occurring on territory of Azerbaijan Republic for last period 13-15 thous. years, climatic conditions and sea regression created unique forms of relief. Age of mountain rocks in all times (from the Lower Pliocene till recent period) attracted peoples attention. The most ancient rocks on territory of Azerbaijan are the Lower Paleozoic deposits which consist of metamorphosed crystalline schists. The territory of Azerbaijan is rich in paleontological and mineralogical monuments. Stones of effusive-magmatic and sedimentary origin, complex of factors changing in time and space and reflecting paleontolgical conditions including natural resources allow to define the age of these rocks.
Large boulders containing shells allow dating their age as the Cretaceous and the post-Cretaceous period.
Observing stones on Garabakh volcanic plateau which consist of lava flow of red, black, white and gray color one can return to the past centuries and imagine eruption of volcanoes on land and in the sea, Ordubad plutonium formed from quartz, feldspars and other minerals show a melting crust Earth nucleus, lava effusing on joints of sedimentary rocks and thickening on the Earth surface.
Unique stones show different geological periods and peculiarities of territory and this is also valuable material for tourists attention.
Age differentiation of mountain rocks of Azerbaijan varies from 570 million years (shales, gneiss) till age of recent marine deposits (limestones, mud, sand, shingle, etc.).
Acquaintance of readers and tourists with deposits of the Pre-Cambrian and Cambrian, which are spread in Tauz, Yardymly and Jalilabad regions and with marine deposits developed on the Caspian shore has a great cognitive importance. Sarmatian deposits are among the unique geological monuments and they preserved at absolute height 3600 m and can be found in some places as separate remnants forms. The same deposits are found in other places of the Caucasus. It is expedient the places of their spreading on Shakhdag should be protected zone.
Geologic-geomorphological monuments of nature
As a result of arid-erosion-denudation relief-forming processes the mountains, hills and different rocks were formed on its territory. Part of them consists of intrusive rocks (Ilanlydag, Nakhajar, Alinja and other mountains in Nakhchyvan AR) in some places consists of old crystalline rocks of Devonian (Dakhna, Sarydag, Velidag and other remnant mountains in Nakhchyvan), in other places - deposits of the Pliocene (remnants mountains Ambizler, Gushgayasy in Kobustan). Due to intensive denudation and erosion processes easily washed out rocks were washed out. There are cliffs of Dibrar type consisting of Lusitan limestones of the Cretaceous period on the south-east Caucasus. As a whole, they are expressed by pointed rocks. Tourists and mountain climbers with interest observe the remains of towers built in the past on these rocks with defensive purpose (Chiraggala, Sekhubgala, etc); some of them remained in Devechi (Chiraggala) and in Ismailly (Talystan) regions. Mountain Kyapaz consist of Jurassic limestones and attracts tourists by its beauty.
Mining-ore fields discovered in the past in the Lesser and partially in the Greater Caucasus were exploited by mine way. These mines remained on slopes of mountains as anthropogenic caves with different lakes and springs.
Till XIX A.D. oil and Absheron was produced from handmade wells with depth 10-15 km. Produced oil was gathered in pits near wells. Such wells remained around villages Khyrdalan, Balakhany, Binagadi, Fatmai and Khokmeli. These monuments show richness of oil fields in Azerbaijan, close occurrence of oil beds to Earth surface and also it shows hard and dangerous labor of oil-producers in past time. To preserve these monuments for future generations it is necessary to restore the old oil wells and this territory should be announced as a protected zone as these monuments has a big cognitive importance for study of history of Azerbaijan. Considering that oil beds are very close to surface on the slopes of some ravines and gullies oil effuses from them to the ground and that is why these places are called "oil springs". Oil springs are observed in amazement by tourists.
Self combustion of natural gas which seeps on tectonic joints on ground surface its flame on background of green vegetation or snow cover creates original landscape. Natural gases seepages on the surface worshiped in old-times and were the places of warship. Here pilgrims from India built temple of fire worshipers. A seepage of methane gas can be found also in craters of active mud volcanoes of Azerbaijan. On the south slope of Gyzylgaya plateau to the west from village Khynalyg a natural gas seeps on the surface from combustible shales on absolute height 2200 m the flame of which at background of steep rocks and mountain meadows looks very beautiful. Here at heated sands tourists can make kebab (shashlyk). Protection of such places is public duty.
Rivers, crossing tectonic structures along their strike create in the recent relief gorges and ravines. Ravines locating on the anticline and synclinal structures are mostly expressed on the outcropped slopes. Crumpled mountain rock, sandstones, sandy limestone, limestone, shales etc, crossing by tectonic dislocations-fractures, overthrusts and flexures create unique structures on the geological faults bewitching tourists.
The recent mountain relief under influence of orogenic processes was subjected to different changes in time and space. Traces of river valleys changing its structure and direction preserved well in the recent relief. Traces of river valleys composed of alluvium, alluvium- proluvium (watershed, located in the mouth of Tugchai river near Khyzy village; Meshabashi in the Kishchai basin; right slope of Ailischai valley locating on the watershed in Mukhakchai basin eastward of Suvadel village etc) and alluvium-fluvioglacial deposits (Kyam moraine and conglomerates in basin of Kishchai river). Such areas of Azerbaijan territory should be included into tourist routes. Deformed areas of river terraces, traces of old drift cones of sloping plains of Beyuk Suval and Keleki are related to them.
Mud volcanoes acting from the Neogene are considered to be unique phenomena on the territory of Azerbaijan. Underground and locating onshore mud volcanoes are related to them. On plains and in mountains they are in the form of cone, plateau, hills and other forms of relief. Mud volcanoes eruptions are followed by gases inflammation with flame height exceeding 1 km and ejection of mud-stone breccia. Igneous tongues enveloped in black smoke make a dread impression. Even after mud volcanoes eruption mud-breccia flow continue to flow out by slopes reminding igneous lava. Bulk of mud volcanoes are located on the way of tourist routes (Bozdag, Otman, Bozdag, Lokbatan, Kyursangya, Galmaz, etc).
In the Middle - Upper Quaternary period with Girdmanchai valley there formed Karamariyam ridge dissected by river flow into 5 parts. These valleys are called as Padar windows. From the point of view of orogenesis of Karamariyam ridge is the richest natural laboratory. It was formed for the last 600 thousand years on the place of old drift cone of Girdmanchai river valley (length 25 km, width 6 km and height 50 m). On Baku-Tbilisi way passing though Girdymanchai it can be vividly observed and it attracts general attention.
On the mountains slopes where one can found native or alluvium, alluvium- proluvium deposits which are instable to denudation, under favorable climatic conditions queer sandy pyramids are formed where in situ there is "stone fungi" (in Girdymanchai, Sumgaitchai, Gilgilchai valleys) the other are deprived of such a stone "shield" (in the middle current of Kusarchai). These stone figures give a unique beauty to mountain slopes.
Sills have a very powerful magnitude. For one flow they can carry away 6-7 mln. m3 of solid substance from mountains. Among deposits carried away beyond 6-8 km of sill focus, one can find gigantic stones, by weight 200 ton, presenting a nature miracle.
Badlands are formed on the mountain slopes covered by clayey deposits as a result of arid-denudation processes where thick gorgeous-joist network creates the queer natural patterns. On slopes one can find clayey karsts with concaved funnels, underground passages, bridges. Combination of badland with clayey karst form a peculiar landscape. On the Caspian seaside one can observe bars composed of well-rolled shingle, small sandy hills and dunes.
Mineral sources are related to the hydrogeological monuments. They are widely spread on the territory of Azerbaijan: here according to chemical composition there were revealed more than 10 types of mineral sources. Hydrocarbonate, hydrocarbonate-chloride, hydrocarbonate-chloride-sulphate, hydrocarbonate-sulphate, chloride-hydrocarbonate, sulphate- chloride and vitriolic. Besides them, there are some sources with uncertain chemical composition. Discharge of sources reach from 10 to 100 thousand liters per day. Water temperature of more than 30 sources makes up 20 to +700C. Sulphur, carbon, carbon bisulfide gases are distinguished among the most sources. Waters of these sources are used for treatment gastrointestinal, skin, cardiovascular, rheumatic diseases. Medical significance have mineral sources among them: Darydag, Syrab, Badamly, Turshsu, Shirlan-Istisu, Slavyanka, Khalkhal, Beshbarmag, Gyrhbulag.
Water is considered to be the main component in nature. In oceans, seas, lakes and water reservoirs possess an incredible beauty.
In oceans, seas, lakes and water reservoirs it possess incredible beauty in plains and mountain rivers-creates peculiar landscapes. On the territory of Azerbaijan basically flow mountain rivers. Overfall of heights between the upper and lower currents of the river is 2000-3000 m and distance from the river mouth till the its appearance at the plain - from 15-20 to 30 km. That is why rivers, flowing along deep ravines, rapid, the noise of their flows resounds by echo involuntary charming the people. Such a charming beauty possess Kusarchai, Kishchai, Terterchai, Nakhchyvan, Lyankaranchai and other rivers of Azerbaijan. Waterfalls are formed under corresponding climatic conditions on the riverbed. In the noise of waterfalls one can distinguish first high then low note it reminds a fancy Garabakh melody performing on kyamancha. Depending on the morphometry waterfalls have different relative height. Within Azerbaijan there exist 2 types of waterfalls: typical to the mountain rivers, permanently acting and temporary. Among the largest one can name such waterfalls as Afurja (Velvelchai), Mychig (Damiraparanchai), Khamzali (Khamzalichai), Katek (Katekchai), Kirintov and Sarygunei (Kishchai), Ilisu (Kurkhumchai) etc.
Temporary waterfalls are fed at account of flood waters. Strong waterfalls are formed during ice thawing or shower in dry valleys. Waterfalls formed from flood waters falling by the smallest splashes on the background of pink limestones of Shakhdag playing by all colors of rainbow making a colorful landscape.
Mountain lakes of Azerbaijan like the mirror reflect immense vault of the heaven. Highly-mountainous lakes Tufan (Greater Caucasus), Geigel, Alagellyar (Lesser Caucasus), Batabag (Nakhchyvan) and others are characterized by a unique beauty.
Flora is one of the brightly expressed components of the landscape. Change of the landscape on plains and in mountains reflect the whole landscape-forming factors. That is why flora is not only one of the basic components of physico-geographic environment but serve as criteria of the internal structure of landscape formation of which is conditioned by interaction, interrelation of factors. Floristic monuments, which enlarge the environment. For example, the observed platans along the road at the age of 1500-1700 years are the inestimable gift of nature. They used to be violable and were carefully protected. The known platan remained in many places of Azerbaijan-in the Nagorni Garabakh, Kasumismailov and other areas.
Sultanbud forests (pistachio), Geigel pine tree etc are related to the floristic monuments. Territories of the spreading are protected and considered to be reserved. Narband (Nakhchyvan), elm (Absheron peninsula), chestnut tree (Kutkashen area), zubovniki (Zakatal, Khachmaz regions) etc.
Pyramidal palatan in the Guba-Khachmaz way and walnut plantations along the way Oguz-Sheki-Zagatala-Balaken criteria a picturesque landscape.
Endemic and relict flora existing in Azerbaijan (iron tree, chestnut-leaf oak; zelcova etc) shall be protected as natural monuments.
Faunistic monuments - Dagestan ibex, besoar goat, mountain ram, roe deer, brown bear and steppe, wild boar attract tourists and mountaineers attention. Animals like porcupine, partridge, black francolin, black-cock, dove and swallow bring life to the nature of the East Caucasus. Longsighted eagles on mountain tops emphasize its magnificent beauty. Different animals which were brought to Azerbaijan including the Ussuri spotted deer became acclimatized very well and may be related to living natural monuments.
In some reserves in Azerbaijan there occur rare birds flown from Asia, Europe and Africa: flamingo, swans, pelicans, black francolin, bittern etc.
Tourists are interested very much in paleozoologic monument of the nature. The Binagadi bituminous burial of animals which was formed 70-80 ths. years ago is among them.
Some kinds of fauna in the Apsheron peninsula died in the bituminous lake in the Quaternary period. This lake formed as a result of oil seepage embalmed carcasses of the perished animals. In the Binagadi bituminous burial scientists found remains of bull, giant deer and many representatives of vertebrates, reptiles, mammals, insects and birds. Such paleontologic monuments occur in many other places in Azerbaijan.
Unique landscape monuments
Varied climatic conditions determined formation of unique landscape in Azerbaijan. The Khaltan depression (1000-1800 m) is an example that. It is located in the north-east Azerbaijan in the upper flow of rivers Gilgilchai and Velvelchai.
From the north it is fringed by a ridge of Gaitar-Godja and from the south by Major Caucasian ridge. By cutting in of Gilgilchai into Gaitar-Goja ridge forests with a height are changed by meadows and those by rock watersheds. To the east there opens a landscape panorama: on the south stretch landscape forests on the north one can see bared sloped of the Glavny Kavkazski ridge and far off an immense surface of the Caspian are merged with horizon. On the lakeside of Geigel tourists viewing the majestic Kyapaz mount. Its foothill is subsided into collapse-landslide deposits and surface is covered by Alpine and subalpine meadows variegates by peculiar colors.
It seems, as if mountain meadows together with large rock fragments downed by slope and joined with upper part of the forest. Deciduous forest together with a single meadow around which growth pines of Sosnovski as if filled by blue waters of Geigel, Maralgel, Zeligel and other lakes on the surface of which the changing charming views are reflected depending upon season.
The Great Nizami in the middle of XII century marked that lakes relating to the Geigel group are charisma. Their surface like pearl glittering under rays of the sun.
Geigel is the integral part of the natural landscape complex. Such unique views are found in other places of Azerbaijan.
Monuments of the nature are subdivided into 3 groups.
First group. Monuments of the nature of world significance (Ilandag in the Nakhchyvn AR, Geigel and Kyzyl ornithological reservations, Hyrcan forests of Talysh, Binagadi paleontological monument) are related to the first group.
Second group covers monuments of nature which are significant in scale of our country (platan alley, unique mineral sources, Beshbarmag mount, landscape waterfalls etc).
Third group consists of nature monuments of local significance. Nature monuments as inestimable heritage which passed into possession to the mankind from ancient times should be carefully protected. Responsibility for their preservation should be handed on the baton from generation to generation. For that reason one should draw up the list and organize their preservation on the state level thereby attracting a wide community.